Affiliate Grand Slam by SiGMA
Fraser Linkleter, CMO of Slots Temple, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Fraser Linkleter and the team of Slots Temple believe in brand awareness and they go the extra mile to be innovative, a clear example is their Tournaments feature - follow his story below.
When and why did you start considering affiliate business as a career?
The business itself, Digital Division Ltd was founded in 2015, although the site had been running for some time before this, gradually building a sustainable fan-base and steadily generating interest from wider verticals throughout the gaming industry.
Its rise in popularity, the administration this brought and the ambitions the business had for its development meant that the founder, David, decided to go full time in 2017 and I joined the business towards the end of 2018.
Since then the advancements we’ve been able to bring to the site and in turn, the business, have reinforced that decision to join the affiliate community.
From where did you start your affiliate business and how? How much were you willing to commit to it?
As with many start-ups, the venture was started from home while David worked full-time in other roles. Committing as much time as he could to the project and trying to achieve a foothold in what is an extremely competitive market sector.
I myself have been around the gaming industry for a number of years, holding key positions in tier one companies such as Gamesys and Boylesports.
That industry experience and the contacts it has afforded me was a real advantage when I first got into the affiliate business. Possessing an understanding of player behavior and their needs from both an operator and developer platform.
What were your biggest challenges when first starting?
Talk to any entrepreneur at the beginning of a new venture and you will more than likely hear the same story: finding the time to get all the things done. Whether that be the day-to-day admin of what is a very time-consuming data heavy exercise, the essential SEO work which needs to be undertaken for any aspiring affiliate site to survive, or simply finding reliable freelancers to assist with the development. The commitment needed to turn an idea into a reality is by far the largest requirement.
Once that first hurdle is crossed, then the challenges change. They become more about pushing the boundaries of what you started with and spawning the ideas which will take the business to the next level.
How did you scale up your affiliate business?
Overall it’s been a natural progression. Good months would lead to more investment and although this can lead to a slow process with the onset of lower revenue months, the continued dedicated investment does and has paid off over time.
The secret and philosophy for those initial months and years was always to try to and keep as much of the money as possible in the business. Continually re-investing, allowing the site to be as up-to-date and ahead of the competition as possible, allowing new functionality to be incorporated so that development could continue during the times when we couldn’t commit 100% to the business.
Looking ahead to the evolution of the business, although coupled closely with unknowns like regulation changes and the iGaming industry as a whole, will now depend on how we can diversify our offering and build around the model we currently have.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
In hindsight we would probably have been more aggressive in terms of time and funds invested. Being more daring at the start would have made things happen quicker and accelerated the site and the business.
Having the confidence to invest earlier in bespoke technologies, going after more markets earlier, it’s a pretty long list to be honest of what we should have done, but that learning curve and those cautious beginnings have held us in good stead.
What helps make your performance successful? What are the main challenges?
We try to be genuinely useful for the user. Essentially providing players with the information and experiences that they can’t get elsewhere.
The affiliate market is a hugely competitive space and everybody is trying to be different from the rivals in one way or another. Our prospective has been to supply the very best content and the most comprehensive intelligence about the products, incorporating elements which engage and drive retention, such as our latest Tournaments feature.
In terms of challenges, keeping on top of compliance and regulation is the main test. Constant revisions and tweaks to legislation presents us with continued work, not only making sure that our site meets the standards required, but also protecting the public we serve.
What motivates you to promote more and what helps you boost your motivation?
The motivation is simple - to continually improve the product. Our offering relies on visitors and the only way to increase that number is brand exposure through promotion.
This year has been more challenging than most with the reduction in industry events. Those gatherings form a significant part of our B2B promotion activity, so we’ve had to revise our thinking somewhat in that area, moving more towards written PR and expanding our presence across new media.
Endeavoring to be the best of its type and give the users the best experience possible is what boosts our motivation. Resting on our laurels and being content with our market position would be the start of a very steep downward slope, I would say.
We pride ourselves on giving our worldwide audience something different. This is our message to users and drives us to spread the word and the commercial relevance of our site.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
Once you’ve had some success you invariably want more and to move to the next level. I think trusting your instincts is a hugely important trait and one which we’ve learnt to acknowledge.
Being unique is probably the hardest thing in any industry or business. It starts with hard work, doing your research into competitors, and not simply copying the market leaders. Finding your niche is key to your approach.
Bringing concepts from outside the gaming industry and adapting them to suit your own needs. Being reactive to trending scenarios or situations and generally providing users with more. It doesn’t always have to be mind-blowing but giving that extra 10% can be the difference between you and your competitors.
You should believe in your own ideas, if you do this you will end up with a unique product.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
The obvious wins can be seen in the UK, Canada, NZ, Spain, Italy, and USA markets that are either English speaking or are fully regulated. Relying on one market in today’s landscape is simply not enough. Affiliates must be multi-jurisdictional, not only to gain the support needed to achieve revenue, but also to future-proof their operations to the decline of individual markets.
