It could be said that E.F Schuhmacher’s economics of “small is beautiful” is more relevant in the 21st century than ever before. With the proliferation of the internet and the emergence of mobile, opportunities for small to medium-sized enterprises to effectively compete against the big boys of industry, and win, have sky rocketed.
There is also no denying that the economic climate has had a massive impact on consumer attitude to buying. Today’s smart shoppers are much more willing to shop around for value (carefully balancing price vs. quality) than remain brand loyal – and the success of price comparison, discount and loyalty sites over the last few years demonstrates this fact. The very nature of SMEs enables them to adapt to changing market conditions and respond to these opportunities more quickly.
The performance marketing industry is the perfect complement to small businesses, in that the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) payment metric is extremely transparent for advertisers to evaluate success and optimise activity accordingly. Many publishers serve highly specialised niches and even the largest of affiliates such as MyVoucherCodes.co.uk are offering additional exposure for smaller companies across their huge member base.
Publishers too are reaping the benefits of working with these smaller, more agile businesses – and our figures support the fact that SME programs are demonstrating huge growth. So why are these programs growing at such a rate?
At affilinet we’ve witnessed SME businesses having a much higher adoption rate for new innovations and technologies. We believe this is because they have fewer constraints and more strategic flexibility than their larger counterparts. Smaller marketing teams and simpler budget structures, also means that decisions can be made a lot quicker and activity can be turned on and off according to success.
There is no denying that a household brand name makes promotions stand out from the crowd, however this blessing could also be perceived as a curse because opportunities are scrutinised a lot more closely and tight brand control can result in lengthy sign-off procedures.
It could be said that performance marketing levels the playing field. The big boys might have big bucks, but the channel enables SMEs to be targeted and successfully reap results. Essentially if advertisers are creative and get the basics right, it should not be brand name that ultimately determines the success of an advertiser’s program. With this in mind I think there are a few key considerations in particular for SME advertisers:
Sell your program to publishers.
Without a big brand name to back you up it’s even more important to sell the attributes of your program to publishers. In particular make sure your program description is enticing, informative and helpful to publishers. Remember that this is often the first time publishers will have exposure to your brand.
Follow best practice.
Affiliate marketing is all about building relationships, and publishers should be treated as long-term partners. The IAB Affiliate Marketing Council has drawn up an Ethical Merchant Charter with tips on how to conduct your program. Read this charter and make it your bible. One simple slip up can easily put publishers off promoting a program.
Communication is key.
Transparency and open communication facilitate and develop stronger relationships with publishers – and will ensure your brand name and program stands out from the crowd. It is also important to communicate any upcoming promotions or seasonal activities to publishers to ensure they see what brand activity might help them to optimise exposure and sales.
Be willing to trial activity.
Always be on the lookout for new opportunities and make trend-spotting a regular activity. Your affiliate network will present you with new and developing publisher models, and these will be assessed for feasibility for your program. More often than not it’s risk-free to trial due to the CPA payment metric, so why not give opportunities a go?
Being tactical is particularly key for lesser known brands - get your commission structure right and be flexible with the publishers that work the best for your program. Offering incentives can help to entice new publishers to join your program, reactivate dormant publishers and encourage publishers to go that extra mile for seasonal peaks.
Give affiliates the tools they need to do their job.
Make sure you provide a selection of good quality creatives so affiliates have more to work with. Regularly updating creative or enhancing the range on offer can be an extremely effective way of activating existing and engaging new publishers with your brand.
In summary, there are plenty of fantastic opportunities for small businesses within the space and for the publishers that promote their products and services. The flexible nature of these companies makes them able to adapt to changing market conditions and willing to react to opportunity – sounds like the ideal business partner to me!