Affiliate Grand Slam by SiGMA
Leanne Catherine Muleba, COO of Matching Visions, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Leanne Catherine Muleba at Matching Visions believes in the willingness to adopt a culture and to work as a team which is a personality trait that, unlike skills, cannot be learnt. Their goal is to match the visions of both publisher and advertiser - follow her story below.
Tell us a bit more about your business model. How did Matching Visions start? What is Matching Visions for? How does it really work?
Matching Visions launched in 2014 when we realised the huge amount of time affiliates and operators spent managing their relationships. Place yourself in the affiliates’ shoes that are doing well and have been in the industry for 3-4 years. They quickly have:
- Anywhere from 25-200 affiliate accounts
- 5-50 affiliate managers contacting them daily on top of receiving a bunch of newsletters and other communication
- A large number of monthly single payments from each affiliate program hitting their bank accounts. Often the affiliate needs to manually create an invoice for their bookkeeping for each of these payments as well.
- Conflicts with operators related to payments, getting the deals they need, etc.
Just following the monthly earnings on a day-to-day level is a time-consuming task for the affiliates. Many of them like to keep a constant eye on their reports and in our research; we found out that certain affiliates can do over one thousand logins on different affiliate accounts every month.
We realised that we could build a model that would work smarter for the operator as well, but especially for the affiliate. We had a vision of ensuring that affiliates could:
- Promote as many casinos as they wanted to with just a single point of contact
- Have someone handling the negotiation of deals, dealing with conflicts, chasing payments, etc., for them
- See all their stats with one single login
- Get one single and fast payment for their monthly affiliate activity. It is not that well known in the market that Matching Visions affiliates are paid before the majority of the casinos actually pay us. We have a strict rule of paying affiliates before the 15th of the month – every month.
Matching Visions was the result of that vision and it works as any other affiliate network that people might know from other industries where networks are the norm for affiliates to work with. That vision has resulted in making the lives of operators and affiliates alike much easier.
What are your core values?
Our core value has from the beginning evolved around the notion of being an affiliate’s best friend. It is a bit of a tag-line but it really does encapsulate what Matching Visions is all about. A lot of affiliates are under the impression that Matching Visions is just a collection of deals - but we are much more than that. We help affiliates meet compliance demands; we go all-in on understanding their needs and close the type of deals they require to be successful and we save them massive amounts of time – every month.
What makes Matching Visions unique?
Our status as a DeFacto Affiliate Union and focus on the individual affiliate is what makes us unique. The union part comes into play in conflicts with the operators and in deal making. We have spent years building up good relationships with the operators. When you enter into a relationship with an operator you might find it hard to get the deal you want. The operator doesn’t know you, your traffic or your player value, and might be hesitant giving out that special hybrid or CPA deal you are looking for. The fact that we have built up a relationship with the operators that goes back years makes us able to close these deals for affiliates because they trust that we have taken the time required to understand that particular affiliate and their business model.
Our focus on the individual affiliate plays into the same concept. We want to understand the business of the affiliates in Matching Visions and we will go out of our way to get the affiliates the deals they need to succeed. But we also add some lucrative extra opportunities. Because Matching Visions operates almost as a union of affiliates we are also able to set up a wide variety of extra values. We run a range of competitions and promotions every month. We have our monthly race where the top generators of new players to a specific operator win cash prizes. We have regular promotions where a certain number of FTDs delivered to a certain casino will grant the affiliate a gift like a new phone, a spa getaway, or a range of other prices. We also run our monthly missions where affiliates, by promoting a few different brands, can get a cash boost into their commission.
Last but not least, Matching Visions do get a lot of unique offers. We are regularly asked by operators to be the first to launch their affiliate efforts in order for them to have a controlled launch and that obviously benefits our affiliates who are able to get the first bite of a new and exciting campaign.
What were your biggest challenges when first starting?
Our biggest challenge starting out was building trust; both with operators and affiliates. It took years of fulfilling our promises to operators and affiliates for them to fully trust us. We cannot overstate the importance of the trust-factor is in our industry. If you take a look at our website, we have gathered a range of testimonials from affiliates that we are working with and the feedback we are getting is about us doing what we promise them to do. Get them the best deals, make their lives easier, and pay them on time, while being professional, polite, and comfortable to work with.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Our biggest nightmare has been the licensing and regulations of many markets. We absolutely welcome the structure and rules that licensing creates in our industry, but helping our affiliates live up to the new regulations in markets such as Sweden, Denmark, and Germany has been, and is, a bit of a daunting task. However, it also helped us streamline a lot of the processes within the network and today we are slowly reaching a plug-&-play scenario when affiliates venture into regulated markets. We know exactly what they need to do to be compliant and can help them more smoothly.
How many affiliates and operators do you currently manage under the Matching Visions portfolio? What approach do you use when working with affiliates and operators and how do you manage relationships with them?