Regulations change and not always to the benefit of the market. Being active across multiple regions means there is always a fallback, even if the main focused market suddenly drops.
Emerging markets have quite rightly seen significant attention over the last 12 months. Africa and LatAm in particular. We are currently looking at some LatAm countries as exciting emerging markets.
Which niches work best for your affiliate marketing, and which are the most profitable? How did you find your most profitable niche?
The business started off with a number of sites covering all areas of casino with varying success, but eventually we settled on Slots based sites. Firstly, because this is where our interests lay and where we had the most success.
I guess a lot of the success was trial and error to a degree, and not being afraid to close an arm which wasn’t performing. Allowing ourselves to concentrate on the more promising sites which maybe at the time weren’t getting our full attention.
Experience of Slots was a big factor in our eventual end product.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
As a demo slots site we were one of the first to introduce age verification in the UK following the rulings set in place by the UKGC. Checking users ID via a third-party integration to ensure users validity before they could access demo game content was a very important step and one that we believe has brought us trust and high-quality users.
We’ve also created a free slots tournament product on Slots Temple with the aim of creating a community of players who love playing free slots. It also gives us an opportunity to work closely with game developers to promote their content, something which we’re keen to progress with more suppliers and build the product further.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
Never say never, the market gets ever more competitive and small businesses such as ourselves are competing against huge organisations, so in order to get to where you want to be investment could certainly be an option.
M&A’s have been gathering pace recently with some huge deals going through. Although on the surface the industry continues to grow, underneath it actually looks to be shrinking in terms of the companies invested in it. Groups are now arming themselves with everything in-house, from game development, to operators, to affiliates.
The overarching aim is to merge or sell, but we are nowhere near the end of this project yet and have plenty of unfinished business to attend to, so we are not ready yet!
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
I don’t think they are too different from the qualities you need for any successful business.
The team needs to be driven, committed, and have a passion for making their product the best it can be. Short-term goals can be met relatively easily but having the ability to work together as a team and have fun while you work is important in the long-term.
Having patience is key, nothing happens overnight in affiliate marketing.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
There are many intricacies which we could detail, but currently I think it’s our Tournament product.
It’s pretty unique in the affiliate marketplace, providing slots lovers with real competition against other slot lovers. Our product gamifies the slot and allows players the chance of topping a leaderboard without risking anything.
Do you create all the marketing material you need to promote in-house, or do you out-source it?
We do everything in-house - our designer has been with us for a while and really gets the industry and brand. It’s important, especially with marketing, that what you create and how you present yourselves resonate with the viewer and is instantly recognisable. Keeping this task in-house means that we have full control over what goes out and that we can keep a close eye on our future thinking, making sure we are moving with the times but staying true to who we are and what we offer.
How important is social media activity for your affiliate business? How difficult is it with Google's constant updates?
Social media is not currently a big part of our activity, but SEO certainly is.
Google’s updates provide constant challenges, but as long as you are providing useful, interesting content then you should not be hit hard by the updates.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
Changes in regulated market activities is not a new concept or an uncommon one, so you come to live with and expect it. What can seem like a disaster when first announced, generally tends not to be as bad as first feared or rumored.
We’ve learnt over the years to be patient and not reactive. Implement the required changes and in general you’ll be rewarded with trust by your users and seize the opportunity to gain new followers when other providers fall by the wayside.
Does communication and support with operators meet your expectations? How do you manage your relationship with them?
For the most part, yes. The best operators treat affiliates as true business partners and work with them on all aspects of their activities, not only on lead generation, but with media, PR, promotions, and responsible gambling requirements.
These types of exercises automatically raise their profile and generate much more coverage for themselves as well as the affiliate in question. This collaborative approach and regular communication is good for both parties.
Affiliates benefit from the increased assistance in areas they may not be hugely familiar with and gain access to expertise they may not have to hand. Operators benefit from increased exposure to the latest slot games live on their sites, preferential positioning on affiliates sites, and reaching customers in a wider spectrum.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
Nothing can beat meeting up with partners face-to-face, it takes the relationship to a new level.
For obvious reasons these events haven’t been able to take place this year and we certainly hope 2021 will see their return. The virtual equivalents which have been enacted this year, while trying to fill a gap, just cannot replace the experience of a real live event.
Networking is the other big benefit to a live event which can’t be reflected in a virtual environment. It’s fantastic to have everyone in the industry in one place, under one roof. They breed a relaxed atmosphere for not only discussing business, but also building personal relationships which continue well after the show doors close.
I think the question at the moment is how they will change or react to the changes when they return. Will attendances be as high, will they be able to satisfy the delegates concerns around safety and wellbeing, will they have the same look and feel? I for one certainly hope so! Hopefully, we can get back to it soon!
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite film, whether you are into iGaming yourself, etc.
I’m a big sport fan and I love most forms of sport, playing and watching.
I’m a big fan of the novel The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger.
On screen, Pans Labyrinth is a favourite and of course, I love iGaming, it’s not just a job, it’s also a hobby which I think speaks volumes for why and how we’ve made Slots Temple the success it is today.