In the affiliate and CPA network software game, there have been a few companies that have dominated the game. For almost a decade everyone used DirectTrack, and then came HasOffers and LinkTrust. For a long time, that seemed to be the only choice – until last year, when Cake Marketing started to play in the game, soon making it real name for itself. Since then we’ve seen half a dozen major affiliate networks move over and dozens of other companies become clients in a small period of time. I decided to sit down with their Chief Honcho, Jeff McCollum and find out what they are doing that is making people pay attention.
What inspired your company to make your own performance marketing software?
We had all been in performance based marketing for years and realized the industry was moving faster than the available technology. We were frustrated with the time and resources it took to do the most common daily tasks but were most concerned with the unreliable and an inaccurate tracking. I had worked in Silicone Valley for many years and knew what was possible if good developers could apply solid technology to the fast growing industry. The one thing I did not account for was the 3+ years it would take to build right.
What can you tell us about your fraud prevention tools?
A lot of thought has gone into the toolset we provide our clients for catching and dealing with fraud quickly and efficiently. The collective experiences of our team in finding some of the more sophisticated and creative fraudulent activity of the past few years has been vital in our efforts to improve the accountability of the industry as a whole. From finding improper marketing methods to examining unordinary conversion rates down to the Sub ID level to locating quicker than average click-to-conversion times, Cake gives you immediate notice of fraudulent activity for you to examine, classify, and ultimately shut down within minutes.
As you know, a competitor was hit last year with the revelations that all the affiliate data of their affiliate networks were stolen and resold. What have you done to prevent this happening from you?
Having built Cake Marketing in house from the ground up using only the best modern technologies, processes and techniques, we are able to avoid many of the pitfalls inherent in older or less capable systems. Security has been a primary focus for us and by basing our continued development of features and utilities on a solid foundation; we are able to maintain an impeccable systems security record. As some of our competitors are finding out, it is difficult to adapt a software solution to a changing business climate with constantly shifting rules and goals without sacrificing something, often security. This is especially true in affiliate marketing where the changes are quick and those who fail to keep up get left behind. Cake was built with this in mind and as a software service, is equipped to maintain what makes it great while changing to adapt to the market.
In addition, by keeping all of our development in house with every line of code and every decision being made within the walls of our offices, we are able to dedicate ourselves as a team to this goal without the risk of outside security breaches. This dedication extends itself into all aspects of our platform from the architecture of our data centers, peer code reviews and auditing to the customer support, training and professional services.
Cake sells itself as a fully integrated system, especially made for lead capture and distribution. What is unique about your platform that no other system offers?
Cake Marketing is unique in many ways, but the lead capture and distribution engine is the most powerful of its kind and as an added bonus, completely integrates with our affiliate tracking solution. Being able to send a lead to an email address or simple CRM is not unique to affiliate marketing platforms, but with other systems you will eventually need custom development or a separately licensed product to send leads the way you really need to. With other platforms, lead generation is tacked on as an afterthought, while in Cake it was built from the start side by side with the tracking solution and can also be used as a standalone lead distribution engine. Every possible scenario has been thought out and made to be easily configured within the Cake interface without the need for expensive and time-consuming development.
Feature for feature, Cake can match and beat the top standalone lead distribution solutions as well as the best competing affiliate tracking solutions. The fact that we do both of these in one tightly integrated approach makes us a solution that no other system can top.
How does your lead validation system work better than other systems? What would you say is the most unique part of your system?
Lead validation is a very important part of affiliate marketing because it affects revenue on so many levels. It can be used to detect fraud, to clean data, to categorize your traffic or as part of your manual review process. Unfortunately, this often requires continual updates and changes to your websites and forms as your validation rules change or as new offers are added. As one of the most unique parts of our validation system, Cake has solved this problem by using the same elegant interface that the rest of the system uses. After placing a simple Cake supplied script onto your form, all validation will then be handled automatically and any changes you make within your system will instantly effect how your forms work online, including alerting the customer of invalid data so that they can fix it themselves. Using Cake’s proprietary technologies, you can utilize any of our multitude of validators in this process (many of which cannot be found elsewhere), to seamlessly validate your existing forms.
