Episode #7- The Performance Marketing Spotlight with Jeannine Crooks

About Our Guest

As the Partner Acquisition & Development Manager with Awin US, Jeannine works closely with advertiser programs of all sizes, from HP and Under Armour to Bloomsy Box and CardRatings.com. She is a frequent speaker at a variety of conferences including Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Management Days, TBEX and MailCon. Jeannine also works with all types of publishers, especially bloggers, helping each to maximize their affiliate earnings. With 20+ years in affiliate marketing, Jeannine is always happy to share her knowledge to help others succeed in the industry she loves.

Awin and ShareASale provide brands of all sizes an open marketplace to create any type of acquisition partnership. Their 270,000+ active partners operating across a million-plus websites – including traditional affiliates, global mass media houses, trusted micro-influencers and innovative fintech businesses – enable advertisers to generate more sales, expand customer reach and strengthen their brand. In addition to leading the way with their reach, Awin and ShareASale’s award-winning technology and tools – including first-party tracking, multi-channel attribution, ecommerce plugin integrations and in-app tracking – ensure a program tracks all sales, making it optimally attractive for partners to want to promote


In episode 7 of the “Performance Marketing Spotlight,” Marshall interviews Jeannine Crooks, who is the Partner Acquisition and Development at AWIN Global. Jeannine has a wealth of experience in the affiliate marketing industry, spanning 24 years. Topics covered include: Staying on Top of Technology Changes, The Power of Networking at Affiliate Summits, The Future of Affiliate Marketing, and more!


Marshall Nyman [00:00:04]:

Hello and welcome to the performance marketing spotlight. I’m your host, Marshall Nyman, founder and CEO of NYMO Co. Each episode, the podcast brings you someone with deep experience in the performance marketing space where they will highlight their experiences within the industry. Today I have Janine Crooks, who is partner acquisition and development at AWIN Global. Welcome to the podcast, Janine.

Jeannine Crooks [00:00:27]:

Thank you so very much. I’m excited to be here.

Marshall Nyman [00:00:29]:

Awesome. Well, very excited to have you today. So let’s get right to it. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself to the audience so they can get to know you a bit?

Jeannine Crooks [00:00:36]:

Sure. Well, Janine Crooks, I’ve been with AWIN for almost 13 years now, and I’ve been in the affiliate marketing industry for 24. So I’ve been around since it was just barely getting started. And I love it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else because I think it’s an industry with unlimited opportunities kind of for anybody who wants to get in there. And I’ve just seen it change people’s lives and gosh, how can you not work for something that’s that great? So I love affiliate marketing.

Marshall Nyman [00:01:02]:

Yeah. When all my friends got started, they’re like, you got to do it, you got to do it. And then you tell your friends, oh, it’s the industry you want to be in. So I think you’re spot on there 100%. So where did you get your start in the industry?

Jeannine Crooks [00:01:15]:

Well, it’s kind of funny. I originally started, believe it or not, with a motorcycle parts and accessories company. And we had a website, and I got the idea that, gee, we would pay a commission to people who referred other people to us. I had no idea that was called affiliate marketing at the time, but it worked. And then the next company I was at, I was their affiliate manager, so I kind of got trial by fire pretty darn fast. But I absolutely love it. I’ve been to every affiliate summit since 2005, so the next one, I think, is my 30 Eigth affiliate summit this summer. So looking forward to that. And I’ve tried to be very active in the industry. Spent a lot of time, for example, testifying for the Amazon tax when that was the big issue, the affiliate tax, because I didn’t want any affiliates to lose their opportunity and access to this industry over something like geography. So ultimately, we won. And believe it or not, the Wayfair decision is five years old this year. Go figure. So that’s another topic for another day. But the bottom line is it protected affiliates ultimately. So we won in that respect. And that was something that I did in conjunction with the Performance Marketing Association, which I know we’re going to get to talk about.

Marshall Nyman [00:02:23]:

Yeah, definitely. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about AWIN Global, where you’re currently at.

