There are several key things advertisers should take note of before entering the performance channel. The below is by no means exhaustive, but highlights some of the more crucial points advertisers should consider prior to launching an affiliate programme.

1. Affiliate marketing is a long-term strategy

Firstly, affiliate marketing is not a short-term strategy and what you put into it, is what you ultimately get out of it. To fully establish an affiliate programme can take anywhere between three and twelve months. Some may think it is possible to run a successful affiliate programme spending one or two days a week on it, but I can categorically tell you that this is not possible. Working on an affiliate programme and ensuring its success is a full time job consisting of the following;

  • Managing communication with publishers
  • Proactively recruiting publishers
  • Finding new opportunities
  • Ensuring correct offers are displayed on publisher sites
  • Creating a suite of promotional tools such as banners for promotions
  • Developing different strategies for different publisher types
  • Analysing and reporting

2. Utilise cashback and discount codes

Another key fact and one that not enough advertisers consider before starting an affiliate programme is about working with certain publisher types such as cashback and discount sites.

Many brands are conscious about their brand image and the perception that featuring on these types of sites will devalue their brand. However, neglecting the two largest revenue drivers in the affiliate space could be detrimental to the success of a programme. Furthermore if your competitors are featuring on cashback and discount sites, they are more likely to receive higher traffic levels as consumers are more likely to purchase from their sites because of the offering. 

In my experience, I have come across several brands in the SME space who do not have a brand presence, but are just as successful as brands because they work with all publisher types.

3. Engagement with publishers

An important part to any advertiser’s success in affiliate marketing is the relationship they hold with their publishers. Engaging with publisher partners on a regular basis through communication about new offers/promotions, new initiates and any changes to the programme, helps strengthen the relationship between advertiser and publisher. 

It is also a good idea to get to know your publishers on a personal level, especially key partners. Holding affiliate days to put a face to a name helps publishers understand the advertiser’s offering in more depth, which helps them to promote the advertiser more effectively.

4. Strategic planning

Advertisers should refrain from treating affiliate marketing as a separate part of the marketing mix and try to run promotions which coincide with the wider business.

Having a promotional calendar for the year helps to plan effectively and book exposure at key periods in advance with publishers. It is also imperative that advertisers understands the types of offerings that work with each of the different publisher types.

5. Utilise the network and your point of contact

When joining a network you should be given a point of contact to assist with any technical and marketing related aspects of your programme. Making the most of this contact can be invaluable to the development and optimisation of the programme.

Network staff have a lot of experience dealing with individuals who are new to affiliate marketing and will offer advice and support to ensure that you make the most of the tools and technology available within the performance channel. They also have access to vast amounts of data which can help you make informed decisions about how you operate your programme. 

Overall, advertisers wishing to enter the affiliate world should be willing to try new strategies to find out what works and what does not for their programmes. It is not a one-size-fits-all market, but when harnessed correctly affiliate marketing can really make a difference.