Kristopher Jones, President & CEO of Pepperjam

PromotionWorld: Mr. Jones, could you please introduce yourself and the company that you manage to PromotionWorld’s audience? How did you get into the internet marketing?

Kristopher Jones: I am the President & CEO of Pepperjam ( – we are a leading full-service internet marketing agency offering expertise across all of the primary channels of online marketing, including search-engine marketing, affiliate marketing, mobile marketing, and online media planning and buying. We are also the company behind Pepperjam Network (, the fastest growing affiliate network in the United States (Inc Magazine, 2008).  I started out as an affiliate marketer in 1999.  By 2002 I was one of the largest “affiliates” in the United States using a range of traffic generation strategies. Aside from affiliate marketing I got my start by developing strategies and consulting with businesses on how to to generate targeted and profitable traffic to Web sites using pay per click engines like  From there I worked with businesses to develop and implement strategies for affiliate marketing and eventually consulting on how to take advantage of other emerging online marketing channels.

In 2003 I took all the money I made through my very successful “super affiliate” business and began building a full-service agency.  By 2006 we were recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States…a recognition we’ve received for the last three years peaking this year as the #70 fastest growing company in the United States on the Inc. 500 list. We have about 125 employees and we are located in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Oh ya, I authored I book for Wiley Publishing that is currently the best-selling book on search-engine marketing in the country (

PromotionWorld: What is special about Pepperjam as compared with the other companies providing web services and what takes Pepperjam ahead of the competition?

Kristopher Jones: We’ve been in the business since 1999 and have been recognized with more awards than just about any other company in our space.  We are unique in that we are a full-service agency – compare that with many search-engine marketing companies that only offer clients “search marketing” or affiliate network’s that only offer an affiliate network.  By offering advertiser’s vertical expertise across multiple channels of online marketing we are much more effective than other companies at minimizing channel conflict and cross-channel cannibalization. Moreover, Pepperjam is the only full-service internet marketing agency that also owns and manages an affiliate network (Pepperjam Network) – the only other company that had a relatively similar model to Pepperjam was Performics, which was acquired by Google and led to the sale of the Performics search business – now all they have is an affiliate network.

I’ll also say we are one of the coolest companies in internet marketing.  We celebrate our employees, advertisers, and affiliates.  We have a bulldog mascot called Roxy ( and have been voted one of the best places to work for in Pennsylvania.  We give our staff free energy drinks and food and encourage them to be independent and creative.

PromotionWorld: What are your plans and ambitions for Pepperjam? How do you see it evolving over the next five years?

Kristopher Jones: I see us further positioning the company as a leader within the online marketing and technology space.  I predict that Pepperjam Network will become one of the top two or three affiliate networks and I wouldn’t be surprised if we became the leading performance-based mobile marketing company in the United States.

The future of online marketing is “full-service,” and we are uniquely positioned as the leader.  While others attempt to emulate what we’ve been able to accomplish I imagine we will continue to help define the online marketing space, while introducing some innovative technologies within the search, affiliate, and mobile marketing space.

PromotionWorld: Pepperjam Network, the next generation affiliate marketing network, is a division of Pepperjam. How would you define the “next generation of the affiliate marketing”?

Kristopher Jones: “Next generation” requires that a company successfully address one or more of the defining shortcomings that exist within a particular industry.

In the case of affiliate marketing the two key shortcomings that have unfortunately come to define the affiliate industry are (1) lack of affiliate transparency and (2) poor, unreliable communication tools.

Pepperjam Network successfully addresses these two shortcomings, while also empowering affiliates and advertisers with tools that do not exist on competitive affiliate networks.  Having the type of transparent information that we provide about affiliates, advertisers have more control over the affiliate channel and are empowered to make much better decision about brand management and channel optimization.

At the same time, Pepperjam Network was built from the first line of code on with a focus on “usability” – we used Web 2.0ish programming languages like AJAX to provide affiliates and advertisers with the ability to seamlessly move throughout our interface, easily run reports of any kind, and navigate between sections of the Web site as if they were navigating Gmail or Google Maps.  The other major networks such as Commission Junction are still using antiquated, archaic programming languages that make the user experience clunky and not user-friendly.

In addition, the fact that Pepperjam Network was built by affiliates and advertisers makes us next generation – most of the other networks were built by programmers and later tweaked by marketers.  Pepperjam Network was built by marketers with the help of some bright programmers – the end result is truly the next generation of affiliate marketing.

We are proud of the fact that with the launch of Pepperjam Network we have helped advance the direction of an entire industry. Quite frankly, someone had to do it and it’s shits and giggles that it was Pepperjam since just 8 years ago or so all we were was an affiliate on the same platforms that we are now growing much, much, much faster than. J

PromotionWorld: What makes Pepperjam Network distinguishable amongst the other affiliate marketing programs? What kind of strategy do you use to separate yourself from your competitors?

Kristopher Jones: I think I addressed this in the above question.

We are a next generation platform – the other major affiliate networks like Commission Junction, Performics, and Linkshare were written by programmers, while Pepperjam Network was built by affiliates and advertisers.

There is a reason that we are adding more advertisers and affiliates on a daily basis than any other affiliate network in the world – it’s because we addressed two major shortcomings (lack of affiliate transparency and poor communication tools), while also creating a much better user experience and offering cool tools (i.e. pepperjamADS) that don’t exist on the other platform. Also, Pepperjam Network is known to have a very affiliate-centric focus on customer service – we tend to blow people away with our willingness to help them grow their business.  Think of Pepperjam Network as the of the affiliate network world.