Jeannine Crooks [00:02:29]:

Well, I’m very proud to be part of AWIN Global. When I first started here in the US. We were buy at, which was then acquired by Affiliate Window, who was owned more by Xanox Group. Ultimately everybody bought everybody and so we changed the name to AWIN. So we are a global affiliate network. We’re in think, 15 different countries now. We have about 1600 employees globally. We’re huge in the US. So I don’t want anybody to think, oh, they’re only a European network. Anybody who thinks that is sadly mistaken and missing an opportunity. And then I was very excited because I believe it’s six years ago now, we actually acquired ShareASale, which I was so thrilled about because I’d known Brian Littleton since forever and he was the one who founded sharesale. And it was because we had very similar approach to the business, very similar ethics and things like that, that Brian decided that out of anybody in the world, he was willing to sell his baby to know. And that’s because we’re all about transparency, we’re all about ethics. I wish everybody in the industry always behaved the same way, but I can tell you how we behave and those are very important to us. So having Share a sale is huge. So globally I think we have around 26,000 merchants. And in the US. I know we’ve got, boy, over 8000. And then we work with, I think in total about 1.41.5 million affiliates. And everybody’s got like one point something million affiliates or more. I’m more proud of the fact that well over 275,000 of ours are active because there’s a huge difference between just sheer numbers and active. Ours are active. So I’m proud of that.

Marshall Nyman [00:04:12]:

That definitely makes a difference, having them active versus just sitting stagnant in your program. Some of those is always a process.

Jeannine Crooks [00:04:21]:

Yes. For merchants that are trying to get going, we can offer them a lot of guidance. So we have AWIN, which is a platform you can go to if you want some more help. Like if you want support from the network, perhaps you want help in recruiting or something like that, you can get that. And then Share Sale is primarily self managed, but of course we work with agencies on both platforms. We work with several hundred agencies. So if that’s the direction that you want to go as far as your program management, we welcome that too. So we try and be able to help just about anybody become successful in affiliate marketing.

Marshall Nyman [00:04:55]:

Yes, we definitely manage programs, both networks at Naimo, so I can definitely attest to.

Jeannine Crooks [00:05:01]:

And we appreciate that.

Marshall Nyman [00:05:05]:

So tell us a little bit more about your current role as partner and acquisition development at well, you know, I.

Jeannine Crooks [00:05:12]:

Mean, since I’ve been around since God was a little boy kind of in this industry, AWN was very appreciative of all of my connections and my knowledge base, which was great. So I became partner acquisition so I can work with both merchants and with new publishers to help them come on board into the platform to help them kind of find their initial footing with different programs or whatever. Whether it’s a publisher trying to figure out which merchants are right for them, or it’s a merchant trying to figure out which publishers or which tech partners to work with or all those sorts of things. That’s where I become a resource. And if I don’t know the answer to the question, I know who in each company does have the answer to the question. So I get to play matchmaker a lot and I just love it. As you can tell, it’s my favorite topic to talk about.

Marshall Nyman [00:06:00]:

I think that’s pretty unique in your role because not too many people that I talk to tell me they work on both sides. So to be able to work on both sides is probably interesting and gives you a lot more holistic picture of how everything’s working together.

Jeannine Crooks [00:06:15]:

Yeah, it absolutely does. What I do as part of my job is to make sure that I’m aware of anything that’s going on on both sides of the equation. So today I attended a session that was held by our publisher success team, which told us about new publishers that are coming into the industry or coming into onto the platform, and we talk about different things. Like I remember the first time we started talking about buy now, pay later, or about card linked offers or something like that so that I’m familiar with that and can talk to new merchants about it. Conversely, if I see a great merchant come on board and I know of a publisher that we’ve got on the platform that would be a great fit, I’ll reach out to that publisher and just say, hey, you know, what you need to know about know. And I also run our Facebook groups, so we actually have AWIN for bloggers on there. We have a share a sale for Bloggers group, and we’ve just launched a share sale for so, you know, new merchants that are trying to figure out stuff can go in there and they can ask me all sorts of questions or best practices. We try and share all of that to just really try and offer as much support as we can so that everybody becomes successful. Because face it, it’s performance marketing. The only way that AWIN ShareASale are going to be successful is if we make sure that our merchants are successful and our publishers are successful. We don’t want it to just be this numbers game that I think some of the other networks perhaps approach. It as if we have enough publishers and we have enough merchants, we’re going to be successful. No, we really want to take care of everybody that comes on our platform as much as they want. We’re going to try and support them. And I’m very proud of that. I like that approach because that’s who I am. So I get to be me. Yay.

