Smart and Scalable Affiliate Marketing with Kevin Osborne, SVP of Client Strategy at Acceleration Partners

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You may have some fear or feel a sense of resistance when you hear the phrase “affiliate marketing.” Especially if you had ever been burned by this form of marketing in the past. Like most sectors, a lot has improved in the affiliate space and that development has stemmed from the creation of tech tools.  On this episode of Marketing Trends, Kevin Osborne, the Senior Vice President of Client Strategy at Acceleration Partners, gave us the low-down on how affiliate partnerships can be thought of as more than a last-ditch effort to milk the remaining dollars out of the market. Management, implementation, and fraud resistance are all areas of modern affiliate marketing that have vastly improved as of late. 

“People tend to pigeonhole “affiliate marketing” as the last mile. Get that last click drive, that last sale. But again, we really encourage these bigger brands that have a broader perspective on what this channel can do and how it can operate across other traditional media channels already running.” 

But a successful affiliate marketing strategy is more than just having the right tools or the best new gadgets. A big part of the value that Acceleration Partners brings to its customers is by providing guidance on best practices as you roll out your program. Kevin and I dove into how using data, tapping into tried-and-true marketing channels, and reducing friction on the back-end have given modern affiliate marketing the power to be a key tool in your marketing mix, not just an afterthought. 

Main Takeaways:

  • Old School Affiliate Marketing Systems are Out: The time and labor-intensive old-school model of affiliate marketing was a big lift, even for bigger companies to pull off successfully. Now with evolving technology, the launching and management of a profitable affiliate marketing program is much more cost-effective and less staff intensive. The affiliate system is now more efficient and scalable. 
  • Direct Mail can be an Affiliate: Don’t limit yourself to the old way of thinking about affiliate partnerships, even in terms of where that initial impression comes from. With some businesses, such as the restaurant industry, direct mail can be the most effective affiliate lead tool. 
  • Re-engaging with existing customers: As you think about reigniting that affiliate marketing program, look at your existing customer base as the first well to tap into. Re-engaging with existing customers through affiliate marketing can bring them back to new products or services you offer.   


Key Quotes:

“We look at brands that are trying to acquire subscribers, sign-ups, sell shoes, whatever it may be, and at the end of the day, affiliate is simply a channel that’s able to pay partners once an outcome takes place. Once a sale takes place at the end of the day, I think a lot of marketers are trying to get to that final accountable metric, which is, ‘does this drive sales?’ 

“You could use this tool, partnership marketing, and the different players that are involved in it to drive any part of the consumer journey that you want. You can drive awareness, you can drive engagement, you can drive conversion.”

“People tend to pigeonhole “affiliate marketing” as the last mile. Get that last click drive, that last sale. But again, we really encourage these bigger brands that have a broader perspective on what this channel can do and how it can operate across other traditional media channels already running.” 

“There’s some sophisticated technology platforms out there that are great at looking at these deeper analytics. Whether that’s attribution, whether that’s certain measurement systems based on the partner type, whether it’s different commissions based on the interaction that a customer has with the brand, that technology enables us to actually push forward a lot of these new strategies that encompass broader marketing.”

“One of the key elements of our services partner development.  We have guys that are going out there and forging new relationships based on a brand strategy. We worked with a food delivery app that was trying to acquire new restaurants. There are certain ways that those restaurants engage with media and take action, and direct mail was actually one of those. So working with direct mail service to actually get that brand’s message in front of those restaurant owners was really effective.”

“One of the spaces that’s most interesting, that’s been growing the fastest, is B2B, especially the SMB. They have these teams that are business development teams and business development. And that universe is pretty old school, right? It’s guys with a Rolodex that are calling up certain partners or certain individuals that might run an accounting firm that are trying to get people to sign up for QuickBooks. And it’s pretty disjointed and it’s a big world, right? Some of these firms have 20, 30 people on these business development teams and they’re willing to invest because they’re really efficient, right? These partners can really drive a significant amount of sales for a pretty reasonable cost.”

“As far as the industries that are growing the fastest within affiliate marketing there’s these traditional, direct to consumer These guys were living off social and SEM for years.  They were maximizing those channels. They were driving new customers. They were doing it really cost-efficiently. In the last year or two years, it’s become inefficient There is a point of diminishing returns where your bids have to go up and the value goes down. And at some point, you need to explore other channels. Over the last three, four years, we’ve seen a huge adoption by those specific companies coming into a failure because it provides scalability, cost efficiency, and new audiences that’s where we’ve seen massive growth with those companies moving into affiliates and really changing the landscape and bringing on new innovation.”


Kevin has served in a variety of sales roles at renowned companies, including AOL, Openbay, and IAC. He has received numerous accolades for his leadership, sales training, and mentorship along with his digital industry expertise. His passion for startups and entrepreneurship has led to his working with some of the best and brightest companies in the startup space. Through his passion, charisma, determination and win-win approach to problem-solving, Kevin consistently earned the trust and respect of his clients.

Prior to his successful career in sales, Kevin volunteered as a teacher with Citizen Schools and played professional hockey in Paris. If you catch him in the right mood, he may even tell you his favorite French expression.

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Episode 263