Don't panic, pivot!


By Lee-Ann Johnstone

While Lee-Ann Johnstone sees the pandemic having a major impact on affiliate marketing practices in future, she believes that those prepared to pivot will pull through and become better marketers as a result

The past few weeks have been horrendous – especially for those working in sports betting. With major sporting events being cancelled left, right and centre, we are all stuck in limbo, trying to keep our heads above water while we endure self-isolation. Many small business owners are worried about how to pay their staff and how to continue operations while working remotely and homeschooling children – not to mention managing the mental impact that social isolation is having on life as we know it.



Lockdown hit me quite hard. I couldn’t get clear on what to focus on next and knew I had to reboot my mindset – fast. So, I took a one-day hiatus from my business (usually unheard of) to go and hide from the world. I didn’t answer any emails. I simply told my team I’d be gone for 24 hours and they had to keep the fort going. I disappeared off the internet to go and be by myself.

Never one to be idle, I decided to use this self-imposed ‘alone’ time to learn something new and booked an online training course on the spur of the moment. I read about it from an ad that was running in my Facebook feed. It was a one-day online workshop on ‘How to plan a year’s worth of content in just a day’. I figured this will be very useful as I’d soon be at home schooling my child while running my full-time business, managing my team and servicing my clients – all at the same time. I needed to maximise mine!

Taking that course changed my attitude and improved my mindset. In case you don’t know I’m South African. We tend to handle any kind of drama very well. I mean, we stood strong through endless electricity load shedding – some days you have it , some days you don’t. Then there were those ridiculous water shortages, and now this! When I have my game face on and my head in the right place there is no problem too big for me to overcome.

“Those who pivot and don’t panic will pull through and learn a lot in doing so. The key thing is to get your mindset in the right place. Ask for help and stay connected to your customers, partners and community”



Surprisingly, when I asked myself this question it elicited some unexpected answers from me:

1. I want to stop the panic and get super organised.

Time is a valuable resource that we will all have in short supply soon. Therefore I want to learn how to hack it like a pro. I have now signed up for a few courses to do this. I want to use experts to help me get things done faster than I can by myself. I know in the short term it will be invaluable to continue investing in training, mentoring and learning.

2. I want to help others stop the panic in their affiliate business.

I am a big believer in pulling together to overcome hard times. I have always been told I’m a natural connector, which is part of the reason why I landed in affiliate marketing. I want to help others get things done faster too. It starts with creating an open conversation, with collaboration, and a duty of care to others. I set up an open invitation to join me on a live call and EVERYONE was invited. I have an amazing and supportive social community around me and a voice I could use to help them.

3. I realised I may need to change in order to serve the new supply and demand.

Right now, I am looking under the bonnet of what I have and how I can maximise it to support others more efficiently. It is going to be a time of change, but that’s okay. I want to serve the community I am operating in so that’s what I intend to do.

Covid-19 has made me re-evaluate WHY I’m in business. It has made me look at who I want to help and how I want to be as a person in my business. It has made me define what I get joy from doing, and what I don’t. It has also made me take a long, hard look at how my clients’ behaviours might change and what I can do to still meet them.



And we will get through it. Anyone who was around prior to 2006 in the igaming industry will remember the US shutting its doors quite literally overnight. Many igaming businesses were massively impacted and had to scramble fast and hard to recover. Some went bust. Things changed dramatically. But we all survived. The industry grew year-on-year, new markets opened up, new brands launched and new jobs were created. Humans are a resilient bunch and with a bit of perspective we can overcome pretty much anything that’s thrown at us. I was one of the people who had to leave the igaming industry to survive for a short spell. I remembered that experience was necessary then as it made me the experienced affiliate marketer I am today! Based on my past experience, here’s some advice for all affiliates out there:

1. Pivoting takes courage – and a LOT of quick thinking.

The sports industry is hardest hit right now. I want to see how operators and affiliates will collaborate to get through this. I want to see how brands are going to pivot terms (quotas and minimum payouts), strategies and budget focus. I want everyone to look under the bonnet of their business and understand how they are working and doing things right now. Get clarity on whether that still makes you happy. If not, change it. I see affiliates facing this head-on and already looking to create engaging content on virtual sports, new products and services and pivoting content on a page to live streaming. We operate in an agile market so how are we going to make the best of this?

2. Don’t be afraid of change – go and embrace it!

There are hundreds of articles online about how Covid-19 will change the affiliate industry. From my perspective, here’s what I think might happen in the short term:

  • We will see affiliates focus on a wider diversification of traffic sources. SEO has already been affected and pricing for PPC will surely impact how traffic is obtained and re-sold to brands on site. This means the 80/20 reliance on top-tier affiliates for volume will change. Everyone is going to be looking for new ways to target and convert customers. Everyone should be looking at increasing their affiliate base too.
  • We will see a bigger focus on community engagement and retention. Those that have the money to play online will need to be retained longer to balance the lack of incoming new registrations while this pandemic continues. Brands will need to be clever about how they engage and convert and retain audiences.
  • Affiliates will throttle forward with their usual speed and agility to pivot and monetise their audience base in different verticals and sectors. Deal-bundling across multiple sectors could emerge. For example, if I deposit and play at a casino I could also get upsold a poker strategy book on Amazon to improve my game. The commission earnings would be expanded for the affiliate as they try to capture more of the consumer’s spend cross-sector.
  • Now will be the time to launch, scale and grow your affiliate programme and get very strategic about how you attract, retain and convert inactive affiliates to your promotions.
“Anyone who was around prior to 2006 in the igaming industry will remember the US shutting its doors quite literally overnight. Many igaming businesses were majorly impacted and had to scramble fast and hard to recover. Some went bust. Things changed dramatically. But we all survived”



I’d like to say that these changes are short-term, but that doesn’t look to be the case. I think this thing will have a major impact on the way we do affiliate marketing but also believe that those who pivot and don’t panic will pull through and learn a lot in doing so. The key thing is to get your mindset in the right place. Ask for help and stay connected to your customers, partners and community. Stay strong and remember: #togetherwearestronger

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