I was asked could large networks drop voucher or incentive partners in place of bloggers. The answer is simple- no, and why would they want to? The fundamental success factor of any great marketing campaign is having a diverse mix of marketing channels and within the affiliate channel that includes voucher and incentive affiliates. The problem occurs when you have reliance on one channel, regardless of which channel that is. It’s a little bit like if you eat too many cheeseburgers you get fat, everyone needs a balanced diet, it's common sense.
I find the current climate of blaming voucher and incentive sites for having too much dominance simply ridiculous. They don’t have control over where the marketing budget is spent, the advertiser and network do. Advertisers may argue that in order to hit their targets they are given little choice, and I sympathise with this; here the blame needs to be directed at the network. There should be a variety of ways to drive traffic for advertisers from a diverse range of affiliates, using a wide range of tools – both promotional and commission incentives. If you ask your network for a plan of where to spend your budget and they only come up with answers in the incentive sector then you have a problem with your network, not the channel.
The affiliate channel is a wide ranging, rich and diverse network of affiliates which is constantly growing and evolving. The role of the network is to present to an advertiser the best way to spend budget across this network of affiliates to achieve their set objectives. Some of that strategy will include incentive sites but it will also contain content sites, bloggers, price comparison, email affiliates and more. This is why it is such a great channel to work with and anyone just focusing on one area of this channel is making a big mistake.
Let’s not forget that there is a wide range of diversification just within the incentive channel too. Not every voucher site has the same customer base, not every cashback site has the same strategy. For example, we recently received a report from Easy Fund Raising, a cashback site that gives the cash back it receives to charities. The report showed how much affilinet had raised via our advertisers for good causes over the last year. Not only is this a great sales tool for advertisers, it can also form part of a corporate social responsibility strategy and a way of giving something back in an industry which often seems all about making money and sales.
In terms of bloggers, I find this an interesting development in the way it is portrayed in the trade media. Bloggers have been around for years and have always been a fundamental part of the channel, it is where most affiliate sites started out. There is no doubt that it is a rapidly growing area , helped by the ease of being able to create and market a blog, the popularity it has gained and the way people interact online, not to mention that you can now become rich and famous by blogging. This is an area that will continue to grow, but the biggest bloggers are likely to work outside of the channel so it is the medium-small bloggers that we as an industry need to cater for. There are already plenty of companies out there that just manage bloggers. Affiliate marketing is about managing a diverse range of affiliates and bloggers and incentive sites are just two parts of a much wider reaching network. As I have said many times, as a channel we need to get better at servicing these types of sites in order to ensure they work within the channel and not outside of it. Better tools, support, payment models and tracking are just some of the ways we can help to ensure this.
Affiliate marketing in its truest sense is about plugging clients into a wide range of diverse affiliates best suited to achieve their objectives. By limiting yourself to only one sector of this network you would be limiting your advertisers’ success within the channel. It’s all about the balanced diet.