Episode #6- The Performance Marketing Spotlight with George “Geo” Yuhba

About Our Guest

Geo is a 20+ year veteran in the affiliate space working on both the network & publisher side. A strategic consulting figure, Geo has helped over 500+ publishers in the industry during their growth & success phases.


In episode 6 of the Performance Marketing Spotlight Geo Yuhba, Director of Client Strategy at Paylode, joins the podcast. Geo has spent over 2 decades in the affiliate marketing space. He got his start on the network side with Commission Junction where he was for 19 years as their Network Development Director. Listen in to our discussion on the changes and evolution of the affiliate marketing industry.


Marshall Nyman [00:00:04]:

Hello and welcome to the performance marketing spotlight. I’m your host Marshall Nyman, founder and CEO of Nyamon Co. Each episode the podcast brings you someone with deep experience into performance marketing space where they will highlight their experiences within the industry. Today I have George Gio Yuba who is Director of Client Strategy at Payload. Welcome to the podcast.

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:00:24]:

Thank you, Marshall.

Marshall Nyman [00:00:25]:

Of course. Well, excited to have you on today and would love just to get right into it. So why don’t you introduce yourself to the audience so they can get to know you a bit.

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:00:33]:

Absolutely. Hi everyone. My name is Geo and I am currently at Payload, but I’ve been in the industry for a little over 20 years, serving at both the network as well as the publisher level.

Marshall Nyman [00:00:44]:

Awesome. It’s a pretty long time to be in the space, almost as the longest affiliate has been around.

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:00:49]:

Godfather of Affiliate marketing, kiss the ring.

Marshall Nyman [00:00:52]:

Yes. You’ve seen it all the iterations. I know, really over the last decade, it’s definitely changed a lot, even really in the last few years on kind of what affiliate looked like when I first started 13 years ago. So not as long as you, but definitely seen a lot of change as well. So would love to know how you got started in the industry.

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:01:10]:

Yeah, absolutely. So it was 2002, I had finished some stints in the radio industry as well as retail management industry, and the.com bust of 2000 was starting to kind of level off and online usage was starting to grow. And my best friend worked at a little company called CJ at the time, a little startup called CJ in Santa Barbara and asked me to come into their client support department. I had a history of using my voice to educate people. Also in my retail experience, I was a trainer. So going to client support in a new industry, having someone with that kind of experience kind of was a connecting fit. And so I took a chance on this little startup called CJ. Who knew? One year later it was the first of the acquisitions and it started my career in the affiliate marketing industry.

Marshall Nyman [00:02:12]:

Wow. So love to hear a little bit about the different roles you had at CJ and what your career was like there because you were definitely there for a bit of time.

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:02:19]:

Yeah, 19 years, which is ancient Aliens territory there. And my name is George, so that actually fits. But the initial roles I had was around client support and really educating the entry level, both publishers and advertisers in the industry. And then I moved into the advertiser development world. I actually managed the Ebay affiliate program from 2003 through 2005 and that was leading the charge. That was the biggest affiliate program at the time. And I think if people listening remembers the terms Acrus and things like that, those are things that we kind of coordinated with Ebay and kind of invented at the time. So it was great to be on the cutting edge of what affiliate marketing could be. We started the first API in the industry, so it was quite amazing to learn with such a big brand like ebay at the time. After that, I did some more brands on the advertiser side, and then in 2007, I moved to the publisher side, where I remained until the end. I really found my groove educating publishers or affiliates, however the term you want to put it on, not only how to use the CJ system that was part of the job, but what I found amazing was being able to almost sit at the table with them and say, here’s how you should look at your business. Really getting into the strategy. Because at the time, most publisher teams at other networks, now some networks didn’t even have publisher teams at the time, but most of them were just kind of client support. Light what I really wanted to build was more of that sales piece and strategy piece into it. And that’s where I think you talked to some of my earlier clients. They would probably say that was what made CJ resonate for them, was the ideas that we were there to help them not be a stopgap. And over the years, we built several tools based on those conversations with the publishers. I ended up working a lot with product to really, again, be on that cutting edge. One of the biggest things I did was content certified, which is still the industry’s only certification for content and influencer players within an affiliate network for brands to get connected with those types of affiliates. Right away, one click. Access to programs on CJ. And I’m still so proud of the work that all the teams involved and continue to involve have done with that program.

