Industries go through natural life cycle stages and with recent consolidations in the affiliate marketing space – including publishers acquiring other publishers and technology platforms and networks merging – it’s more important than ever that we encourage and push for innovation in our field.

After 20 years as an industry, affiliate marketing is nearing – or in – maturation phase. To avoid stagnation and present unique solutions, continuous innovation is key.

Through the years, affiliate marketing has evolved and done so by embracing innovation. From the increased focus on utilising high-quality content marketing to further optimising the mobile experience, companies are always looking for ways to elevate their affiliate channel.

Innovation takes time and focus, however, and that’s hard to find in today’s fast-paced world. Below are some tools and tips to implement that could help your organisation find its next big idea in affiliate marketing.

Finding your company’s x-factor

What sets you apart from your competitors? What do you do, or could do, that they can’t?

A lot of questions to ponder but the answers will inevitably impact how your business evolves. For years, we could buy a cheap cup of coffee at any eating establishment, but Starbucks came along and convinced customers to pay more for fancy coffees in unique cafes. They sold the same product but found their X-factor to successfully disrupt the industry and cement themselves as leaders in the space with a 10x advantage. We have an x-factor committee, a group of high-potential team members whose sole function in their meetings is to think big about affiliate challenges and what it would take to solve them.

Think about the goals you have for your organisation and for the industry as a whole. What do you see as roadblocks and what would it take to move us forward?

Culture building

Contrary to popular belief, culture is not created by feeding your employees snacks and giving them access to endless happy hours. Culture is supported when you have a team that understands what an organisation’s core values are and lives by those values no matter what. Any support and service that are given to clients start internally. If the team isn’t aligned with company goals and “big picture” decisions, then growth is stalled.

We live by our core values, known as PIER, and we understand that they start at home, within our organisation. Professional intimacy, improvement, expertise and responsibility aren’t just words, they drive and shape how we measure ourselves and the organisation. With over 35 employees working remotely, it takes extra effort to get everyone aligned and by relying on our values, everyone is on the same page. Innovation is not one of our values; it is a part of all of our values. We feel so strongly about them that we will end relationships with clients and staff if they don’t respect our core beliefs.

Unplug to get a spark

It’s impossible to have a real conversation and exchange ideas when we are answering texts, emails and Slack chats simultaneously. Multi-tasking is the fastest way to get nothing done. When you unplug from devices and focus on one goal, true innovation can begin. In his book “Deep Work,” Cal Newport talks about the importance of focusing fully on large tasks while saving distractions for smaller bursts throughout the day. Even 90 minutes of deep, uninterrupted focus can yield incredible results and more importantly, it will help you get sh*t done!

PartnerCentric has instituted a deep work policy on Fridays when employees can unplug and focus on important tasks from 10 to 12pm in whatever time zone they are in. This has increased productivity and allowed us to resurface with new ideas and processes. Often, clarity comes only when you have the opportunity to take a step back to just think.

Take a risk

No, I am not suggesting that you put your life savings into a crazy idea but don’t be afraid to explore them. After all, someone made millions by inventing the snuggie. You can’t truly innovate without stepping out of your comfort zone, and the worst thing that could happen is you could fail. In that case, aim to fail fast and keep going, as failure is a step toward success.

Great ideas do sometimes pop up unexpectedly but only when you’re willing and open to listen. Additionally, encourage your employees to throw “spaghetti on the wall”, our term for suggesting wild ideas. They might just work. We have done whole quarterly themes around implementing “spaghetti.” Have fun and embrace the experimental phase.

This has never been an industry of quiet norms, but instead one borne of young and adventurous pioneers. It is this mentality that is our legacy, and to ensure our future, we must preserve, cultivate, and encourage, always, our obligation to innovate.