Advertisers in Britain are set to increase online ad spending by 9.5% this year, according to Advertising Association-Warc’s latest expenditure report. This has been driven by the strong growth in internet spend last year (15.3%) and a total of £21.1bn spent in 2016 – the seventh consecutive year of growth in the UK’s advertising market.

Affiliate marketing has long been the most cost-effective solution for online advertising, but as brands continue to invest more budget into their online initiatives, it’s essential that their affiliate strategy is continually evolving. Affiliate marketing doesn’t mean restricting campaigns to the tried and tested incentive sites. Brands will be missing out on pools of potential new customers if they’re not regularly testing partnerships with new publishers and channels.

Market-leading ROI

By allocating up to 10-15% of the overall affiliate budget to test new campaigns with non-traditional affiliates, brands have the opportunity to continually improve and grow the affiliate programme. Advertisers that consistently introduce new players can identify partners with high potential to become key affiliate programme influencers in a short period of time. When a client is open to working with non-traditional affiliates, it’s crucial to ensure that they’ve budgeted accordingly. Webgains strongly advocates blended ROI metrics. Non-traditional affiliates usually require fixed-fee payments much like tendency budgets, but larger.

As a pay-by-performance channel, affiliate marketing is defined by strong KPIs and consistent testing. Thanks to the nature of the channel, advertisers can optimise promotions based on proven results and accomplish an ROI that is incomparable in the marketing industry.

However, dealing with non-traditional affiliates such as retargeting partners, overlay solution providers or big online publishing houses requires a completely separate approach to that of seasoned affiliates such as Quidco, Topcashback and Vouchercodes. For example, many non-traditional affiliates may be reluctant to engage with a pure CPA (cost per action) payment model when dealing with elements out of their control, such as low optimisation on the advertiser’s checkout page or products out of stock.

The potential risk involved for a non-traditional affiliate is an important element to consider when first approaching them. Many partners will agree to work towards an effective cost of sale targets as long as there is some flexibility provided by the advertiser.

Engaging non-traditional affiliates

When approaching a non-traditional affiliate you can’t assume that they’ll be used to or even interested in the idea of a performance-based channel. Many are already handling highly valuable online inventory. Instead, lead with the brand approach – how is that client relevant to their outlet and why will it add to the visitor’s experience on the site? Can the affiliate identify with the brand? What other content can you support the outlet with, such as editorial or other advertising options in conjunction with an affiliate? Lead with innovation and image value and you could initiate a conversation with non-traditional affiliates that they’re more inclined to engage with.

The affiliate channel is a gateway to major advertisers that some publishers wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach due to a lack of relationship with the brand. It’s worth reminding the non-traditional affiliate that by working with an affiliate network they have access to a wide range of desirable brands for their site that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to work with. Affiliate networks give publishers the foot in the door where they’ve previously hit a wall while trying to get an appointment with the head of marketing.

Unlike other advertising models, performance marketing can be measured. Google analytics is nowhere near as robust as affiliate tracking. A non-traditional “career” publisher can use affiliate tracking as a proof point to start a relationship with larger brands. Once the publisher is able to demonstrate the drive in traffic and conversion rate that the outlet can deliver, they’re are much more likely to win the interest of big-name brands.

Influencing the influencers

New advances in platforms and technologies mean that publishers and affiliates can monetise so much more than they used to. The rise of online influencers such as bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers opens up a whole new affiliate space that’s already proven to be highly effective. To scale an affiliate programme, it’s sensible to invest in the mid- and long-tail affiliates and ensuring that the entire consumer story is covered. Advertisers won’t achieve immediate performance numbers from the blogger space, but it strengthens the overall programme.

It’s now easier than ever to make money from your passion thanks to the simplicity and sophistication of affiliate and performance marketing networks. But online influencers are often either unaware of the benefits of working with an affiliate network, or they’re under the belief that the only way they can make money is via Google ads or the YouTube video pre-rolls.

Advertisers are faced with the challenge to educate online influencers on new ways to monetise their website or pages and to change the perception on what affiliate marketing means for them. As the affiliate space has evolved, matching niche affiliates to brands can now be done in a couple of clicks, anytime, anywhere in the world and in any language or currency. If they can understand how the affiliate marketing channel offers them access to a whole network of interesting and relevant brands for their pages, these new players are highly valuable affiliates for advertisers to win over.