About Our Guest
Laura has over 11 years of experience in Affiliate Marketing and has spent the past few years specializing in the pet space. While starting at a network, she also has experience at a Fortune 500 brand and is now enjoying time as both an agency and publisher. In her spare time, Laura enjoys petting dogs, taking pictures with stranger’s dogs, and watching dog videos.
Welcome to another exciting episode of the Performance Marketing Spotlight! In episode 11, our host Marshall Nyman sits down with Laura Holzwasser, the Director of Affiliate Marketing at Great Pet Care. Laura brings over 11 years of experience in affiliate marketing, having worked at CJ, Chewy, and now Great Pet Care. Join us as Laura shares her journey in the industry, from starting out at CJ fresh out of college to working on both the advertiser and publisher sides of the business. She also gives insights into her role at Great Pet Care, where she manages pet brands and focuses on SEO-driven content. Get ready for a lively discussion on affiliate marketing and the exciting world of pets! Stay tuned.
Marshall Nyman [00:00:02]:
Hello and welcome to the performance marketing Spotlight. I’m your host, Marshall Nyman, founder and CEO of Nymonco. Each episode, I will be bringing you someone with deep experience in the performance marketing space where they highlight their experiences within the industry. Today I have Laura Holtzwatzer, who is director of Affiliate Marketing at Great Pet Care. Welcome to the podcast, Laura.
Laura Holzwasser [00:00:22]:
Hi. Thanks for having me.
Marshall Nyman [00:00:25]:
Yeah, of course. Thanks for joining us today. Well, let’s get right to it. Would love for you to introduce yourself to the audience.
Laura Holzwasser [00:00:30]:
Yeah. So I’m Laurel Holswauser. I have been in affiliate marketing since 2012. So that’s over eleven years now. I’m currently the director of Affiliate marketing at Great Pet Care, but I got my start at CJ Fresh out of college. I started two weeks after graduating. I had no idea what affiliate marketing was. I was just happy to have a job and really lucked out in having my first job be in such an amazing space.
Laura Holzwasser [00:00:59]:
That was such a fit for me. So I worked at CJ for seven years. I don’t think that’s pretty typical for somebody in their first job out of college. But I worked on their advertiser side, their now client development team for four years, and then made the switch to their publisher development team for three years. So that was really exciting. I worked on both sides of that business. After seven years, I left and I went to Chewy. I was kind of known as like the Crazy Dog lady of the Office.
Laura Holzwasser [00:01:27]:
So made a lot of sense for me to go and work on the affiliate marketing team at Chewy, where I was for two years before being approached by. Being approached by a startup called Great Pet Care. And I’ve now been here for two years, which is really exciting. And things have changed drastically at my time at Great Pet care and then very much in the past eleven years of affiliate marketing. It looks very different.
Marshall Nyman [00:01:50]:
How did you get your start with CJ? What made you apply? Or what was the onus for getting the job there?
Laura Holzwasser [00:01:55]:
So, to be very honest, CJ called me and they were recruiting from local colleges. I went to Boston College and had my resume uploaded in the system for graduating students. So somebody from CJ called, asked if I was interested in speaking, kind of had an impromptu phone interview, which led to me visiting their Westboro office and really liked the people that were there still didn’t know what affiliate marketing was, but when they offered me a job, I was like, great. And it ended up working out really well.
Marshall Nyman [00:02:34]:
I wasn’t really sure what affiliate marketing was when I got started either. So I think that’s probably pretty common. It’s not so easy for people, I think, to pick up in the beginning, I know for me it was like, what is all this stuff with publishers and commissions, and how does it all work? So to see where I’m at over ten years later, I think it makes a lot of sense for most people on where they started. So you were at CJ for seven years. I know that probably shaped a big part of your career. Why don’t you tell us about the different roles there?
Laura Holzwasser [00:03:03]:
Yeah, so I was at CJ. I started as an account representative on the advertiser side, managing a handful of maybe several brands in a portfolio with an account manager, an associate account manager, and really just learning what affiliate marketing was. I’d say it takes you like three months to sort of understand what you’re talking about, and then six months to really feel good and confident. Plus, it being my first job out of college, I was still just learning the work life. So it was a great learning opportunity. CJ does a great job training their employees and really making sure that you have the right resources to understand the space. And I did enjoy being on the advertiser side. I was there for four years, but I was always most interested in the new to the network publishers seeing things that were not the standard coupon and deal or loyalty sites, or even just a spin on loyalty.
