In our series of articles titled INsider Questions, we have sought some of the industry’s top figureheads to see what they think advertisers should be asking performance marketers to eke more out of their campaigns. 

Each feature will cover a different topic and for today’s piece, Gavin Male, Managing Director at R.O.EYE, has provided the most important questions that he feels advertisers should be asking when it comes to making a move into affiliate marketing. 

Why should I have an affiliate program?

Do you sell online? Do you pay to market your product or service?  Would you like to reduce the risk of your marketing and pay mostly for performance?  Then that is why you should probably have an affiliate program.

The global affiliate and performance marketing sector is a huge success story and continues to grow and thrive.  The IAB tells us that the UK alone has a performance marketing sector that is worth in excess of £1billion and drives sales for more than 4,000 advertisers.

Affiliate marketing allows a brand to reach out to a new audience outside of their traditional advertising areas.  Using affiliates that have an established following can increase the breadth of your advertising and it allows you to test new channels in a paid for performance way.  For most companies affiliate marketing offers an interesting way of developing brand advocates and building the profile of a company through blogs and more niche websites which you would not have time or resource to work with in a traditional, direct manner.  It allows a brand to work with a variety of publishers and websites both small and large in a way that is mutually beneficial for both parties.

How do I protect myself with all these sites displaying my brand and logo?

Branding experts are always telling us that consistency is the absolute key to building a successful brand and this applies both on and offline.  With affiliate marketing, this point is particularly salient as there is often a huge number of different sites which are showcasing and representing your brand. Be sure that your brand is clear in each and every touch point with affiliates.

How do you do that?  Simple exercises and processes like ensuring that the affiliate programme join page looks like the company’s website.  The affiliate newsletters mirror the consumer newsletters.  The copy in the affiliate communication needs to have the same brand voice as the website and social media.  Basically you need to market effectively and accurately to your affiliates and let that filter down to your publishers and in turn on to their audience.

Anytime that branding elements like the logo or colours are updated, these components need to be updated within the affiliate programme too.  Share your pantone colours and font, make it easy for an affiliate to ‘partner’ with your brand.  Creative must always be current—not just with up to date branding and logos etc but also with any seasonal messages.  If you are on top of your affiliate program, always communicating effectively with your affiliates with banners, logos and text links etc always regularly updated then you have made huge progress towards ensuring that your affiliate program is a seamless extension of your brand.  In summary, make sure what is going in at the top is what you want coming out at the bottom.

Should I work with Cashback and Voucher sites?

Would you hire a sales person without knowing anything about them?  Without meeting them and without telling them anything about your product or service and then send them out to sell it with the power to discount?

Of course not and yet this is the tactic many companies take with their affiliates.

Affiliates are representing your brand and cashback and voucher publishers do not really need any different approach to many other publishers.  Take the time to visit these websites, understand their target market, how they attract consumers and what they can offer to you and your brand and then look to develop and build a relationship with them. The way you work with this type of publisher is then up to you.  Understand what level of discount you can offer and afford once you add affiliate commission into the mix.  Voucher and cashback publishers are often treated differently to other types of affiliate and the value of their incremental nature is often questioned.  Look at ‘stretch and save’ coupons to increase spend value and investigate only rewarding cashback on certain levels or type of purchase.  There is no rule that says all types of affiliate must be rewarded the same way.

The best affiliate programs are those with active and engaged affiliates who understand the company’s goals. You are better off with a smaller number of affiliates that you fully understand the incremental nature of than with a programme full of affiliates who do your brand a disservice and do not effectively communicate with you.

Affiliate Network or Tracking Platform?

This is a question that I am often asked and I even contributed a piece to the IAB which explored the question of platforms.  There is no straight answer.  It all depends on your needs and what you want from your affiliate programme.  First off ask yourself the following three questions.  How much time do you have?  How much resource do you have and how much experience do you have?  Once you know these, you can begin to explore the financial options and decide which suits you best when you proportion cost against these other elements.

There are standout differences between affiliate networks and tracking platforms.  For most clients first entering the affiliate world I would strongly recommend a network solution whilst for established affiliate programs I would suggest a combination solution of SaaS platform and network. 

Tracking platforms generally offer cost benefits and greater insight and data on your customers from affiliate sites whilst affiliate networks have access to the widest range of publishers, but you will need to ensure your programme stands out above the competition.  Whether you look at a SaaS platform or an affiliate network many a company thinks you can just integrate tracking, stick up some banners, press live and watch the sales come flooding in while you chill with another Mojito.  Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.  I mentioned earlier over 4,000 advertisers in the UK alone are running affiliate programs.  You need your program to stand out.  Advertise it and promote it.  Communicate with publishers and basically market your program as hard as you would want these publishers pushing your products.  If you do not tell people your product exists then they will never try it.. the same principle applies in affiliate marketing.

Should I manage my affiliate activity in-house or with an Agency?

Seeing as I am the MD of an award winning performance marketing agency you will probably think the answer to this is pretty simple for me.  Well I will surprise you all with saying it actually is not as clear cut as you think.

An agency solution is not always the ideal solution for every client or prospect looking to effectively run an affiliate marketing campaign. 

However, the one thing that I must stress is that every affiliate program needs dedicated resource in order to thrive, grow and succeed.  This could be in the form of an in house affiliate exec or manager or a performance marketing agency.  Which solution you go with depends on what you expect from your affiliate program and how valuable the revenue it generates is worth.  There is a tipping point with affiliate programs where the program becomes highly scalable and once you have some actionable insights it is then a question of reaping what you sow.  As with all marketing channels, provided you are focussed in the right areas and delivering the right results then if you invest more in the channel, either through creative, resource (as an agency or dedicated in house employees) then you should garner greater rewards and higher profits.