To me, this is the management of 90% of the publishers found on a network. This includes but is not limited to content, cashback, voucher, employee benefit, closed user groups, technology and social publishers. The affiliate programme is dominated by these types of publishers and these have been around for the longest time – hence traditional management.
What the affiliate channel does not do well is summarise what we do and how we do it – how can we? There is so much we do! No wonder our parents and family have no clue what affiliate marketing is!
For me, there are four key strategies/ opportunities that account managers will focus on:
– Affiliate optimisation
– Affiliate recruitment
– Budget maximisation
– Entering a new audience/territory.
These are the four core principles to affiliate marketing, no matter what you are doing tactically, I believe they will fall under those strategies.
When you take on management of an existing affiliate programme, there will be a base of publishers who are driving sales already. How can you improve their performance overall?
Glosinda said: “From a brand perspective, we ensure that our publishers are up to date with all the promotions we have on-site. But we also work closely with publishers to understand what categories work best on their sites and what can we do to help drive that revenue. Can we offer tiered commission rates based on AOV or even category or product level commissions?”
From a tactical point of view, how can you make sure you give all publishers the care that they need? From an agency standpoint, we look to create onboarding documentation (who is the client, what are their USPs, information on seasonality, marketing plan, core products etc.). In regards to communication, how can you be there when needed? – Slack channels, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. are all good closed or open user groups.
From a marketing point of view, how can you look to support affiliate to generate more traffic themselves? The more traffic that lands on their site and on your articles will result in a higher click through rate and higher volume. From an account management point of view, how can you easily offer digital marketing support to key publishers? Looking to offer SEO, PPC, email or data collection advice where possible will in turn support to increase publisher loyalty and increase sales.
In addition to this, what marketing materials can you give to publishers? Away from the standard banners on the program and newsletters, the more advanced programs have bespoke product feeds, APIs and widgets. How can you support affiliates to increase CTR onsite by offering better integrations of deeplinks?
Finally, when the user is on the brand’s site, how can you look to increase the conversion rate? Utilising a CRO approach to the user journey may help to increase the CR or AOV onsite. Bespoke landing pages, auto-applying discounts based on the referrer UTM, etc.
There are many more tactics that can fall under optimisation of current affiliates. The idea is that by putting resource into supporting existing publishers you can then look to activate and amplify performance.
There is always space to recruit new publishers within an affiliate programme. New trends and publishers enter the affiliate space each week.
There are two forms of recruitment:
1. Recruiting existing affiliates onto your programme
2. Engaging with publishers and educating them in affiliate marketing.
When recruiting existing affiliates, there are several tools you can use. First of all, networks have an open forum of publishers whom you can request to join your programme based on industry, sector, demographics etc. This is an easy win so long as you nail onboarding and optimisation above.
In addition to this, there are tools like Publisher Discovery, which can run a competitor analysis dependent on territory or run a GAP analysis based on who is on your programme or your competitors.
Finally, SimiliarWeb is also a great tool to offer you “similar sites” to your top publishers, whilst also offering guidance on an affiliate’s site for optimisation.
There is also a lot of opportunity in regards to onboarding publishers who are not affiliates already. Brands running experience-based events in store can specifically target publishers of importance, educate them on the brand and on affiliate marketing. We have done this for six years now with ATG Tickets – naturally the product of theatre does help, however utilising SEO and Digital PR tools to discover new partners and then meet them in person has resulted in 73% of the ATG programme being content-led.
Chris Tradgett, chief marketing officer at Publisher Discovery, said: “We are seeing OPMs and advertisers increasingly looking to diversify their affiliate portfolio and take advantage of new partnerships. With the blurring of ‘channels’ of affiliate, influencer and publisher, the most agile advertisers are breaking out of the silos and running all partnerships in a far more flexible and integrated way.
“With COVID-19, we saw some pause or weirdly close their programmes. That’s driven by a very old school attitude that affiliate is an outgoing fee, so CMOs treat it as a marketing ‘spend’. If they saw it for what it really was – a ‘cost of sale’ – that would have left them with a far more tenable position when recovering (see Marriott, Matalan). Affiliates will remember being ignored and place their allegiances elsewhere with merchants who have more regard for their partners!”
