Digital minds: 60 seconds with Impact Radius’ Todd Crawford

Digital Thought Leaders

Todd%20Crawford.JPGAffiliate marketing veteran Todd Crawford helped launched Commission Junction back in 1998. Now the founder of new performance-based ad platform Impact Radius, he talks to Danny Meadows-Klue about the growth of cloud computing, the need for better mobile connectivity and why social media can never fully replace face-to-face meetings.

How does your business help people or markets be more efficient or more effective vs traditional approaches?
The launch of Impact Radius has shaken up the Affiliate & Performance Marketing sector as for the first time it provides the tools and technology for Advertisers, Media Partners (Affiliates) and Agencies to negotiate and manage their Performance Advertising (Affiliate Marketing) relationships directly on a single platform. Centred around an open and free directory listing everyone working in the sector, it has been built specifically with Advertisers and Media Partners in mind and answers the growing need for direct relationships and flexible tools to support individually-negotiated terms. The thinking behind the innovation also means it changes how Performance deals are transacted across all media as it now links Performance Advertising to TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor and Online distribution channels.

How did you get into the digital sector?
Back in the 90s, the whole concept of businesses providing services via the Web was very new and I personally found the development of the Internet as a business tool fascinating. There weren’t many marketing companies on the Web at that time either, so I was very lucky to be able to join the progressive team building the Commission Junction affiliate network. This was a fantastic first break and enabled me to look at business development, sales and implementation. In fact, it was a pretty multi-faceted role, which was very much the case back then.

What's most impressed you recently and why?
Apart from being a huge Apple fan, the whole Social Media explosion has really amazed me. It’s been really interesting to see it rise and evolve. In fact, although it’s very similar to the rapid expansion of Performance Advertising in the 90s, it never ceases to surprise me how quickly something can get started and gain traction in our industry.

What frustrates you most at the moment in digital?
Although I love my iPhone, the lack of wider and better transmission of data through these kind of devices, plus the fact its battery doesn’t last a whole day, really infuriates me. For something that could be so useful in business, to have to constantly search for power points to keep it going, is a real disappointment.

What’s over hyped and under hyped right now?- and why?
In terms of over hyped, it’s got to be Social Media! Yes, I do think the medium is very exciting for our industry, but it seems to be the topic of every show at the moment with 25-50% of all conference content dedicated to it alone. But what’s most worrying is the number of companies believing all the hype and just ‘having a go’ as though they feel they have to do it, rather than taking time to understand its strategic benefits to their business first.

What’s increasingly under hyped is face-to-face interaction. Within all this digital cacophony, face-to-face has taken a back seat with the likes of email, Twitter, Buzz, Facebook and LinkedIn all fragmenting the way we now communicate. I might add, simply following people doesn’t mean you have a relationship with them either!

What was the 'ah!' moment for you - the moment where you suddenly realised the scale the web or digital marketing would play in your business?
Back in 2000-2001, when Paid Search began to explode. It literally happened over the space of a week, to a scale which had never happened before in our industry. It really was the very beginning of innovation in this sector and its full potential really hit me.

Many senior directors still just don't get the scale of what’s happening. How do you convince them?
Digital’s ability to track and analyse customer response is priceless, especially now when marketing spend may be under threat in the Boardroom. Performance Advertising takes this a stage further as Advertisers not only get highly cost effective marketing, but it allows them to analyse and understand the customer acquisition funnel fully. With the right toolset, they can also have the ability to analyse lifetime customer value which is increasingly becoming more important these days.

What's different in the formula for creating successful teams / companies / products in the digital space?
It’s all about clarity: really taking time to find out and understand what’s needed by your customers instead of just producing what you think they want; and having a clear vision of what your business is now and what you want it to become through setting specific and realistic goals and milestones that the whole team can buy into, or better still, can pull together to deliver.

What’s the most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?
Not having clear objectives for what they are expecting to achieve. Social Media is a prime example, where some businesses are simply tackling it as a task and are focused on implementation instead of spending time understanding the strategy.

If you could go back in time to a key ‘digital moment’, where and when would it be – and why?
The dotcom crash when there were businesses spending millions of dollars on completely non-sensical deals, co-brands and partnerships. If I knew then what I know now, I’d love to have been a consultant for those many VCs - I could have ensured more were still around today.

Where do you spend your time most online, and why?
Happily these days I spend a fair amount of time on GoToMeeting showing the new Impact Radius platform. Otherwise, it’s Twitter and Facebook plus a mix of the other latest new social media tools such as foursquare and daily pic.

What are the big changes yet to come, in marketing, media and beyond?
The blurring of Online and Offline Marketing. Historically they’ve both been very different mediums with very different approaches. There are smart people on both sides so it would be good to see these minds united properly.

Social media that creates value: If applicable, what’s the role for consumers in creating content and value in your sector?
One of the best things about the Internet is that it gives you access to lots of different opinions to help you make informed decisions. This is where Social Media touches Performance Advertising, where you can tie in the power and influence of Social Media with Performance to drive purchases and leads.

Who should own digital strategies in an organisation and why?
I don’t think it’s smart for everyone to act autonomously. A digital strategy must sit firmly within a business so the necessary team members can drive it and shape it together. Digital is very much part of the Marketing mix so it should be viewed as such too with Marketing taking the lead.

What’s will be mainstreaming by this time next year?
Cloud computing. Although with so many of the new apps being browsers in disguise, I don’t think we’ll necessarily notice we’re all actually increasingly working this way.

And any final words of advice to people developing their own digital careers?
Make a list of the most exciting companies out there and identify which ones can help you get to where you want to go. If you get the chance to work as part of a start-up team, the excitement, high energy and aggression to succeed will set you apart if you ever then enter a large business. Finally, embrace change and don’t just live in your own little box – always have a broader perspective.

Todd Crawford, 45

Co-founder of Impact Radius

1998 - joined Commission Junction to help launch what is now one of the leading affiliate networks in the world as Vice President in charge of sales & business development
2006 – Vice President of Sales a& Business Development for Digital River’s affiliate network, oneNetworkDirect

2008 – begins investigating and planning the launch of Impact Radius with other co-founders Wade Crang, Roger Kjensrud, Lisa Riolo and Per Pettersen

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