Laura Holzwasser [00:04:03]:
And when a spot opened up on the publisher development team, Scott Ginsburg, who was the VP of publisher development at the time, approached me knowing that I was always interested in the publisher space and asked if I wanted to join the team. So I made that switch and it was super exciting. I got to manage publishers that at the time, nobody knew who they were and have since become some of the largest players in the space. I helped launch a firm when it launched in CJ, and believe me, getting people on a phone call to discuss a firm was really difficult because it was really hard to explain to accounts that really only knew coupon and loyalty, and now they’re ginormous. I also helped launch BuzzFeed as well as American Media or now a 360, which were content partners that were huge and things that we had wished would touch affiliate for so long and now are just big presences in the space. So it was all really exciting.
Marshall Nyman [00:05:04]:
Awesome. Well, probably was a precursor for you ending up on an affiliate side, as it definitely.
Laura Holzwasser [00:05:13]:
I think being on the publisher development team of CJ was more exciting, I would say for me at least, and I think I always knew that I would end up in the publisher space. But it’s interesting the course that it took me to get there.
Marshall Nyman [00:05:29]:
Well, before you ended up on the publisher side, you went to the brand side and worked for Chewy a bit as an affiliate marketing manager. Love to hear about your experience there.
Laura Holzwasser [00:05:39]:
Yeah. So after seven years at CJ, I kind of felt know either I was going to be a lifer or I needed to take a risk and take this opportunity with Chewy. It could not have been a more perfect fit for my interests. So when the role of affiliate manager was opened in the Boston office I applied. It was very emotional leaving CJ after seven years, but I was really happy that I did it. CJ is about or when I worked there, it was about maybe like 400 or so people in the US and Chewy is thousands. So it was a completely different type of culture and a completely different way of working. I was on the performance marketing team.
Laura Holzwasser [00:06:23]:
It was the first time I really worked alongside other channels, working in Google analytics and talking to my search team or display team or brand team. It was a big learning experience for me. It was something that because I’m so passionate about pets and animals, was very interesting and it didn’t get boring on a day to day. But I will admit that I did miss some of the excitement of the publisher side.
Marshall Nyman [00:06:51]:
Well, I think for an affiliate manager, anytime you get to work on a brand or a product that you have an affinity for, it’s always more exciting. So I’m sure that was a cool opportunity and probably was a good gateway for you to ultimately end up at great pet care.
Laura Holzwasser [00:07:05]:
Yeah. I am so grateful also for my time at Chewy because it did open the door into the pet space for me. And now I have two things that I love, where I knew I liked affiliate marketing and I knew that was the type of work I wanted to be doing. And I love animals. So Chewy was that gateway into the pet affiliate marketing role. And now I’ve kind of carved my own path where that is fully what I get to focus on.
Marshall Nyman [00:07:32]:
Awesome. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about great pet care and the work that you’re doing there now.
Laura Holzwasser [00:07:36]:
Yeah. So at Great Pet care I was brought on board to be the affiliate director. And the business is interesting because we’re both an agency and a publisher. So I am managing a handful of pet brands and helping grow their affiliate, grow their affiliate channels. But we also are a publisher and we currently have all of our content on Vetstreet.com and we’re joined to hundreds of affiliate programs, all of the different networks, totally SEO focused, and I have a great team of editors that are writing content, long form Evergreen content, and that is where we are really investing a lot of our resources in to grow. It’s really exciting because I also just get to have a finger on the pulse of the pet space. And it’s really interesting watching just the industry kind of copy the human marketing and health industry. So things that get really popular in human consumerism.
Laura Holzwasser [00:08:38]:
So supplements, for instance, or alternative proteins, it doesn’t take long before people start to introduce that to their pets, which was something I never knew until this was a space that I have really started to focus on. And it’s fun getting to see all of these new products and just new exciting things happening in the space and selfishly testing out a lot of cool products on my puppy. So he gets very spoiled and gets to try all of the latest trends. So it’s a lot of fun.
Marshall Nyman [00:09:09]:
So if I was to ask you what’s the best part of your job? I’m sure that would be the answer.
Laura Holzwasser [00:09:13]:
Yeah. There are pet specific conferences that are so much fun. I mean, I went to something called Super Zoo in Las Vegas, and there were like 60,000 people there. Something insane, and just people with dogs and cats and ferrets and products for them. And there was like a grooming competition. It was wild and just so much fun. It’s a really fun industry to be in if you like pets.
Marshall Nyman [00:09:44]:
So it puts affiliate Summit to shame.
