Affiliate marketing stands out as a solely performance-based portion of any successful digital marketing strategy. With reward parameters dictated by the brand, affiliate partners are rewarded for the traffic or conversions that they drive with their marketing efforts. This makes affiliate programmes a popular strategy and an extremely beneficial one, for both brands and their affiliate partners.
Affiliate marketing has been historically associated with cash back schemes, voucher codes and discounts. This has led to some hesitation among luxury brands in particular, as these brands look to protect their brand reputation and have thus been less likely to engage with the channel. However, in the age of influencers and bloggers, we’re seeing more and more brands investigating the benefits of affiliate marketing programmes.
Why do businesses choose affiliate marketing?
The affiliate channel is, at its core, primarily a means of managing partnerships. An effective affiliate programme can deliver whatever results a brand is hoping to achieve through close work with affiliate partners. Brands can boost brand awareness in new territories, grow sales through providing limited discounts to a core number of affiliates, build partnerships with influencers through an affiliate programme and much more. The key selling point of the affiliate channel is that brands can choose to focus on one or all of those key targets.
Vouchers and cash back sites are two of the most widely recognised strategies traditionally associated with affiliate programmes. However, a more mature and developed programme will not focus solely on those lower funnel, ‘quick win’ sales. These are instead built on engaging with various publisher types, each playing an important role at different stages of the customer journey. With this in mind, it’s equally important that brands take other methods, such as B2B partnerships and social influencers, into account when establishing an affiliate ecosystem. This ensures a healthy affiliate mix, which can be used as the basis for a robust, well-rounded approach.
Implementation and strategy
It is important for brands to develop and maintain relationships with affiliate partners, publishers and influencers when implementing an affiliate strategy. Equally, activity should be encouraged through the entire funnel, particularly the upper end of the funnel – a programme shouldn’t be reliant on quick-win or short-term tactics to meet KPIs. So how can brands ensure a strong, varied partner mix? At Silverbean, the initial steps for our clients look like this:
The affiliate team looks to identify any gaps in an existing affiliate programme and any key publishers (such as influencers, cash back sites and employee benefits packages) that may be missing. Then, the team outreaches to those key publishers to start building relationships and recruiting.
If a brand has publishers that are already on the programme but aren’t driving sales or traffic, the team starts to work with those partners to improve their engagement.
Where affiliate partners are successfully driving sales, leads or traffic, we work with them to amplify their results.
Often, our clients start with a revenue-based objective. The team then looks to identify wider brand objectives and opportunities, such as driving strong brand awareness or building affiliate partnerships to drive long-term growth. We work to build a robust strategy to achieve these goals while continuing to support the client’s internal marketing team.
Proven benefits of affiliate marketing
The affiliate marketing channel can support wider marketing goals, and is a proven sales tool. An effective and well-managed programme can assist content generation, support SEO and elevate brand awareness, as well as being a sustainable source of ROI. Brands can tailor each affiliate programme to meet specific goals, with tiered commission structures tailored around action such as new customer acquisition, the sale of specific products, and the type of purchase method, such as in-store POS vs online.
Brands can’t take a random, scattergun approach to their programmes. If a product isn’t relevant to the affiliate and their audience, the channel loses value. Because of this, brands that build strong relationships with partners in relevant spheres will see a strong mix of affiliates, and will never be reliant on one publisher or partner. A robust affiliate marketing funnel will support every stage of the customer journey from inspiration through to purchase, boosting online sales in the short- and long-term.
An affiliate marketing programme that is managed and monitored proactively will enable brands to benefit from a new revenue stream and build key relationships with influencers. It’s important to have a commission system, as well as clear targets, in place before affiliate partner outreach begins, whether a brand’s primary target is growing brand awareness, driving traffic or increasing sales. Doing so ensures that effective affiliate partners will be rewarded for their efforts and encouraged to engage further, and the brand will benefit in kind.
This article was written by Louise James, Silverbean’s head of affiliate marketing.