When considering expanding outside of your niche, the driving forces are to reach a new market, develop a new product or service, or both. During this process, the performance channel can ease the venture, but the affiliate marketer and the merchant must work to cross the gap between market and product.
The Igor Ansoff product/market matrix can help you segment out how the opportunity differs based on the situation. In three of the four scenarios you’re stepping out of your niche, and a performance marketing program can help:
If you’re interested in expanding outside your niche, you will most likely have the market penetration portion of the matrix covered. You know the primal needs of your audience and you are:
- Competitive in your own vertical
- Know which promotions perform within your segment
- Have a new-to-file customer acquisition model in place
- Have the basic marketing channels in place and optimised
If you fall in the market development segment, you are interested in launching an additional product to an already established market. The affiliate channel can support this by:
- Offering feedback on how and where your products would excel. Consider surveying your top affiliates.
- Leveraging your established branding in the coupon and deal space.
- Educating your audience through content-based sites.
- Developing specific, relevant offers for different audiences, i.e., employee benefit portals are searching for deals from merchants, etc.
Julie Stepkowski, affiliate program manager at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, states, “Education is key when venturing into a new market. It’s important to take the time to investigate the niche thoroughly so a detailed strategic plan can be created. Make sure to provide affiliates with as much unique content as possible so they’re relaying important facts to consumers and aren’t relying solely on coupons. Offering a discount along with detailed content is perfectly fine but the main focus should be on the content as consumers are looking for authorities in the niche market.”
In the product development portion of the matrix, you have an established product, but are interested in expanding to a new market. Consider using the affiliate channel by:
- Adding additional affiliate categories to your program, like email or social sharing guys.
- Adding an affiliate network or tracking platform that offers access to a different audience.
- Expanding internationally with local language websites and currency, with a close eye on shipping partners.
- Segmenting your affiliate program by new vs return customers, and deepening the relationship with affiliates who drive more new customers.
If you fall into the diversification segment, you’re taking a new product into a new market. You could consider:
- Leveraging your current affiliate base for information on how the new product would perform.
- Launching a new affiliate program to account for the different branding and affiliate base.
- Exploring a partnership with an agency who has established relationships in the new vertical.
- Focusing on niche affiliate development through competitive and long-tail keyword research to boost branding.
- Increasing your affiliate budget to test new affiliate categories.
- Testing other channels, like CPC, search, and retargeting through your affiliate channel
Kris Ritchie, affiliate program manager at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, recommends, “Before launching a new program, a merchant needs to be aware of out clauses and minimum spend requirements and make sure they are factored into their testing plan.”
In conclusion, when considering expanding into an additional market or niche, there are a number of ways to leverage the affiliate channel.