Laura Holzwasser [00:09:47]:
Yeah, I would have to say. I mean, I do really enjoy affiliate conferences, don’t get me wrong, but they need more dogs and cats and grooming contests.
Marshall Nyman [00:09:58]:
Well, maybe you’ll have to bring some pets to the next one, and you could set up a nice booth there.
Laura Holzwasser [00:10:04]:
And we actually did bring dogs to an affiliate conference for a petting area, and I’ve seen it at others. I think they had them at Pi Live. Best marketing opportunity for any brand. Doesn’t matter if you’re working in the pet space, just bring animals if you want people to talk to you.
Marshall Nyman [00:10:21]:
They did have them at Pi Live. I was talking with someone and all of a sudden all these dogs rolled through, and that was the end of the meeting. Everybody wanted to pet the dog, so I think it’s always nice to bring that to an event. And obviously there’s so many benefits of having a pet, so it’s always nice when you can incorporate that into your regular life. So tell us a little bit more about great pet care and how you’re driving traffic for brands.
Laura Holzwasser [00:10:45]:
Yeah, so at Great Pet Care, like I mentioned, we’re totally SEO focused from our site Vetstreet.com. So our goal is to write Evergreen content such as Best wet cat food or best Dry dog food or just subjects that the average pet parent is looking for their health and wellness of their dog. I mean, I can only tell you some of my search history based on my Labradoodle who is all sorts of trouble, but it does inform a lot of the content we create for when I’m searching, like what is the most indestructible toy? That type of thing is where my editors are researching, finding the best products and linking to different retailers. We do a bit of paid marketing behind our content as well, but the high majority of traffic comes from SEO. We also do own Dogs of Instagram, which is really fun if you don’t follow it. We have 5.7 million followers and that is not a pure affiliate play. It’s much more just a fun atmosphere for dog lovers. We do promote different products and brands on there.
Laura Holzwasser [00:12:00]:
It’s not something that we’re looking as like a conversion driver, but getting in front of 5.7 million dog lovers is its own type of value.
Marshall Nyman [00:12:11]:
Awesome. So great. Pet care is also an agency. So you’ve worked originally for a network, then you work for a brand, now you’re working for a publisher and an agency. What is it like working for almost all the different aspects of the affiliate industry?
Laura Holzwasser [00:12:25]:
I honestly think working from each angle has given me a better understanding of affiliate marketing because I can anticipate the questions I think I’m going to get based on okay, I know if I was at Chewy on the brand side, this is my question. If I were at CJ, this is what my question would be and I think it helps me get a full 360 view of the space. I also think it gives me a little bit of empathy because I know what it’s like to be an advertiser who paid for a placement and it didn’t work and trying to explain that to your boss. But I also know what it feels like to be at the publisher side getting yelled at by an advertiser because something didn’t work and it wasn’t my intention to have a placement not work either. So I do think it helps understand where people are coming from and it’s at the end of the day a relationship business and everybody always says that, but to understand the shoes of the person you’re talking to is really helpful. In navigating, especially frustrating conversations when things can get a little heated. But knowing where the other person is coming from is helpful.
Marshall Nyman [00:13:36]:
Yeah, I agree 100%. I think it gives good perspective and I think a good affiliate manager, they’re well rounded with a couple of different experiences. It definitely makes them better at managing those relationships and understanding where the other person is. So I think that definitely helps. And we all know how challenging sometimes some of the stuff we can be doing is. So to have someone on the other side understanding what you’re going through I think is always beneficial. So great that you’ve been able to get that background. What do you think one of the biggest challenges that are facing the performance marketing industry currently?
Laura Holzwasser [00:14:08]:
It really depends on the business, but I think attribution is always something that’s a big attribution. Incrementality is always a question and I think the consumer, if I think about myself shopping, I have so many touch points before I make a purchase and it’s so hard to say this is the reason I made my purchase. I might start by reading BuzFeed and then I’m on Instagram and I see something and it was retargeted. And then I check cash back sites and see if there’s a coupon. And there’s so many different, not just affiliates in the journey but all channels and looking at things totally just like how much was search, how much is display, how much is affiliate is an outdated way of looking at things. I think they all need to be blend together, but it is hard to calculate that. So I think that’s where we’re seeing some limitations is we can’t on a one to one basis say that this placement drove X dollars and some marketing budgets don’t really account for that gray area.