Marshall Nyman [00:07:52]:

Yeah, it’s about having the right partners in your program for sure. It’s not just about having the most amount of publishers and I think that’s one thing that we’re always looking to do is try to really have the right ones in there and not just have 300 publishers and then the ones that are in there, you have a relationship and they’re actually driving consistent traffic for the brand. So I think you made great points on all of that outside of your.

Jeannine Crooks [00:08:15]:

Also really understand the concept of long tail publishers as well, which is so critical because so many merchants only want like the biggest guys that they want to work with. They want to work with the influencers who have 1.2 million followers and it’s like you’re missing so many people. Maybe they’ve only got 5000 followers who listen to every single recommendation that particular content blogger or influencer makes and they buy. I would rather have 5000 engaged followers than a million. You know what I mean?

Marshall Nyman [00:08:48]:

Oh I agree 100%. Because I think if you go after the biggest fish first, the first thing they’re going to do is look you up and if none of their competitors have covered you, you’re too small or you’re not there yet. So I like to actually focus on the smaller partners to start because they’re more open to receiving product, testing new things and maybe taking a chance on something where the bigger ones kind of build it up from the bottom. They might not see that buz out there and so you might have a harder chance. But if they say, hey, our competitors are talking about this product, maybe it makes sense for us to cover it too. So I think, yeah, having that kind of ground up strategy makes sense versus going after the pie in the sky.

Jeannine Crooks [00:09:29]:

Very wise, very wise. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you before.

Marshall Nyman [00:09:37]:

I think that’s really important to mention. So to switch gears a little bit, you’ve been part of the PMA, I know you actually served on the board previously and this year they’re celebrating 15 years and the PMA is the Performance Marketing association for people that aren’t familiar. Would love for you to just tell us a little bit about the organization and your experience with it.

Jeannine Crooks [00:09:58]:

Oh sure, yeah. I’ve been a supporter of the PMA right from the start and that was even before I joined AWIN. So that’s how long ago that, you know, PMA was originally founded because of the whole challenge that we dealt with with the affiliate nexus issues and just for those who might not have run into that. Basically states were looking for a reason to tax individual merchants and they only could do it if there was a physical presence in the state. And so what they tried to do was say, oh, the affiliate works for your company, they have a physical presence in your state, therefore you must charge our state sales tax. And so what merchants did was said, well, we’ll just get rid of the affiliates in that state and they would just wipe out anybody who was in that state. And it was really very hard for a couple of years. And so there were some of us who got together and I wasn’t a founding member, I will say, but I joined on pretty fast because Colorado was actually the fourth state that considered this. And so everybody kind of pooled their money and got a lawyer, know, managed to survive through all the craziness that was that. And that went on for years and years until the Wayfair decision came through. So for anybody who wants to look it up, it’s Wayfair versus South Dakota. That’s kind of what took affiliates out of the equation for being the reason that sales tax needs to be charged or not. So that’s the foundation of the PMA now. It’s grown into just this tremendous organization that has a huge number of resources both for merchants and for publishers as well as there’s several agencies that are involved too. So you can go on there and you can learn best strategies on things. I know we’ve got a couple of new white papers that are coming out about things like Toolbars or just all sort brand bidding, those kinds of things and it’s really good. We do a lot of different online webinars too, so LinkedIn Chats and things like that. So you can learn about things that are happening now in the industry. For example, we recently had one on AI and things that are coming up in the industry as well. So it’s just a great opportunity. Not to mention that it’s an incredible networking opportunity because kind of anybody who’s everybody should be is in the platform already is in, you know, I love it. The last time I went to Affiliate Summit and we had an event, I could not believe how many people were PMA members already. And it was golden because you could reach out to them through the PMA platform and set, know, appointments and meetings and just it helps on networking. So even other times of the year than when conferences are on or something like that, you can go into PMA and ask for help, you can ask questions and other people who are in there are very happy to share their knowledge. So it’s like having this tremendous specialized knowledge base that you can tap into anytime. How golden is PMA?

