Affiliate marketing is an incredibly powerful and efficient marketing channel for driving incremental sales. Like any sales channel, getting the most from affiliate marketing requires a continued commitment to learn from your customers, test new programmes, and leverage data to determine the best ways to optimise results.
Years ago, we used to talk about avoiding the “affiliate marketing plateau” – in which a period of initial sales growth levelled off and even started to slip over time. This pattern was particularly common for brands that had a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach to partnership. They’d create an initially successful programme and then expect it to continue to grow for months or years. Many such brands learned the hard way that, as with any kind of marketing, partnerships require continued commitment in order to be successful.
If you’re looking for ways to drive extraordinary growth for your existing affiliate marketing programmes, here are five tips to drive better results.
1. Constantly reassess the compensation model
Successful partnerships are about having great revenue agreements that satisfy advertisers and partners alike. Most companies engage in some initial research and modelling to create their commission and bounty programmes. But what worked last year may not be the right thing for today.
Brands must constantly assess how well their partners are doing with an existing compensation structure. They must also stay abreast of new programmes and competitive programme changes that may make their affiliate programmes more or less appealing. By staying vigilant, you can ensure that partners continue to back your programme and drive new sales. Also, be sure to keep track of how quickly your clients are being paid for their work. Slow paying is one of the surest ways to get partners to drop your programmes.
2. Work hard to stay top of mind
The best partners are constantly being solicited to join new affiliate programmes. Often, partners that accept a new programme have only so much real estate and attention to devote. So, they de-emphasise or cut programmes that aren’t growing or innovating. By cultivating direct personal relationships with your largest partners, and using technology to help you communicate with the “long-tail” partners, you can keep interest in your programmes strong. Further, generate excitement and interest by creating special promotions, power periods, custom programmes, and other merchandising programmes that will rekindle partner investment and passion.
3. Put your data to work
More and more advertisers are learning that by analysing and sharing some of their programme data with their largest partners, they identify actionable insights to improve results. Perhaps the best example of this is when travel brands share metadata from consumer searches with partners so that these companies can deliver dynamic creative that drives higher response rates. For example, a user who has searched for flights to Hawaii is more likely to respond to Hawaii-specific hotel offers than general category offers.
4. Think real-time
Many affiliate marketers rely on weekly and monthly reports from their networks. While that means that programme management is easier, it also means that they may learn about trends and developments quite late. The best time to respond to positive or negative performance changes is in real-time, right when they are happening. Time is money. For example, our company is now using AI to identify data anomalies and send immediate alerts to clients and their partners. Changes in performance that are greater than the expected “data noise” we see in all marketing programmes are quickly brought to everyone’s attention.
Such alerts can help brands quickly recognise tagging errors, see and respond to dramatic changes in sales performance, and communicate with partners to get changes eliminated quickly.
5. Keep your partners close and your best partners closer
Affiliate marketing is a relationship-driven business. Companies get behind the people and programmes they know and trust best. Find ways to get feedback from all partners, so you can identify issues and opportunities that can help drive future growth. Survey your partners and respond to their challenges.
And your largest partners warrant direct, personal attention to identify new opportunities and help them get maximum sales for you. Listen to the needs, respond to issues quickly, and you will find that your sales can continue to climb.