Not all campaigns are active but we have over 3.000 campaigns in the Matching Visions system spread out over +200 operators. We also cater to over 3000 affiliates. The approach for us is simple since we put our effort into first and foremost the affiliates and their ability to succeed. We do have affiliates that don't want a lot of contact and we respect that but a large number of the active affiliates in our network want a close relationship and a constant optimization of their deal portfolio and campaigns - and that’s where we truly shine. When it comes to operators, we work hard with them to ensure that their brands are displayed in the best way possible on our network. We also make sure to create group chats between ourselves and the operators to ensure we always have various people both on our side and the operators' side to ensure all tasks needed to be completed are done easily and seamlessly.
What advantages do affiliates have when joining Matching Visions?
As previously mentioned, the advantages for the affiliate are:
- One point of contact instead of hundreds
- One easy login with all you need in your account
- One payment that that is on time every time, so no more chasing payments with hundreds of brands
- Over 200 active casinos to choose from in a variety of different countries
- A very wide range of active campaigns -Support and assistance that is dedicated to you on a variety of platforms -Exclusive promotions and offers every month on top of the standard commissions you will receive
What advantages do operators have?
If you are a casino brand advertiser, you too get access and benefits at Matching Visions. You can enjoy:
- One point of contact that helps you cater to a wide range of affiliates and who knows the affiliate and their traffic before you even see the first player coming through
- High quality traffic to your brands in a variety of countries
- A large variety of affiliates with different traffic channels ranging from SEO to PPC, Email, mobile marketing, and more -Simple and easy campaign management
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why?
The gaming industry is still a new and emerging market compared to many others and as such, the market focus is constantly in motion. Currently, Finland is our strongest market but we are working hard at ensuring that we focus on many markets to ensure our affiliates have access to any market they might need.
Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Many emerging markets do have some legislative challenges to them but if we look beside that for a moment we see a tremendous potential in the Asian and Latin America markets. The emerging markets are of course still heavily localised and different challenges exist in different markets. Japan seems to have a very high player value but it is tricky obtaining traffic sources, whereas India has traffic readily available but is challenging in terms of player values and bonus hunters. While all these markets do pose some challenges, one thing is for sure for both affiliates and operators – the really massive growth potential lies within these emerging markets.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates and vice-versa?
I think it's all about retention. The same way we try our very best to be in constant communication with our affiliates, operators need to do the same. It's about showing affiliates what they mean to your brand! Also, we are constantly trying to make our affiliates’ lives easier with technological advancements. Some operators have a hard time doing that since they are limited by the functionalities of the affiliate software they are using but increasing the overview and ease of which affiliates can grab campaigns, creatives, and information is definitely something that could be improved out there.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
You definitely need a go-getter culture within your team since nothing is handed out for free in this industry. You also need an attitude of strength and teamwork. Dreams work if the team works together and that is true in any business venture. While skills are very important in senior roles, we truly believe that the quality and attitude of a person is worth more. Skills can be taught over time but the willingness to adopt a culture and work as a team is a personality trait that we look for in the people on our team and in the team as a whole.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
I see a trend of local regulation becoming a reality in most markets and that is why I think it’s important to address these compliance measures now before things get out of hand. If we are proactive and not reactive, we can all succeed no matter the changes in the industry. I also see a lot of countries across the globe growing significantly in the gaming sector as the world becomes even more digital.
Last but not least, online gaming is simply an outgrowing brick-and-mortar gaming year after year. It is much easier for game providers and operators to be innovative online. Shifting around the entire gaming floor in a brick-and-mortar casino is a big task. For this reason, online gaming will continue to out-perform the real-life experience. If you take into account that online gaming today is still incredibly small compared to brick-and-mortar across the globe, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize how incredibly big this industry will be in 25-30 years when online gaming has overtaken the predominant role of supplying gaming entertainment.
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?
We have always been a part of SiGMA Europe and love the show every year. It’s been a pleasant experience seeing SiGMA grow from when it started many years ago. We were at the first SiGMA and it is our dedicated goal to be present in the future as well. We love Malta as a destination for a gaming conference and we are not at all surprised that SiGMA has grown to be the powerhouse that it is today. For us, SiGMA is one of the important stops for the global gaming circus every year.
You have recently been appointed COO of Matching Visions. How did that come about and how will you tackle the challenges of this new position?
I have been with Matching Visions for almost 5 years and I was very happy to receive the nomination as COO of the company because I truly believe in the strength of the team we have. I love seeing the motivation of the people around me and I love creating the structure that makes the team able to succeed in an industry where changes come plenty and often.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
I love my work very much because of the people I work with. They have become my family both at work and away from the office.
Tell us your favourite hobbies...
My hobbies are reading, spending time with my work-family and home-family, and in general I just love spending time with those around me on this beautiful island.
And what is your most favourite quote?
My favourite quote would definitely be: “teamwork makes the dream work!”
It certainly does! Many thanks for your time today Leanne.
It's been my pleasure SiGMA, thanks for having me.
We wish you all the best for the future.
You too, thanks.