Marshall Nyman [00:12:47]:

They have a presence at most of the major affiliate events. So if anybody’s ever looking to get involved, you can always stop by and chat with any of us. And then just I think one of the benefits of joining, outside of all the things that you mentioned, is that you can also get access to some of the events at a discounted rate and one free ticket a year to affiliate Summit. So there’s definitely a lot of benefits for joining that actually outweigh the cost. So that was my initial reason for joining because it’s like, oh, I’m going to go to these events anyways. And then it was kind of like opened the door and I realized there’s so much more. And that’s how I met you person at the live PMA event. Yeah, it’s definitely a great organization to be in. I think for affiliate networking is kind of the heart of the space. So this is just another way to network and continue to kind of sharpen your skills and grow your connections.

Jeannine Crooks [00:13:41]:

It absolutely is. I mean, you hit on the biggest thing that it’s the networking and for example, the PMA events at various things. Like for example, we did have an event at Pi live. There’s going to be one. There’s always one at each affiliate summit and some know shows as well. And you can actually get there and sit down and talk face to face with the merchant that you wanted to talk to, with the agency you wanted to talk to, with the publisher you wanted to talk to, in kind of a casual, less insane environment than it is on the show floor, because the show floor usually is speed dating. Let’s admit it. It’s like, okay, you got eight minutes. Are we a match or not? Thanks. Bye. Thanks. Yes, we’ll talk later. But when you can sit down at someplace like some of those events and actually get to talk with people and kind of explore the opportunity on both sides, it’s very common to find new things that you never even thought about doing or new ways of working together because you had that chance to kind of sit and relax in a casual environment. Yeah, that’s actually one of my favorite parts of any conference I go to is the PMA event.

Marshall Nyman [00:14:49]:

Awesome. It’s and I think events are just like a big part of the space. When I went through the pandemic and then went to my first event after the pandemic, it was just kind of like opened my eyes again to oh, how important the events were but stopped doing them for a few years. They almost kind of lost their importance in my mind. And then you just kind of go back to them and you’re connecting with people and talking to people that you haven’t seen a long time and just kind of coming up with new ideas and ways to work together. So love all those events and love how the PMA is always help supporting those events.

Jeannine Crooks [00:15:25]:

It really makes such a huge difference.

Marshall Nyman [00:15:27]:

Oh yeah, for sure. So what are some challenges that you see the affiliate marketing industry is currently facing?

Jeannine Crooks [00:15:32]:

Well, I think there’s a couple of things that are coming up. I think some people are still finding out about the iOS 17 update where they intend to take tracking out of links. Now it doesn’t represent a huge amount of volume overall in the industry, but it’s something we definitely need to be aware of. So I know for us as a platform, AWIN Global, we’re already looking at ways to respond to that kind of what it’s going to affect. And so we’re prepared. We’re not terrified of it, but nevertheless, you need to pay attention to it. If you’re a publisher, is your merchant ready to still maintain the tracking? If you’re a merchant, is your network able to do that? And if you’ve got your own kind of in house program only, you got to really pay attention. So kind of one of the benefits for being on a network. Yeah, I know I work for a network, but there’s a lot of things networks can do for you to make your life easier, and that’s one of them. So I think that that’s going to be an issue. And then the other thing is AI, as we watch it come together, because there’s a lot of unknowns in there. So for content publishers, AI gets their information from someplace and they don’t credit you for it. So you could just basically kind of in an AI way, have your content scraped and given to somebody else, that sort of thing. Plus now, as some of the different AI format owners are taking a look at things, they’re figuring out ways to monetize it themselves, and so they’re inserting merchants right in there. And so publishers are going to have to be alert on ways to be able to work with that so that it doesn’t go around them as the chat bots become more sophisticated and stuff like that. Bard is going to be a challenge. I can tell that already. So you really need to be on top of your game. It’s not just one of those oh yeah, that exists now kind of things. You’re going to have to see how it affects your business. So we really are trying to be very cognizant of that.

Marshall Nyman [00:17:20]:

Yeah. And then when you’re just saying all those things, you made me think about that Google is going to start showing coupon codes in the SERP, and that could also affect publishers. So that’s also, I guess, another thing kind of around all that with some of the changes Google’s making.

