Jens Bøg Hokka, Founder and Director of Casinopenge.dk, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Jens Bøg Hokka says that they rely on data analysis and invest heavily on marketing, both through earned and bought media, whereas in the early stages they relied on word of mouth. He says that to succeed, it is important to always be willing and able to reinvent yourself and your business – follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off? Is iGaming your only vertical?
I started Casinopenge.dk in the very early days of online casino in 2000 from my dorm room when I was still at university. There was nothing similar in Denmark at the time; Casinopenge.dk was much more informative than any other site, in addition to writing from the perspective of the player. Most other affiliate sites were just a collection of casino banners, something that I never used on Casinopenge.dk. After running my site for 6 months and getting 151 subscribers to my newsletter, national news dropped by the 12 m2 room I called home, and interviewed me about the site, and 20% of the Danish population saw on the Sunday news what was basically a 3-minute raving review of my little website run from a dorm room.
Nowadays, we still focus exclusively on the Danish market which is now regulated. We also still try to communicate as straightforward as possible with the users, giving the best tips possible about how to win the most at the casinos, even when it runs counter to the revenue share model. What has changed since the early days is that we rely much more on data analysis and invest heavily on marketing, both through earned and bought media, where I only relied on word of mouth to begin with.
What sets you apart from other affiliates and what makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
As the Danish authorities have recently turned the tax dial and made it less attractive for casinos to operate in Denmark, we are in the middle of a long draught of new casino launches in the market. That makes it more difficult for us as affiliates to present new gaming places to our readers, and less interesting for the players to come to our site to find a new casino to play at.
We therefore have turned an increasing amount of attention towards casino offers for existing players, even though the casinos only pay for new players. Even though we invest a lot in providing traffic that in theory pays nothing, this strategy also generates many new players whether it is additional players to the old casinos for whom we present their retention offers, or to the few new casino launches in the market. When there is a serious new launch in the market, we are now able to bring more players at a quicker rate than ever before.
What incremental value will your provide?
Not getting paid for sending existing players to the casinos is not entirely true as it is raising the revenue share earnings for players that previously signed up through our affiliate link. We just have no way of knowing whether the players signed up through Casinopenge.dk or not, so besides the direct value we bring to the casinos through new players, Casinopenge.dk is bringing secondary value to the casinos’ existing player base whether they directly pay for it or not.
What importance do you give to responsible gaming?
Although much of this is now codified into the gaming law, we have always tried to present casino offers as balanced as possible to the players on Casinopenge.dk, emphasising the requirements as much as the benefits of bonuses, and warning about the traps that can lose players their winnings. Naturally, we also have problem gambling information on the site and a quiz to test yourself, all of which is now required by law. Unfortunately, problem gamblers very rarely reach out to us, so the best we can do is to provide honest and balanced information, and not present the chances of winning bigger than they really are, or presenting gambling as a solution to financial problems.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We focus on the Danish market but I have my eyes open on other Nordic markets if the right opportunity appears.
Which niches work best for your affiliate business, and which are the most profitable? How did you find your most profitable niche?
The market is always moving, so it is a constant process of trial and error and enforcing what is most effective. What worked two years ago, often doesn’t work today, so we are constantly working on new projects and going where the data takes us.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
Nothing is impossible if the right opportunity comes.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
You need to always be willing and able to reinvent yourself and your business, otherwise others will take over. If you want to grow the business, you probably don’t have all the skills needed yourself, so find someone to team up with that supplements yourself rather than working with a copy of yourself. The work is a mix of creativity and thinking out of the box, analytical reading of the results, and tedious repetitive work; you need a team that can do all of this to be successful.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?
Yes, those will affect the affiliate industry. So will several other technologies of which we do not know yet the importance. The point is to always be ready for what shows up.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
The definition of being unique is to see what others are doing and do something else. One way to be more systematic about making uniqueness into something profitable is to see what people are searching for and determine whether this is currently being answered by the current best results on Google. If not, there is an opportunity to answer it in a better way. If it is not already being done, it is probably difficult and time consuming to give the best answer, but if you walk the extra mile to provide it in the best possible way, it will be more difficult for the competitors to copy it, and it will work to your advantage for a longer time.
What does it take for an affiliate business to thrive?
All of the above. Or maybe just beer and good food.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
Consolidation will continue, so smaller affiliates will be squeezed unless they are able to provide something unique that is too difficult or costly to replicate by the affiliate giants.
How do you choose your operators and how do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
Being in a small, regulated market there is a limited number of operators, so we generally work with any willing operator holding a license. From there we prioritise our efforts and premium space on the operators with the biggest earning potential while also considering how attractive they are to our readers.
What is your approach in the initial stages of a new partnership?
If we see that a new license has been granted in the market, we will approach the operator, present our website and results with similar operators, and ask for a partnership. If the casino provides something unique and a high earning potential, we will make a launch plan with multiple angles to promote the new brand over the initial couple of months. On the other hand, a generic white label casino will just be added to the list as a new casino, and we only scale up the marketing effort if it attracts valuable players.
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?
This will be my first time at SiGMA. I am only focused on Europe.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
I spend most of my free time with my family, and during Corona I spent most of my free time working. I live next to the forest and use it both for walking and mountain biking. I relax with a book, mostly thrillers, and my last surprisingly great read was Stacey Abrams’ While Justice Sleeps. Coming from Denmark, I my favourite “Grook” is of the late Danish poet and designer Piet Hein: “Love while you’ve got love to give. Live while you’ve got life to live.” I do not play a lot myself (when you know how the sausage is made…), but I do enjoy a good poker game amongst peers.