The word of the day is: Diversify.  Affiliate programs have one thing in common and that’s the partner types that are the most popular: loyalty, coupons, sub-networks and everything else in between. Users are apt to go searching for a coupon or cashback on their purchase and the segment continues to grow year over year. However, what do you do once your affiliate program plateaus? Every affiliate program reaches this stage at some point in its lifespan and that’s when you need to get creative with your partnerships, outside of just looking to do paid placements or exclusive coupon code.

Where content/blogger partnerships are becoming more prevalent in affiliate marketing and being seen less like an effort by social media teams, there’s still plenty of untapped potentials if you just know where to look for it, and sometimes those partnerships are completely unconventional. 

For example, are you a hotel or retail brand with larger partnership opportunities in general for your organisation? See if there’s a way to work together through the affiliate channel. Are you a clothing brand with a desire to make a change?  Maybe you can work with local schools or non-profit organisations to provide clothing for people who need it? 

Technology partners are a good place to start innovating

Shoppers are more engaged and informed when making purchases, especially with the rise of review articles and YouTube videos, and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to keep that shopper on your site all the way through to the purchase. The more opportunities the user has to look around for information, the bigger the chance that they will shop with a competitor or decide against the purchase overall.  The challenge has turned into trying to capture that shopper at the right moment, with the right product, in a personalised fashion.

The best place to start might be smarter technology that allows you to have insights into what your customers are looking at to target them at the perfect moment. There are some new affiliate partners that use AI to help enhance your program with automatisation and personalisation,  such as Revlifter or Increasingly. Others have created conversion optimisation AI that dynamically showcases calls to action and an on-page user experience that appeals to different personas in real time, then only charges a performance fee on the incremental lift from those sales. 

Make sure to have a chat with your SaaS/network provider or affiliate management company about what could work best for you and what is needed from all parties in order for this to work for you.

Large media sites are into affiliate marketing 

Larger media corporations are realising the value and potential of working within the affiliate ecosystem and have started to monetise their links while promoting more content geared around shopping. Prime examples are Buzzfeed, Conde Nast, The Telegraph and Cosmopolitan.  The Meredith brands are a perfect example of how magazines (both online and offline) are coming more frequently into the affiliate marketing mix. 

While sometimes tricky or more costly to work with (either through higher commission payouts, a flat fee entry fee or both), these publications have amassed a large and loyal following that can’t be beaten! As they have been around for quite some time, including that time not too long ago before newspapers went digital, their content is trusted by millions of consumers, which results in mass product and brand exposure and ultimately, more sales for you.

Reach out to these sites to see what kind of partnership you could start together. Don’t be afraid to go wild with ideas, as it could grow into something quite amazing. Two main rules to follow when working with these big media sites: be flexible and be patient. These partnerships often take time to develop and grow so it’s important to nurture them.  You wouldn’t rush baking a cake just to get done quicker as the end result would be a sloppy, goopy mess; the same applies to any kind of partnership you cultivate.

Unique partnerships that saw exceptional results 

Think beyond the affiliate partner that markets themselves as an affiliate partner. Work backwards from what audience you want to reach, and you will find creative new ways to partner with people and organisations that are willing to work on a pay-per-performance basis through a partnership with you. 

Here are some prime examples of uncommon yet effective affiliate partnerships that are happening in the industry today:

A hotel chain dipping its toes into MMA fighting

Looking to expand beyond bloggers, this hotel chain reached out to local athletic clubs to see if there was a way to promote them as the preferred option for members to book when travelling.  Thanks to offline coupon code tracking, the brand was able to provide an exclusive code to this MMA club that was then promoted on their site and in multiple podcasts. 

As a result, bookings grew with this segment and surpassed expectations, leading to a new consumer base that now chooses this brand over others.

The “fit expert” with a subtle way of selling

Quickly rising to become a Top 10 affiliate partner in this program, a travelling “fit” consultant roamed around the US and provided her services as a Fit Expert. She would work with women on how to dress and choose clothes, apparel and accessories that fit their body type property at her sold-out events.  Simply using her business card, her personal brand and through fulfilling the order that she helped her clients place herself, she generated over $250,000 in bra sales for this one company in just under one year.

A pet care brand with a soft spot for shelters

This brand used a wide network of animal shelters to help promote them offline, while also helping these non-profit organisation fund their activities, all through an affiliate marketing model. The program was designed exclusively for rescue organisations, and each was sent some printed collateral with their unique tracking link which was branded to that specific shelter. The shelters gave out these materials as part of their adoption pack, as well as at adoption events, and when new pet parents needed to buy something for their pet, this brand was top of mind. Knowing that the shelter they adopted from would get a donation if they shopped through their branded link, the customers felt good, as they were supporting a non-profit while giving their pet everything they needed.

The program was very popular and attracted over 500 shelters to join in the first 6 months of operation. While the logistics of sending collateral to each individual shelter was difficult, the brand awareness among new pet owners sky-rocketed, and sales began flowing in. All of this while giving a commission/donation to animal rescue organisations to support their cause. 

The Hispanic radio station breaking new records

One content lens retailer’s affiliate manager identified that the second largest purchasing demographic in their database was the US Hispanic community who loved to wear blue and green contact lenses. They took this data to the largest Hispanic radio station in the US and stroke up a pay-per-performance partnership, where any transactions that would go through their links or unique code (which they also promoted on air) would be credited back to them with a paid-out commission. The contact lens retailer made custom creatives in Spanish with Hispanic models wearing green and blue contact lenses, and worked with them through their website, social channels and on air. Within the first year of working together, this unconventional affiliate partner beat out many coupon and loyalty sites, became a Top 10 publisher within the program and breaking new records in category product sales.

In the words of our founder and CEO, Sarah Bundy, “If they are not a direct competitor, they have the potential to be an affiliate partner.”

In closing 

Think outside the box. With so many different partnership opportunities in the world, remember to think about your audience first, who they are, where they are, where they like to engage and who influences them. Then make sure to keep your eyes open for unique partnership opportunities and reach out! These partnership opportunities could be right under your nose! Don’t be afraid to try new things and just “ask”, which ultimately will help diversify your affiliate marketing program with high-value partnerships, in whichever form they come.