Marshall Nyman [00:04:56]:

Awesome. So it sounds like you started out a little on the education side and kind of continued down that route, but just focused a little bit more on the publisher side, which is great. And I think one of the things that’s always important with the industry is just education in itself. I think that’s important, making sure people understand what’s happening, having a lot of transparency. I feel like that’s what sets a lot of affiliate programs and a lot of partnerships up for a success. So after spending such quite a amount of time at CJ, what was the catalyst to make you want to maybe try something new and move on to.

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:05:27]:

A different type of absolutely. You know, it’s funny when you talk to new publishers. So eventually my final role at CJ was really talking to new publishers, walking in the door, doing consultations, simple consultations that just set them on the right path. So it wasn’t management. It was more like a 1 hour consultation call kind of system. But after talking with so many new affiliates, the idea of something new, something interesting, really got ingrained in my mindset. And so I was hearing thousands of pitches every year from new publishers. People I think would be very surprised to have been in my shoes during those last years when I was at CJ, just listening to the different kinds of ideas. And eventually there were a couple of ideas that really got me excited, interested, things that were new or unique or flipped the script on a traditional model. And so I ended up going to a little company called Carrot. It was a seed round startup and I was there for a little bit and then I found myself at Payload. So I am at my second publisher since leaving CJ. And Payload is definitely one of those companies that takes an existing model and flips the script.

Marshall Nyman [00:06:49]:

Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that I was just thinking about earlier. And so it’s funny that you’re mentioning there’s so many different types of publishers now, and a lot are not what people would think when they think of affiliate marketing. It’s really so many different opportunities. And some of the most exciting publishers in the space now are the nontraditional publishers because they’re opening a whole new avenue. And so you might just think of content or coupon or loyalty. And now there’s all these other types of partners that offer different services. So we’d love to hear a little bit more about what does Payload look like, how does it work for a user and a brand?

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:07:21]:

Absolutely. So Payload is a perk publisher. And for those of you in the industry that may work with other perk publishers, they are companies that essentially build perk or coupon centers for other companies. So companies will pay a SaaS fee to get access to the technology. So instead of building their own coupon section or trying to figure out the affiliate marketing space themselves, it’s almost like a plug and play method. What is different about Payload compared to other perk publishers? Most publishers in the perk space deal with employee perks. But if you think about it, when you look at a company, do they have more employees or do they have more users? Well, they have more users. So we actually work with our clients to promote our perks to their users, their members. We started out really kind of targeting the real estate market, looking at building perk centers for apartment complexes. And to this day, that still remains one of our biggest and brightest client bases. But it’s definitely interesting when you build out a perk center for another company. Other companies that do that will do like a cashback center, points back center, definitely creating some PII. Payload does not take any PII. We don’t do cash back. There’s no incentive for the consumer. So brands that work with us, it’s really just a perk, a discount for the member or the user of these companies. We’ve expanded beyond real estate. We actually power the perk centers for travel companies, insurance companies, health and wellness companies, pet and childcare companies. So we now power the perk centers for quite a bit of different business models out there. Also what makes us unique is our clients can actually build their own perk center. So when you typically work with a perk publisher, they just have one perk center and then they white label it out to their client. With payload you’re able to go in, you can add, you can remove, or you could rearrange the order of any perks in our database. So if we have a client, for instance, that doesn’t want to promote any of their competitors, makes sense. Nor do they want to promote the alcohol or wine or beer category because it’s more about health and wellness and obviously that detracts from being healthy. So we were the only perk platform they spoke to in their sales process that gave them the opportunity to kind of take the keys. So essentially we provide a pool of opportunity and they’re able to fish out all the fish or select fish is kind of a way to look at it. And our clients are successful because they can actually match their users with endemic offers and then complementary offers to their endemic offers as well.

