Validating affiliate as a cross-team lever

There has been a concerted effort to challenge marketers to rethink affiliate marketing as more of a “partner” marketing channel. And while this notion has aided in the expansion of partnership types that can be managed within it, when you cut past the smoke-and-mirror style naming conventions, it begins to feel more like a lesson in the power of semantics than anything else. And all these semantics simply do is define relationship marketing bound by a common payment model — pay for performance. The short of it? ‘Partnership’ is just a broader catch-all way of saying what you really mean: affiliate marketing.

Meanwhile, at its core, affiliate marketing has always been about relationship building. Traditional affiliate networks were facilitating working relationships between advertisers and brands for more than two decades. Today, we sit in position to watch the maturation of the channel: affiliate, all grown up. As this performance-driven channel comes of age, so must our approach to how we seek and foster the critical relationships that make it all possible.

This approach brings into focus how internal marketing teams are positioned to create a collaborative approach to relationship-generating efforts. In short, to maximize the performance potential of these relationships, the affiliate channel needs to work in harmony as a lever that can be effectively pulled across teams rather than acting as a standalone channel. First order of business in this internal partnership? Breaking down the organisational barriers that create silos, rather than efficiencies.

Expanding affiliate marketing to social and PR teams to maximize compounding returns of content

Thinking of digital tactics more fluidly may mean affiliate marketing, as a practice, can — and should — expand to social and PR teams to maximize relationships. This approach makes practical sense. PR teams are tasked with building trust not only with the media at large but also with brands and publishers. PR is the virtual anchor that stabilises your brand’s story by making sure you are amplifying one unifying message while avoiding potential brand messaging icebergs. Social and PR channels also do the job of ticking audience-reach boxes, organically or otherwise, and when your audience sees your messaging across these multiple channels, it builds recognition and trust.

Furthermore, the difference in a social or PR team managing a relationship versus an affiliate channel managing the relationship simply boils down to the payment model. PR teams pay flat fees while social teams may pay on engagement and reach and affiliate teams pay on conversion. Similar efforts packaged and priced differently.

Teams that work in tandem to help ensure overall brand growth. For example, where and when appropriate, PR teams can extend the life and continuity of their efforts (think earned media) because evergreen content is now tracked and monetised through affiliate links. Over time, traffic increases and ticks in engagement only serve to compound the value of the content — making trackability the key to measurement.  

This compounding effect assists in increasing brand awareness and bolstering ongoing sales. The sheer amount of “free” content readily available today has forced content creators to become more creative when it comes to revenue generation. Inserting affiliate links into content, such as an editorial newsletter or contributed article, helps ensure that creators are rewarded for their content-creation efforts. Since long-term traffic (and revenue) is preferable, the investment in affiliate marketing to support measurement of these content pieces indefinitely becomes very practical.

Building not burning budget bridges

As internal business teams grow and become increasingly adept in their skill set, an unfortunate side effect begins to emerge: highly-skilled experts tucked away in siloes. While this can make sense for other aspects of the organisation in regards to maintaining focus and efficiency, it’s not such a bankable game plan when it comes to maximising performance. Why is this? Well, put simply, the experts become tethered by budgets, stymieing their ability to do what’s best on behalf of the brand.

Start thinking about the organisation’s digital marketing budget in relation to how it will best serve the customer and budget accordingly, factoring in the channel that will drive the best return.

In a time when the market seems saturated with brands vying for customers’ attention, PR and social teams can work with affiliate teams to cross-collaborate on partnerships that not only drive revenue long-term but also help generate brand awareness and interest.