In light of the revelation that Internet Explorer will be blocking a lot of cookies, and that Firefox is looking to do this in a future release, your cookieless tracking system seems very interesting. I’d love to know more about it, what can you tell us?
From our tracking platform’s inception, dealing with cookieless sessions has been a large focus. Whether users disable cookies completely or enable the Do Not Track option in newer browsers, Cake is able to examine the browser’s fingerprint to uniquely track a session from impression to click to conversion sans cookie. We call this Session Regeneration and it’s built into every aspect of our platform’s foundation. We give our clients specific options to configure how exactly this works, but using our default configuration our clients have solved the problem of missing cookies. Additionally we allow the passing of unique identifiers back and forth between Cake and the advertiser if/when the advertiser supports it to enable 100% tracking accuracy no matter the situation.
I’ve heard some good things about your customer support team, what can you tell me that makes it different?
Our Client Solutions Team (CS Team) is more than just customer service. Our CS Team is truly dedicated to providing the most intimate level of service to all Cake clients. The team informs clients on unique Cake solutions applicable to their unique business needs. Furthermore, our CS Team has significant input into the ongoing product development, leveraging the knowledge gained from client interaction. However, the biggest advantage is we offer all of our clients FREE 24/7 phone support. We know that a great CS Team is vital to our success.
What inspires the management and staff at Cake?
After spending years working for online marketing industry leaders (including NBCInteractive, News Corp., Experian Interactive) we recognized the need for a top tier product which executed to the expectations of senior management as well as provided the blocking and tackling solutions for the front line employees. We are driven each day to meet those obligations. The management team here is competitive and we live for the challenges that come up each day to meet the demanding needs of our clients. Who wouldn’t love coming to work with the most dedicated staff in the market taking on the problems of the most sophisticated marketers in the world and helping them succeed?
IF someone wanted to move over to Cake, how easy would it be? What is the time period involved and do you have any examples of transfers that you can talk about?
We have designed our product to reach full deployment within days. Our goals as a team are to have our clients up and running on a time frame that is comfortable for them. When clients want to be up and running in full steam we can have them up within 48 hours. We understand the anxiety of moving systems and have put a lot of time into creating a comprehensive process. Clients get a dedicated implementation rep to guide them through the training and to import their existing data (affiliates, advertisers, offers, etc.) into their Cake instance.
For affiliates, if they are on a Cake system what will they see in the network that they wouldn’t see in any other program?
We’ve put a lot of time into the design of the Cake Affiliate Portal in an effort to make finding offers, grabbing creative assets, placing pixels, testing offers, viewing reports, downloading new suppression lists, and keeping track of invoices/bills as intuitive, quick, and easy as possible. Seeing up to the second stats, gauging overall performance, and finding new great converting offers are all available in one easy to use dashboard, and when necessary digging in to find more specific information is only a couple clicks away. Additionally, all of this information is available via our Affiliate API for those affiliates looking to integrate this information into their own dashboards.
Specifically the things you won’t find in other systems are:
2. The ease in which per subid/creative pricing is viewable/manageable. No matter how complicated your payment structure is, Cake breaks it down and makes it easy to understand.
3. One click import into your own Cake system making brokering offers from networks a breeze. No need to manually import links/creatives, it all happens for you behind the scenes!
Why use Cake instead of building your own system?
This is the classic buy/outsource versus build decision. Our product has been built from the ground up over 4 years with millions of dollars invested ensuring that our foundation was sound and provides the most flexibility for our clients. Our product allows for clients to have a customized solution within a SaaS license model. This flexible solution can be fully deployed in weeks saving valuable resources and time. Building an independent solution would likely lack the power and scalability required. Furthermore it would take significant time until full deployment. Why pay full price for the Ferrari when you can lease it for a fraction of the price!
What is your dream car and why?
I am not much of a car guy I drive a Prius. I would much rather have a plane so I could travel easily and often with my family.
If you weren’t doing this as career what would be your second choice?
Starting an organization that would educate, mentor, and lend resources to people in countries of extreme poverty to provide a better opportunity.