Marshall Nyman [00:10:22]:

So that was my next question. What would an example offer look like? So if a brand was considering something and are they typically best of web, better than web and they’re typically private offers as well?

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:10:32]:

Yeah, we definitely like those semi or true exclusives but we have actually opened ourselves to working on affiliate exclusive offers. So there are brands out there that just give all their affiliates 10% off new customers or whatnot. So we will look at those as options and opportunities for select brands and I mean really select if they can’t do anything custom, special or anything. And there’s a few brands like that, I won’t name them, but you can kind of guess who they are. We have just implemented their normal free shipping offer but we tend to stay away from free shipping offers unless it’s something really big. Like if a Rug company was offering free shipping that would be great because typically the shipping on Rugs is so expensive. So we do look at it client by client. But typically all we need to get for a brand to go live in our marketplace is an offer affiliate semi or true exclusive. If you want vanity, great. Payload is a great thing. Just L-O-D-E not load. And then we just need to be joined to the program. We don’t have any integration fee. If we track through a network, we don’t have a minimum CPA, so you can pay us what you want. And actually, quite frankly, we do really well with new customer coupons and I know brands can actually create a higher discount for new customers. So in some cases we only promote the new customer offer and in other cases we promote new offer and existing offer. But generally we only have one offer per brand, so you really want to make sure that it’s there. We don’t promote like weekend sales or one month long sales. So we do have a minimum of this offer, needs to be good for six months or long. Most of the brands just give us an evergreen offer.

Marshall Nyman [00:12:23]:

And would it be fair to say that any brand is really a fit? Or is there certain brands or verticals that work better?

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:12:30]:

Absolutely, yeah, any category, any brand we will take on except for firearm and adult categories. But in terms of what’s converting, we do really well with food. Whether it’s delivery companies or restaurants, we do really well with that because if you think about it, real estate companies also travel companies. What are you thinking of when you’re sitting in your apartment or you’re on vacation? You’re probably thinking about food. So those do really well. Moving supplies or services do really well. So if you think about tracking, which categories work well with clients, but we have travel clients that actually convert on clothing and accessories, which you might not think, you might think, oh, well, maybe sunscreen from a health and wellness company or luggage. But randomly clothing and apparel works really well with some of our clients.

Marshall Nyman [00:13:22]:

Okay, so it sounds like pretty wide net minus just a few players, but that’s always good to hear. And I think one thing that I always also enjoy hearing is no integration fees, easy to get set up, work on the major networks. So that’s usually a pretty good check for being able to work with most brands. So that’s great to hear. Definitely a lot of experience in the space would love to hear. Do you see any major challenges that you think are facing the performance marketing industry right now?

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:13:48]:

Yeah, I mean the challenges that you hear from all the I’ll call them the affiliate pundits is what happens with the cookie or is every network tracking ultimately? There’s got to be I think what people need to understand is that tracking and integration I think is a big one. Those are all actually all based on the advertiser side. It’s not the network’s fault if the brand isn’t tracking. The brand screwed something up in 9.99 out of ten times. So I think people put the onus on the network. I think it should be on the network to make sure that their clients track, but it’s not the fault of the network that the brand isn’t tracking. So I think resetting expectations of what people deem as important is something to take care of. So people say we need more influencers. Okay, that’s great. But if you’ve ever worked with influencers, they’re very difficult. They’re flat fee, they tend to not work on commission, and half the time if you give them product, they take the product and never promote it. Whereas if you work with more loyalty, coupon deal even more media based content. Those are standard businesses that don’t try to do weird stuff like that. Not saying all influencers are bad, but I think people moving budget to influencers I think is something that is a problem because most of the time the influencers are not partners like publishers. Traditional publishers can be partners and then the final thing I would say is closed minded brands or agencies. There are agencies and brands out there that don’t pitch new publishers to their clients. They’re almost scared to pitch something new or different. The worst anybody can say is no, right? I did some acting in my early days. The amount of no’s you get is common, you just have to accept it. But people who say, I’m not going to pitch you or I’m going to ignore you because I don’t understand you, I think that’s a problem in this industry, especially with newer publishers. They need that kind of initial boost and help to get them to be a more common name in the industry. So tracking, integration, misplacement. I think when you look at influencer marketing versus affiliate marketing, there’s definitely a difference there. And then the pitching of new ideas and new publishers is definitely a challenge as well.