Also, as I mentioned above…many advertisers are interested in working with Pepperjam Network because of Pepperjam’s proven full-service model.  As an advertiser we can work with you to minimize channel conflict and maximize each of your online marketing channels, including mobile marketing – to the best of my knowledge not one of Pepperjam’s competitors can say that!

PromotionWorld: Would you describe the primary characteristics of a successful affiliate program?

Kristopher Jones: In order to have a successful affiliate program the advertiser must know who their affiliates are and what promotional methods they are using to drive traffic and transactions.  Once the advertiser has key affiliate data they can accomplish two important things.  First, the advertiser is in an optimal position to maximize brand.  Second, by better understanding the methods used to drive traffic the advertiser is able to identify weaknesses within the affiliate program (i.e. 85% of my traffic and transactions are coming from the search channel, while only 5% are coming from loyalty, 5% from product feeds, 5% from coupon / value prop, and absolutely nothing is coming from content and nothing from other important sources such as SEO, incentive, Squidoo, e-mail, Technorati top 100 blogs, and more. The point here is that in order for an advertiser to have a successful program they have to know who their affiliates are and the promotional methods that they are using – armed with that information the advertiser I empowered to fully optimize the program – without that information the program is doomed.

I will also say that 99% of successful affiliate program have one or more dedicated affiliate managers.  Programs set on “auto-pilot” tend to perform poorly.  Program with a dedicated affiliate manager are poised to outperform the competition.

PromotionWorld: Which one of the services you offer is most popular among your customers and why?

Kristopher Jones: Right now Pepperjam Network is by far and away the fastest growing segment of Pepperjam – I think the reasons I give above highlight why this is the case.

The second fastest growing division of Pepperjam is search (both PPC and SEO) – we have a great team of PPC and SEO experts and our “Quality Score Optimization” approach to building and optimizing search campaigns is very effective. The third and one of the most exciting divisions of Pepperjam is mobile marketing. By mid-October or so we should be offering all of our Network and Mobile advertisers the ability to build mobile messaging lists on a pay-for-performance basis.

PromotionWorld: What does Pepperjam do to retain its existing customer base and how would you recommend the company to potential clients?

Kristopher Jones: One of our key focuses of Pepperjam is on building advertiser loyalty.  We have incredibly high advertiser loyalty because our primary goal is to help the advertiser optimize each available online marketing channel – we do this not by hard selling the client on our service offering, but by presenting the various alternatives and then integrating the client, when they are ready, into each of the divisions of Pepperjam. If a certain offering isn’t working (say SEO) no sweat off our back – we want the client to succeed – so we are willing to work with the client until we find the right mix that makes them the most money.

So, in short, at Pepperjam we offer a wide array of services and we also have a leading affiliate marketing technology.  By always keeping the clients best interests at hand our goal is not to sell the client on our services, but instead work with them to integrate into our service offering based on performance and return on investment.

While we have very high client retention across all of the divisions of Pepperjam…even if a client may decide that PPC isn’t working for them they still remain a Pepperjam client because they are likely already integrated into one of our other services – say Pepperjam Network or Pepperjam’s highly effective SEO offering.

PromotionWorld: How did you come up with the idea to make a series of interviews with different affiliates entitled “Meet the Affiliates.”

Kristopher Jones: The idea was a variation of something we did in 2007 called “Meet the Pepperjam Team” -

I’m a big believer in celebrating our staff – we believe we’ve hired the best and brightest staff available and we wanted to share that with our friends, competitors, clients, advertisers, affiliates, and whoever else wanted to learn more about our team.

Similarly, as a former highly successful affiliate myself, I wanted to share the success stories of fellow affiliate marketers (and friends) as part of the Pepperjam Network “Meet the Affiliates” Interview Series.  Over the years I have found affiliate marketers to be some of the most amazingly talented entrepreneurs – Meet the Affiliates is an opportunity to share some of these stories and is an attempt by Pepperjam to entertain and inspire other affiliate marketers to become more educated and successful.

PromotionWorld: How do you estimate the development of the affiliate marketing during the past few years and what are your expectations for the future? What will be Pepperjam Network’s role and contribution in it?

Kristopher Jones: Affiliate transparency is the buzz word.  For too long and to the disadvantage of thousands of legitimate affiliate markers the affiliate marketing has developed a BIG BLACK EYE because of a lack of affiliate transparency.  As a result, advertisers are demanding control over the channel – in my opinion, the future of affiliate marketing is empowering advertisers with this information, while also providing tools and expertise with how to minimize channel conflict and cannibalization.

I believe that ethical, innovative affiliate marketers should be celebrated.  Like advertisers, legitimate affiliate marketers should also be empowered so that they are in a better position to negotiate higher paying offers and ultimately have more control over the affiliate / advertiser relationship.  Affiliates are businesses and should be treated as strategic partners.  The future of affiliate marketing will include the emergence of affiliate marketers that are in many cases larger than the advertisers they are working with – in order to work with these new age “super affiliates” advertisers will need to massage the relationship and built trust and respect in the same way they would a typical vendor relationship.

I’m not calling for health care for all affiliates just yet, but I am saying that the future of the affiliate marketing industry will include a much, much more empowered affiliate and advertiser….that’s if Pepperjam has anything to do with it and I’m confident we will.

PromotionWorld: Could you share your advice on what steps our readers should undertake in order to have a success with the affiliate marketing?

Kristopher Jones: It may sound a bit cliché but I’m a big believer in allowing other proven leaders (aka, performers) inspire you.  You don’t have to invent the wheel to be successful – take some success tips from others before you that have succeeded and add your own flavor and creativity to the mix.

I encourage your readers to visit our blog at and read our weekly “Meet the Affiliates” interview series.  There are nearly 20 interviews in the archives and we expect to continue interview top affiliates until there aren’t any left. J

Thank you very much for the interview.