Glosinda said: “We are always looking at recruiting new affiliates, who would help drive revenue and traffic to our site. I think affiliate recruitment is something that should never stop as some publishers who work for your brand, may not necessarily work for other brands.”
Daisy-Blue Tinne, agency development director – EMEA at Impact, said: “Affiliate is undoubtedly a very important revenue driver within the wider partnership ecosystem. Cashcows like voucher and cashback sites are vital revenue drivers and it’s truly important to work effectively with them, but doing this will only gain you parity with other competitors.
“For a differentiated advantage and source of revenue growth that is much more substantial, companies should be looking ‘off-network’. It’s not all about working with the partners that your competitors already have access to, it’s about recruiting new partners that aren’t even on a network.”
She continued: “For example, with one of our most popular products, Mediarails, we have built the ability to search partners from across the web. Through web crawlers and integrations with major social platforms and app stores, users can search a universe of global partners, filtering by channel, geography, reach, audience demographics, and more. It gives a full picture of each prospective partner, and ultimately lays the foundation for successful partnerships.”
Affiliate marketing is open to the same objectives as any other paid channel, to decrease the cost and increase the results. PPC campaign management has been held to account over this for years, affiliate not so much.
Within budget maximisation, there are two objectives:
1. To decrease the overall COS associated with the channel
2. To increase the LTV of the channel against a CPA
Dependent on the industry, COS and LTV targets vary, however there are various strategies you could look to review.
In order to decrease the COS within the channel, the key element here is to review the current tracking set up. I recently audited 20 programmes, and 60% of brands had their tracking incorrectly set up which was affecting spend levels.
Another element of reviewing the COS is to review the channel against your personal objectives. If your objective is to improve the quality of the affiliate mix, simply look to reward commission levels based on publisher/publisher type within the user journey and their overall impact.
If you are looking to increase margin/profit within the business, look to run a tiered commission structure based on SKU, brand, category and so on.
In regards to increasing LTV from the channel, a lot of subscription brands look to optimise campaign performance against the value of the customer. By auditing individual publisher performance against LTV and offer led promotions, you can then look to maximise your CPA. Building a bank of offer, publisher LTV will help to determine how you can hit objectives in the future – it is very much test and learn.
Attracting a new audience or entering a new territory
Utilising the affiliate channel to expand into a new audience or territory is an attractive proposition for brands. Looking test and learn several campaigns based on a CPA – what is not to like?
We have recently seen the likes of Awin announce their full acquisition of Commission Factory in Australia, offering brands an attractive proposition across various territories. Other networks all pride themselves on international reach in order to cater for global programmes.
Glosinda said: “I think entering a new territory is always a bit of a challenge, so it is very important that the network you work with is established in that territory and has the right resource to guide you in which publishers to recruit.”
When entering a new territory, looking to increase brand awareness and drive sales is important. You can expand the scope of your marketing efforts broadly by activating the affiliate channel. By taking into account the above feedback on recruitment and optimisation, you can soon look to build up the affiliate programme’s contribution to ecommerce and support business discussions for growth.
Secondly, when looking to target a new audience you can run competitor analysis against brands in relevant segments; use SimiliarWeb, etc. to ensure your recruitment efforts are focused on targeting the right publisher with the ideal audience. As an agency, Silverbean already works across a diverse client category, so chances are agencies can easily support with this strategy and apply learnings from other successful campaigns.
For Crabtree and Evelyn, Glosinda had a very positive outlook for traditional affiliate management: “We are lucky to be in a space where we can work with so many different kind of publishers, which make our work even more enjoyable. No day is the same day, as there is always something new we can do.”
Overall, affiliate marketing in itself is a convoluted beast. When you are involved in the channel and an outsider asks what you do, remember there are four simple strategies that bring together all elements of the channel. Sometimes being able to talk simply about the channel and its impact will push us further forwards towards digital alignment than reflecting everything we can do.
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