Marshall Nyman [00:16:30]:

I think tracking is always a hot topic and I think you make a good point. How the program is set up is going to really dictate how things track. So good point there. And I think with influencer there’s definitely a lot of pieces and I think it’s also hard to track sometimes. So there’s a lot going on there. So definitely all good points. I think overall the industry seems like it’s headed in a good direction, especially where you see it kind of started and where you see it’s headed see a lot less fraud. And so I think that’s another reason why it’s a good opportunity to work with more publishers because I think maybe ten years ago I would have been a little bit more hesitant if somebody just showed up and said, hey, we want to promote your brand. I’m a little less hesitant now because there’s a lot more transparency. And I think as an agency, the most important thing is growing an affiliate program through finding new publishers. So if you’re not testing new partners and looking for new partners, you’re not going to be growing. And maybe some of the partners that you’ve worked with in the past, they see a decline or something and you’re so reliant on them could impact your program. So I think always finding new publishers is pretty much the name of the game. If you’re not, you’re kind of doing yourself a disservice in affiliate marketing. Any predictions on the future on where things maybe are headed?

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:17:46]:

I think you look at things that have been in definitely some of the trade papers, affiliate marketing, performance marketing in general are on an upward swing. I think more budget will be sent. Now I know influencer marketing is kind of bucketed in there as well, but I think what you’re going to see is more shifting to affiliate traditional models if and when a recession does hit. This is something that has happened multiple times since I was at CJ. The one that people think about the most is the 2007 through 2009 recession caused by the mortgage industry. If it wasn’t for the coupon deal sites and the cashback sites at the time, most brands probably would have closed up shop because a lot of people were going to Google or a search engine and looking for the brand they know with the word coupon. Good Morning America, NBC Today show, even like the David Letterman at the time made comments like literally made comments like you should go and put in a name of a brand and the word coupon and don’t go to those people first. They’re going to want to take as much money from you, go to these other sites that kind of tell you what the best deal are. So when you have mass media telling you this, it’s something where I think history is going to repeat itself and you’re probably going to see the people, like influencers who weren’t really around at the time. They’re not going to be able to figure it out as quickly as coupon sites and cashback sites that have been in the industry for years and have been known to kind of move and deviate and test new opportunities and products. We’re still a fairly new company but we just launched a new product a month ago in preparation for clients thinking outside the box. We want to be ahead of the curve. So I think what you’re going to see is publishers are going to start thinking about what’s ahead and how we can get there by helping the brands. So really kind of thinking the brands need to kind of go back to basics during a recession period and I think that’s what we’re going to see probably in the next six to twelve months.

Marshall Nyman [00:20:01]:

Yeah, I think you make a good point and I’m seeing the non loyalty and coupon publishers try to figure out how to make coupon part of their offering. So I think there’s probably a lot there that’s changing. And, yeah, the coupon sites have a lot of history, so they know how to weather the storm. And we are starting to see where coupons are now more of a driving factor for people because people’s pockets are a little bit tighter than maybe they were a few years ago. So definitely good call out there and interesting to see how things will head over these next six to twelve months. There’s a lot of questions around the economic state of things and where we’re headed, but a really big thank you to Geo from Payload. Some really great insights on his experience in the industry. What is the best way for listeners to connect with you?

George “Geo” Yuhba [00:20:45]:

Absolutely. You can find me on LinkedIn as well as you can just email me at geo geo at payload lode again and I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions. If a brand wants to get on the platform, or if a brand wants to actually launch a perk platform with us, we have the capability to work with retailers to promote complementary products and so they could almost become affiliates themselves through Payload. So whichever way you want to go, I am there to assist.

Marshall Nyman [00:21:18]:

Again, a big thank you to Geo. I am Marshall Nyman, the host of the Performance Marketing Spotlight. Signing off. Thank you for joining us and give us a like or a follow if you enjoyed this content.