Jeannine Crooks [00:17:34]:

Well, you know, not it’s going to affect those publishers. It’s going to affect merchants who have said, no, I don’t want to be part of a coupon program. They feel like it diminishes them or something. And what I’ve always found is that for a merchant, usually there’s things that they can do as an offer that really is already in their business plan. Maybe they give a discount for somebody who signs up for their email list. Maybe they do a free shipping if you buy X amount of dollars, maybe they have a clearance section. So just for those merchants out there who are like, oh my God, what am I going to do? I don’t want to offer a coupon. You probably already are offering some sort of deal already. So just see how you can kind of shape that to fit because, yeah, you could get hurt by this. You need to figure out your strategy to make sure that it doesn’t take you down.

Marshall Nyman [00:18:22]:

Yeah, I think the tracking challenges you mentioned is almost more going away just as a challenge and more just like kind of like a permanent thing because it used to be like you’ve placed a pixel and it was good for years. It seemed like that was the process for a decade and then really maybe the last five, six years or so, now there’s changes and it’s like the pixel is getting updated frequently and there’s more parameters and now you’re connecting directly into the CMS for the platform. So there’s just so much that’s changing with the tracking where it’s like I think it’s just like an ongoing job now versus just kind of like being prepared for what’s going to like, you know, things are going to change with it. So I guess figuring out how the technology can be ahead of what’s happening.

Jeannine Crooks [00:19:11]:

You hit it right on target there. Seriously. Because, Marshall, it’s just like every day there’s new technologies that are showing up. And if you stay on top of them, you can leverage them to your benefit. But if you ignore them I mean, that’s what Amazon counted on when they cut all the commissions down to 1% during COVID Hundred, thousands. Hundreds of thousands of blogs out there with tens of millions of links or more. Back to Amazon, where people hadn’t been paying attention. So Amazon still kept making money because nobody had bothered to stay on top of things. So what you just said was actually quite profound and I hope everybody know, listens to that part twice know, you really do have to stay on top of all the technology changes and what’s happening on your site to make sure that you succeed in those opportunities as opposed to getting crushed by the new technology.

Marshall Nyman [00:20:01]:

And I actually recently audited a couple of programs on share sale and they were like older programs that have been around for almost a decade, not new programs, and they hadn’t looked at how their pixel was set up since launch and stuff like that. Is staying on top of the pixel, making sure you’re up to date with any of the changes, I think is really important for brands these days because I think people it wasn’t something they stayed on top of and so they just kind of didn’t think about it. And so we’re definitely seeing programs that have sometimes tracking issues because people haven’t paid the proper attention to the technology.

Jeannine Crooks [00:20:38]:

Yeah, that’s one of the things that I enjoy in our industry is you can say, oh, it’s so last week, and it really is because stuff is changing that Fast, but It’s Kind Of Your Responsibility To Me. For a merchant, it’s their responsibility to their affiliates to stay on top of things and conversely, for affiliates to stay on top of things with their merchant. That when a change comes through. You honor that and you do it. It may be a side hustle for a lot of people, and that’s fine. That’s Great. But nevertheless do it right. Don’t just do it part. You know, it’s got such potential to it if you do it, that, you know, you want that vacation in Hawaii this year? Make sure you’re on top of the links that are on your site, because it’s possible. More than possible. I’ve watched affiliates who started off with a little tiny blog pay off their mortgages in less than five years because they did a good job being affiliates. So let that be encouraging to people. I’ve seen it happen more than once.

Marshall Nyman [00:21:41]:

Gave that advice to someone last night. I said you could be a content creator. So I said it wasn’t going to happen overnight. But you can create a blog or site and start to promote products. And over time, that revenue will go from a few dollars a month to a few hundred dollars a month to maybe a few thousand dollars a month. And that’s a whole nother revenue you can have. And the ability to know what new products are coming out and have the ability to share that with your audience is also a cool opportunity, too. So I think being an affiliate is definitely a great way to jump in and start your own business.

Jeannine Crooks [00:22:18]:

It absolutely is. And what I love about affiliate marketing is it’s not an expensive business to get into it from an affiliate standpoint. You get a URL, you get posting, you start working on the content yourself. And you will get the rewards based on the amount of effort you put into it. And so, literally, one of the first places that I worked at as an affiliate manager, one of the most successful members in our program was a guy who was homeless when he started. And he literally begged enough money to buy the URL, and he begged enough money for his hosting. And he would go into the library for an hour a day and be able to use their computer to upload articles. By the time I met him, he owned his own home. He had his mom living with him, so he was taking care of her. And Son was in college with his own car, so he did well. And I love those kinds of stories.

