In the current economic climate, brands are gravitating toward low-risk strategies like performance marketing. As a result, more marketers are likely researching affiliate marketing tips and tactics for the first time. But whether you’re a rookie or a veteran, at TUNE we believe one thing can’t be overstated: the importance of discovering your partners and owning your relationships. “Owning” your relationships could mean a number of things, beyond simply going direct. It is more of a mindset of taking control of your relationships. That means getting to know your partners, their businesses, and their motivations. We believe you can own your relationships in a number of different ways, directly and indirectly. 

In February, we went out on a limb at Affiliate Summit West 2020 to make this point. For the industry to grow and succeed, the entire ecosystem must be focused on helping marketers succeed. From the marketer’s standpoint, that success may mean working directly with a publisher via a SaaS platform. It may also mean working with a network that has great relationships with their affiliates. Either way, it means the same thing for the technology providers and the networks: more inclusivity, more interoperability, and doing whatever it takes to help marketers leverage as many traffic sources as possible while nurturing close relationships with their partners. 

In this post, we’ll show you why we think this is the way to go by walking through some of the benefits of discovering and owning your relationships.

Benefits of discovering your partners

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Unique partnerships 

When you go out and find your own partnerships, you can recruit affiliates directly into your program. They could be up-and-coming influencers, new to your market or audience, or just getting started — it’s up to you. They may even be the next big thing or something completely new to the game. 

Customer and market insights 

When you do your own research to find new affiliates, you’re often doing exactly what your customers are: looking for expert advice. Going through the same motions as your customers may reveal learnings about how they move through your funnel, and where and how your affiliate partners help them along. It may also provide some unexpected benefits, like giving you a new perspective on — and appreciation for — on how your partners promote your brand. 

Untapped affiliates and audiences 

Most affiliate programs follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of conversions are driven by 20% of the partners. That 20% represents your most valuable relationships, as those are the affiliates who spend a majority of their time promoting your offers. 

When you’re just starting your program, you want to find small- to medium-size affiliates who aren’t working with many other advertisers. When you’re the only brand they work with, or one of only a few, your partners have plenty of time and motivation to make your offers work. In addition, these untapped affiliates offer similarly untapped audiences: followers who haven’t already been exposed to lots of promotions for similar products and services. 

Competitive intelligence 

One of the best ways to find new partners is to check out the competition. (For example: Are there affiliates who are working with your top rivals, who are also missing from your program?) Doing some competitive research now and then can also benefit your marketing game. Regular checkups not only keep you informed but also provide insight into the trends and topics your competitors find important. 

Filling program gaps 

If you’re looking to fill holes in your current affiliate list, you want a little finesse. That means hand-picking the exact partners you need to succeed. That’s not a problem when you take discovery and management into your own hands, as that enables you to choose and work with whomever you like. 

Benefits of owning your relationships

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When you find and own your relationships, your world is up to you. You can create custom deals and offers, set your own commission structures, and pay whenever it works best for you and your partners. And the beauty is, you can change any of it at any time! 

Direct communication 

A lot of communication in the affiliate marketing industry is consolidated or standardised. This practice makes communication like newsletters easy to scale and share. It can also make it difficult for advertisers to stand out. When you use a technology solution to communicate directly with affiliates, however, you know they’re getting your messages. That’s huge, especially for important information like terms and conditions, policy changes, and offer deadlines. Keeping your communication separate gives it greater weight. 

More effective budgets and commissions 

When you use a SaaS solution to manage partner relationships, you usually pay a set amount for the technology you’re using, and that’s it. The rest of your budget is free to go toward campaigns and partners (and any other marketing activities). What’s more, without variable partner marketing costs, your view of overall marketing spend will be clearer and more consistent. And less stress for you and your finance team is always a good thing. 

Control, control, control 

If there’s one area where it seems OK — even accepted — to be a control freak, it’s partnerships. Increasingly, brands are turning to solutions that offer a high level of control over their marketing relationships. And why not? When you run your own program, you get to make the rules. You control everything. For example, with the right partner marketing technology, you can: 

  • Hand-pick your partners (and keep those relationships exclusive) 
  • Determine marketing policies and compliance rules 
  • Enforce your policies and rules how you see fit 
  • Build or integrate specialised tools 
  • Customise features, dashboards, reports, and more 
  • Choose and configure every detail of your program (pricing models, tracking methods, conversion windows, payout structures, fraud prevention measures, etc.) 

Competitive differentiation 

Finally, running your own program sets you apart from everyone else. You don’t have to choose from a set group of partners. Your program doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. You don’t have to offer the same types of commission rates or pricing models. That freedom to differentiate is a major advantage, and it may be all you need to stay a step ahead of your competitors. 

How to find out more 

While discovering and owning your relationships may seem like a lot to handle, there are resources available to help you out. For starters, check out the TUNE Blog, where you’ll find informative articles on affiliate programs and performance marketing. You can also reach out to one of our agency partners, who can fill you in on how they help run programs for brands like yours. 

And if you’re ready to take control of discovering and owning your partnerships, get started now with a free trial of TUNE

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