It has been one year since I arrived in sunny Gibraltar on the southern tip of Spain with my family to start a new chapter in the adventure. And what a year it has been. It is impossible to represent a year in just a few short lines, but here are some reflections.
I work in a company that has been one of the most successful in the online poker market over the past five years. PokerStrategy.com is not a poker operator, but an affiliate poker education community that provides unique value to both individual players and operators. My role as Head of Operations is to help ensure we deliver the highest quality content and services across our nineteen language markets.
The company is going through significant transformation as it focuses on its core competency of building high value e-learning communities across different sectors. In order to achieve this successfully we need to systematise an often very individual and subtle approach to building international communities centred around in-depth knowledge sharing and teaching.
Company learning should always be iterative; constantly analysing and discerning which activities are having impact and which not. This is particularly important in a rapidly growing organisation; where the risk of low-impact practices becoming institutionalised is relatively high. In growth mode where decisions are taken at great speed, there is often little time to review the success of each decision taken.
Once in a while in each company a step-change comes. This week I spent some time learning to trade forex, as we put the finishing touches to our new vertical that will be launched on a brand new technology platform. Exciting times ahead.
A successful affiliate with a strong customer proposition can be a powerful force in any market. When I worked in the insurance sector I witnessed affiliates having a cannibalistic effect on the market. Incentivised only on acquisition, comparison websites market themselves as providing independent advice to customers, continually poach their users from one partner to another.
In the end, under the guise of independence, the affiliate only incentivised on acquisition, is most interested in creating market churn in order to drive their revenues. This churn drives revenues out of the market with the effect of reducing the quality available to customers. So customers pay less, but in the end the overall quality of the product offering available is much less.
Within the gaming sector, a sophisticated lifetime revenue-share affiliate structure has emerged. In this approach the affiliate partner is less incentivised to poach since they are rewarded on long-term customer value. Where the affiliate is not incentivised directly to create churn, you can expect that they will provide more balanced information to consumers with a resulting more stable market.
Under such an approach, affiliates can play an important role in helping to retain or even reactivate dormant customers. Affiliates will create their own relationship with customers, but with the right commercial terms and a great product offering, you can leverage that relationship to your ends.
A large part of this move to the Pillars of Hercules has been the opportunity for our little family to experience a new world. Gibraltar itself is a rather large geographic curiosity with an even more curious history. Part British, but with a strong mix of Spanish, Moorish and Jewish influences it is now one of the centres of online gaming in Europe – with a resulting large ex-pat population.
The kids go to local schools where the curriculum is the same as in the UK – vaguely similar to the Irish one. Amidst the normality of daily life, we remember that we live in a place by the sea where the sun shines every day. With Spain at our doorstep and north Africa a short boat-ride away, each weekend or day off can bring a different adventure or simply another lazy afternoon by the pool.