There are many tips and tricks to good affiliate marketing out there, and you could spend hours researching them. We look at the three core fundamentals that can apply to almost any affiliate marketing program.
I have been in the affiliate marketing industry for nearly four years now. I manage brands across all verticals, and while some of my clients could not be more different from each other, there are similarities in the way any program runs which ultimately underpins success and sustainable growth. It is these fundamental basics in affiliate marketing which informs a lot of the advice I give my clients when they want to grow and strengthen their affiliate program.
1. Affiliate marketing is relationship management.
If you want a long-term successful affiliate program, you have to invest time, money and effort into cultivating relationships with your publishers. This is where your account manager can be your greatest asset because they already have the tools to build personable relationships with publishers on your behalf and have done most of the groundwork for you.
Solid relationships built on effective and mutual communication, so keep up the conversation and make yourself heard. Send newsletters or branding updates and keep your content fresh. Respond to opportunities, even if it is to say “Sorry, we can’t this time” - The aim here is always to be top of mind with your key publishers. When they have an exclusive opportunity or a premium placement, you want them to think about your brand first.
Do not be afraid to negotiate, (or to let your account manager negotiate for you), but be fair to your affiliates and be sure to allocate a budget for tenancies and commission increases. I could apply all the clichés here; "you get out what you put in", "you have to give a little to get a little", but really when it comes down to it the more flexible you are, the better placements you will secure that are within your budget.
2. The more diverse your program is, the better.
Do not get tunnel vision when it comes to the types of affiliates you want to work with. I have seen merchants who only want to work with a small selection of publishers, or only with content affiliates and then ask why they do not see growth on their program. There are quality publishers to be found everywhere; from the coupon site to the niche influencer, and they all have a role to play in the path to conversion.
In the current age, it is estimated you need at least seven to ten touchpoints before you convert a customer to a sale(1). Let’s face it, brand loyalty is fickle, and competition is fierce in online retail. To succeed, you need your brand to stand out on as many publisher sites as possible. And to be honest, there are valuable publishers and customers to be found in every channel so be open to new ideas and new opportunities.
The great thing about working on a CPA model is that you often have the chance to try new strategies at very low risk and then measure the success in real-time. To be effective you can also use commission flexibility to engage different publisher types and accurately support their valued role in the conversion funnel. A diverse affiliate profile will give you more opportunities to try different tactics on different customer types and in different environments. This way, you will reach your intended audience from multiple touchpoints and may even reach new audiences you have not had access to before.
3. This is not a ‘switch on, switch off’ or a ‘set and forget’ type channel.
Affiliate marketing already has a higher ROI than most other marketing channels; however, this channel is a long-term strategy. Even the most well-known household brands have to work hard on their affiliate program. It takes time and effort to build and grow a brand profile within the affiliate space, develop relationships with publishers and find the right strategies that work for your brand. Knowing your limits and managing your budget effectively is important because it is never a good idea to ‘temporarily pause’ your program. This can damage the relationships you have heavily invested in and nurtured. Once your affiliates remove your tracking links, you could lose that online real estate to a competitor, and there is no guarantee they’ll put them back up again. If you need to make adjustments, then talk to your account manager sooner rather than later. The more notice your manager has, the more levers they can pull to find a less damaging solution.
Affiliate marketing is never going to be a one size fits all solution to any brand’s marketing goals. There are many ways and strategies to run an affiliate program, but the fundamentals are almost always the same:-
- Build those relationships with your publishers and your account manager
- Diversify your program while staying true to your brand
- Think long-term when you are allocating budget to the channel
If you stick to these principles, then you will have a really solid framework on which to achieve great successes in the channel.