Marshall Nyman [00:15:20]:
Yeah, I think you hit one of my biggest pain points. I definitely started saying about five years ago, attribution just across the board, not just through affiliate networks, is not really where it needs to be. It’s hard to really paint a picture of how the whole journey looks. I think a lot of times you can see what the last touch was, but that doesn’t really paint the whole picture. And so being able to really understand all the channels working together I think is really beneficial. And so yeah, I haven’t seen anything yet, but I think we’re getting to the point where I think a lot of people are talking about it. So I’m sure things will come of it. But yeah, I think tracking and reporting and all that are probably on the top of everybody’s lists as far as.
Laura Holzwasser [00:15:58]:
Pain points, and I think there’s a lot of at least an affiliate you really need to see your return on investment. And I understand why, and I know affiliate a lot of the time is really that channel that you’re getting efficiencies from. But still knowing that you might make an investment with a content partner and be comfortable that you’re not going to see the return on investment necessarily in the affiliate space, you might see it through your other channels is where I’d like us to get to, but it’s not always the case.
Marshall Nyman [00:16:28]:
That’s why one of my favorite J reports is looking at the conversion path and you could see where a lot of conversions start through affiliate efforts and then you’ll see maybe they were converted through another channel. So it’s good to be able to show that. And I think, yeah, a lot of placements that are running, they’re not always going to drive a ton of sales. Sometimes they’re going to directly, but they will drive interest in the brand and that will eventually drive sales through other channels. So people come to your website, they sign up for email, maybe remarket to them. A few months later you have a sale, they’re interested, they buy. Maybe that publisher doesn’t even get credit for it because it’s outside the cookie window. So it’s hard to always just pinpoint exactly where everything came from.
Marshall Nyman [00:17:08]:
But I think at least you have a good baseline of where things are and if anything, they’re probably performing better.
Laura Holzwasser [00:17:13]:
Yeah, I think we need to be comfortable with affiliate also being a top of funnel channel. And I know it’s always something that advertisers want. They want content, but they also want it to convert. So being comfortable with things being top of funnel, knowing that with your other brand strategies through your other channels, or conversion tactics or retargeting, you will convert that customer. But you need the brand awareness too.
Marshall Nyman [00:17:40]:
Yeah, it’s balancing it all together.
Laura Holzwasser [00:17:42]:
Marshall Nyman [00:17:43]:
So you’ve been in this space for quite some time and seems like everybody else, you kind of just got your start by accident and didn’t really know where you end up. But what’s your favorite part about working in the performance marketing industry?
Laura Holzwasser [00:17:55]:
I have to say it’s honestly the people, I feel like the performance marketing industry is a little family or maybe a big family, pretty fun, dysfunctional or. I don’t know how to describe it, but you get to every conference and it’s like a family reunion. From working at CJ for seven years, the amount of people I worked with while I was there that are either still there or are now at publishers or advertisers or other networks or agencies. It’s a space that people stay in because they really enjoy it and I think they really enjoy working with each other. So if everyone wasn’t so great at this relationship business, we wouldn’t be staying in it. So I have some really great friendships and I only met you over the past, I’d say two years, but you’re somebody that I speak with pretty regularly, which is a testament to the type of people that work in this industry.
Marshall Nyman [00:18:46]:
Yeah, I think that’s definitely at the top of my list too, is why I love working this space. Just the people for sure, and so many great relationships. And over time, it really helps become a better affiliate manager to creating those relationships. Affiliate marketing at the end of the day is relationship marketing. So you got to build those relationships over time.
Laura Holzwasser [00:19:05]:
And it’s not forcing like, it’s not pretending to like someone and just bsing at a conference. It’s genuine friendships.
Marshall Nyman [00:19:14]:
Yeah, I think it’s very different than a lot of other industries where you could work in search and never talk to anybody else that works in the search industry and just operate in a silo. Where in affiliate marketing you have to network with other people. You can’t work in a silo. It’s a key piece of the whole thing.
Laura Holzwasser [00:19:32]:
Marshall Nyman [00:19:33]:
Well, this is great having you on. Big thank you to Laura from Great Pet care for joining the podcast this week. Amazing background and really great insights into the pet space. What is the best way for listeners to connect with you?
Laura Holzwasser [00:19:45]:
You can find me on LinkedIn. Message me if you want to talk affiliate marketing, if you want to talk pets, if you have a funny dog video open to all of that. So look forward to hearing from some of you.
Marshall Nyman [00:19:58]:
Awesome. Well, again, thank you to Laura. If you’ve enjoyed this content, please give us a follow. Thank you for joining us. Appreciate your time. I’m Marshall Nyman, the host of the performance marketing Spotlight, signing off.