Affiliate Grand Slam by SiGMA
Håvard Lehn, Co-Founder of Nordic Affiliates Ltd, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Håvard Lehn and the Nordic Affiliates Ltd team focus on their long-term business partners rather than on hundreds of short-term partners. They focus on usability, honest content writing, and they only promote those for whom they can vouch - follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
The founders/investors have several years of experience from both operational and affiliate side of the industry, with one successful exit already some years ago, we are happy to see that our latest projects also got off to such a great start.
We are now mainly focusing on regulated markets, and with our latest addition we are also looking forward to targeting some new up and coming markets. The industry has changed a lot since we sold our business four years ago, but there is one thing that remains the same – hard work still pays off.
As of now, Gaming is our only vertical, but we have already planned to expand to other areas of affiliate marketing.
What helps make your performance successful?
I truly believe that the people are the key factor for success, having the right people focusing on the right things is the one most important factor to run a business. You can have as many employees and fancy titles as you want, but if just one employee in the organisation is in the wrong place you will have a higher chance to fail than to succeed.
There are also several new tools available for keeping track of performance, which makes it easier for us to analyse statistics and performance. From there, we are able to make crucial changes and optimising our traffic in a much more efficient way than before. We are always adjusting and tweaking until we are happy with, for example, the brand mix in.
Our focus will always be long term, both for our own sake and for our business partners’ sake. We would rather work really close long term with ten partners, than mediocre with hundred partners. The affiliate industry is built on a win/win business concept, and I hope we are able to be advocates for this way of thinking.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
We are focusing on usability more than anything else, and honest content written by humans for humans. It is a jungle of online gaming venues at the moment, and we only promote the ones that we can vouch for. OnlineGamblers.com will be the one stop shop for all markets for all online gaming verticals. Esports, Online casino, Sportsbook, Trotting, and Poker. On the long term, we shall cover them all.
Betopia will be a more statistics and number driven sportsbook comparison site, with focus on providing the best odds on the given market.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
I think that at the moment we have a great team, and from what I already mentioned earlier on, you can understand the importance I give it. One of our strengths is the streamlined business model, with the possibility to adapt and change very quickly if we see that something is not working.
We are three shareholders who have worked together for the last decade. This means that we know each other very well, both the good sides and the bad sides. We trust that each one of us will take care of his dedicated area of business, and, therefore, we are able to focus 100% on our own task.
One of our other core strengths is the willingness to try and fail, if you haven’t failed you haven’t tried hard enough. We know that to be able to learn and keep pace with this fast moving industry, we need to take some risks and spend some money on the way to perfection.
Tell us a bit more about your business model, concept, and culture.
Our business model is fairly simple (at least in writing), we try to find the perfect mix of converting brands which also proves to have a long term and sustainable business plan. We have several KPIs in which we measure brands against each other.
Not only the brand mix is subject to optimisation, but also the mix between reward plans. We always try to have a healthy mix of pure revenue share, hybrid, and CPA deals.
Hard, smart work, and long hours is usually the solution when you are trying to stay on top of the competition.
Tell us a bit more about your future plans.
We are planning to focus more on the regulated markets, and to apply for licenses in several areas. Other than that, we are looking forward to building a worldwide site, which is new to us.
Our key challenge here is to make it localised, with local brands, optimised content for the specific market, and with a country manager that has the responsibility for the section of the page.
What motivates you to promote more, and what helps you boost your motivation?
I have always been motivated by the process of creating something, even though this means I might will fail on the way. My reward is when I finally succeed and build a profitable sustainable business.. Being able to financially secure my family’s future is also an important factor.
How important is social media activity for your affiliate business? How difficult is it with Google's constant updates?
We are not good enough at this, but we are working on a way to master this craft as well. There is no question that social media is an important part of people’s everyday routine.
Only Google decides what the next update will be, and when it will be rolled out. All we can do is to adapt continuously and try to stay ahead of the competition.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We are focusing long term, and then I do think of looking into emerging markets and into the soon to be regulated markets which are a great way to move forward. We are constantly doing research for new markets.
Which niches work best for your affiliate marketing, and which are the most profitable? How did you find your most profitable niche?
We have been trying a lot during the last year and a half, but we always come back to long term SEO. We are not in a hurry, and with an inhouse developer we are able to do tweaks along the way and adapt to the ever-changing landscape in this industry.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?
Fraud prevention, retargeting, and compliance. When focusing on regulated markets, the biggest headache for both operators and affiliates are compliance. I am happy that there are tools on the market helping us to be compliant.
Regarding retargeting, this is something we will dig more into, and I think it will become a huge part of how affiliates and operators will do business in the future. For some reasons, I feel that the gaming industry isn’t really the innovator that it should be compared to other tech driven industries.
Fraud prevention will always be a focus target in the gaming industry, and I think AI technologies will make a huge impact on this during the next couple of years.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
Not a lot, given the fact we always try to be on top of the regulations and compliant for the regulated markets on our SEO project.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators? What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
I manage the relationships with the affiliate managers myself, either by Skype, phone, or email. It’s a lot of work, but it is maybe the most important work that is done. There needs to be trust both ways in order to do good business together. I find that the operators we are doing best business with are the ones with Affiliate Managers that are personal, but at the same time professional.
I have been working in the gaming industry for quite some years while living in Malta, and, therefore, I have quite a big network. It’s a relief to know that many of the guys and girls I used to do business with then are still in the industry.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas - which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?
I have been travelling to most affiliate conferences, and SiGMA stood out as it was the first conference to be held in Malta. I have only been to SiGMA Europe but I am planning to go to the others as soon as the world is normal again and travelling is possible. For now, I am staying safe at home together with the family.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
I enjoy being outdoors, hiking, fishing, and hunting. I love a good adventure and have been climbing Kilimanjaro and Mont Blanc – not sure what mountain is up next. I love great food, and great wine together with it.
Another big hobby of mine the last couple of years have been racing, both on tarmac and on ice. Early in 2019, I had the pleasure to drive the famous Nürburgring, and after that I was hooked.
But most of all, I enjoy spending time with my kids, they grow up too fast.
Regarding my favorite book there is to many good ones to choose just one, but I can mention Papillon by Henri Charrière, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and Stoner by John Williams.