Christina Clausen-Bruun, Account Executive at 7thingsmedia, explains how to make the most of your affiliate programme
Affiliate marketing has evolved dramatically since its inception, forcing marketers to continually adapt and change their focus. Ultimately however, in order to grow a stable affiliate programme the importance of the recruitment and engagement of affiliates remains paramount. Without an active and engaged customer base a programme will become stagnated. So whilst new sophisticated technologies and strategies emerge, it is important not to lose sight of the fundamentals.
The following seven tips will help you grow and develop a strong foundation for your affiliate marketing campaign.
1. Tidy up your affiliate programme
A little spring-clean of your affiliate programme goes a long way. Make sure the resources available to your publishers are as accessible and streamlined as possible, by avoiding any duplicates and making sure everything is up-to-date and in line with your marketing plan. Keep your product feed updated and listen to publisher feedback; make certain that your feed is providing them with the information they need. By reporting on traffic and revenue by media type, you can identify which are your most effective resources and which are not being used, and optimise accordingly. Inform publishers of any changes you make to resources available in the network interface so they can update their site and start using any new tools as quickly as possible.
Most affiliate programmes, particularly more mature ones, can benefit from a thorough affiliate audit. Identify the brand values you wish to have reflected in the affiliates on your programme and keep these in mind throughout, removing those that don’t fit. Whilst this process can be a lengthy, manual task in the short term, the benefits in the long term are worth it. Not only will your programme be cleaner, more on-brand and less susceptible to fraudulent activity, you’ll get a clearer picture of who is promoting your brand. It’s helpful to segment your audited affiliates according to whether they are click- or sale-active so that you can identify new potential opportunities from your existing programme. Try to identify why any click-active affiliates might not be converting; work with them to find out whether you can provide them with anything additional to get more from your existing affiliate base.
Growing the publisher base further through targeted recruitment is crucial to ensuring that high-quality, on-brand affiliates are at the heart of your programme. In line with your affiliate audit, identify which affiliates and affiliate types will be most beneficial in communicating your brand image to your target demographics and ensure that new applicants to the programme are screened accordingly. Recruitment truly is a case of getting out what you put in, so set aside regular time for speaking to new publishers, introducing them to the programme and identifying the opportunities they have to offer. Furthermore, remember that not all sites you approach will be familiar with the affiliate model, particularly newer or smaller blogs, so be prepared to do some training.
4. Keep an open mind
With the increasing diversity in affiliate propositions, brands need to consider an increasing variety of payment models and creativity in the way they work with affiliates. Careful analysis of past performance will be crucial in determining where budget can be allocated to other payment models. Although not necessarily as low-risk as CPA, alternatives such as CPC and tenancy, can still provide a strong ROI, whilst giving brands greater flexibility in the exposure available to them. Use data analysis to inform the decision and be more flexible with the affiliates producing the best results. If budget is limited, think about other ways in which you can offer more to your affiliates, whilst keeping costs down. Look beyond your basic commission structure and consider how you can be more strategic and tactical at key periods with key publishers for the greatest benefit to both you and your affiliates. Equally, think about how you can make your publishers feel special. Product gifting, bespoke imagery or exclusive free gift with purchase codes might only represent a minimal selection of your budget but can be all that’s needed to make publishers feel special and gain coverage where budget is otherwise limited.
Communication is key to building a healthy affiliate programme, and is most effective if content is segmented according to affiliate type to get across the most targeted, relevant message for each publisher. Remember that messaging should be affiliate-focussed at all times; remind your publishers of the benefits of promoting your brand and the tools you can provide them with, be they product feeds, banners or bespoke imagery. One-to-one communication is key for your top publishers. Keep in touch to develop relationships as much as possible and therefore ensure that your brand is at the forefront of affiliates’ minds, meaning that you will be the first to hear of exciting new promotional opportunities. Organising regular affiliate events will give your publishers the chance to meet your team in person and get a feel for the product. Just as importantly, they’re a great opportunity to get feedback from your publishers and learn what more you can offer them to help them convert. In a world of endless emails and overflowing inboxes, making the effort to engage face-to-face can really make the difference when it comes to growing a successful partnership with your publishers.
6. Make the most of what you already have
Your wider company marketing calendar is the perfect basis for your affiliate planning. Campaigns and imagery you use for other channels can be overlaid with your monthly or quarterly affiliate plan. Think about what might appeal particularly to certain affiliates or affiliate types and plan your activity accordingly. Get in touch early to work with publishers on activity that will appeal most to their readers, since the extremely varied and targeted nature of the content sites in the affiliate space today makes them ideal for driving quality traffic to site. As a result, the more you shout about the campaigns that makes your brand unique, to relevant affiliates, the better awareness and conversion you will generate overall.
In an increasingly busy affiliate space, ensure your programme appeals to publishers by incentivising them to promote. Boost traffic and revenue from your long-tail affiliates by offering rewards for the most improved performance over a certain time period. Prizes can include anything from an increased commission rate to product giveaways; the more original and creative you can be with incentives and prizes, the more your programme will stand out to publishers. Make sure the premise is simple though to make it as appealing and easy to participate as possible to ensure maximum engagement from publishers.