Marshall Nyman [00:23:11]:

Yeah. The person that I talked to last night, the example I gave them was like, whatever is new and up and coming that people are looking for information about, if you become an information for that people are going to flock to, there’s new technologies, new things coming out. So If There’s A New Thing that you can share information on that’s going to help people. It’s something worth looking into. And I say if you have a hobby and it’s not well covered in the estate space and you already have maybe some of the gear or some of the products, you can just jump in right there and start doing it. And it’s not that big of a lift, as you said, if it’s something that you’re already into and passionate about, it might just come natural. Might just need a few GoPros.

Jeannine Crooks [00:23:57]:

Definitely, yes. And don’t be terrified to publish an article. I see so many affiliates that they’ve got it all written, but is it perfect yet? Don’t worry about it. 90% is fine.

Marshall Nyman [00:24:08]:

Nothing’s perfect.

Jeannine Crooks [00:24:09]:

Hit publish. You’re posting it in butter, not in concrete. You can go back and you can tweak it some more if you want to, but get started. Sorry, that’s my little rant, but I just seen so many publishers that are like, right there and then stop out of fear.

Marshall Nyman [00:24:28]:

I get it.

Jeannine Crooks [00:24:29]:

Don’t be afraid.

Marshall Nyman [00:24:30]:

It took me to actually get it out. It just took me so much time to get that first one out. And then after I was like, now it just kind of happens. And I was like, I got so caught up in just, like, the details on the first one that sometimes you just got to jump in. And I think, yeah, as you evolve over time, you get better. And so what you look like today isn’t what you’re going to look like tomorrow. And so you just kind of evolve with that.

Jeannine Crooks [00:24:54]:

Yes, and it’s fun. Just one other point. You will never forget your first affiliate sale ever. I know exactly how much mine was for, what it was that they bought, how much commission I made, you never forget. And that’s been more years than I care to identify right now, because within the industry, I’ve been an affiliate, I’ve been a merchant, I’ve been a vendor. This is my second time with an affiliate network. So kind of seen all the perspectives.

Marshall Nyman [00:25:28]:

You just gave me a flashback to when I got started and I was sitting at a desk in a one bedroom apartment working for an affiliate network in those first.

Jeannine Crooks [00:25:40]:

It works. It really works.

Marshall Nyman [00:25:42]:

I know. I was so skeptical because it was like I had no idea what I was getting into. And it was like this startup and the next thing you know, it’s like you can make a career of it. So, yeah, I recommend anybody that’s looking to get started in performance marketing to just jump in. There’s plenty of resources online to learn and it’s just about gaining experience. So just like what we were saying know, don’t wait for perfection. Just kind of jump in and get to it. And that’s always the best way to tackle things. So I think it’s a great way to end it. Really appreciate Janine from. AWIN Global for joining the podcast this week. Some really great insights on her experience in the space. What is the best way for listeners to connect with you?

Jeannine Crooks [00:26:21]:

Well, you can find me kind of on any platform, so you can find me on Facebook and on LinkedIn and I’m on Twitter and just every way that way you can email me. So it’s just Janine Crooks@awin.com, and I’m going to guess that you’ll have my name someplace because it’s hard to spell, but here goes. It’s Jeanninecrooks@awin.com and that’s AW I N. So I’m always happy to talk to people who just plain have questions. I love doing that so you don’t have to be an affiliate on a winner share a sale or a merchant or anything like that. You can just be like, hey, I was wondering, can I ask you this? Yes, please feel free to do so because that’s my passion. I just love helping people get started in an industry.

Marshall Nyman [00:27:08]:

I love I can attest to that. When I sent you a LinkedIn request, the first thing you asked me is how you can help me. So I thought that was really nice of you. So she’s not saying that lightly, she’s really saying truthfully. So I appreciate that and I think that’s an important part of the industry as well, is just kind of giving back to others and helping people that are absolutely yeah. Again. Thank you. To Janine. I’m Marshall Nyman, the host of the Performance Marketing Spotlight. I’m signing off. Thank you for joining us and give us a like or follow. If you’ve enjoyed this content, have a great one.