So, you want to get the most out of your affiliate channel within your business. Or maybe you’re looking to pitch investment in the channel to a brand that’s never tried dipping their toes in before. To sell your channel and get buy-in from any key stakeholder, you need to give your audience something they want to buy. 

Impressing your boss

Let’s start with your boss. Depending on your position, your ‘boss’ may be internal, client-side, or even C-suite. Money and achievement of set goals (which are usually money, profit or growth-based) always win in the heart of any businessperson. 

It is key to remind them that the affiliate channel is, first and foremost, performance-based. Partners are only paid when they drive valued action, and what that action is is completely determined by you! The channel is renowned for being the most cost-effective in the digital marketing mix, with traditionally the lowest cost of sale. What’s not to love about that?

This focus on money is a selling point with certainty for any prospective client and for your boss. When pitching your channel for investment, look for quick-win ways you can save your business or client money. For example, you could identify budget-saving methods through optimising the sales info tracking through your affiliate network or tech platform. 

This was an immediate win for one of our luxury homeware brands, with a prospective £84,000 annual saving too good to ignore. One quick, cost-saving win can open the door to more you and your channel can offer. It works long term, too. Major ticketing brand ATG saved £400,000 over a four-year period, and a leading sportswear brand saved £100,000 in their first year.

Be specific in what the affiliate channel can offer

The bread and butter of the affiliate channel is its ability to increase volumes of new customers for even the most far-reaching brand. 

When you think about booking a train, you may automatically think Trainline. For a company so synonymous with its product, you may think the opportunity for expanding their audience reach is surely impossible. That’s where investment in the affiliate channel comes in. 

Trainline used the channel to incentivise consumers who hadn’t considered them as an option before to finally spend with them. Incentive affiliates offer new customers a reason to spend, and earn money themselves, donate back to charity and more. Key, too, was to not only hook in these new customers, but to get them to download the app and solidify the brand as part of their everyday train purchasing process. They tailored the channel’s incentive capabilities to achieve these goals, leveraging affiliate incentives to drive app installs. This strategic focus saw a 38% uplift through the affiliate channel YoY for Trainline at the start of 2020.

This tactic may not be enough to get those more experienced ears on side, however. Those who have been in the marketing game for some time tend to associate the term ‘affiliate’ with lower-funnel sales with no incremental value. If you’re looking to get your channel noticed, showcase its successes and gain buy-in with investment – it’s time to re-frame.

Re-frame the “traditional” affiliate narrative

The affiliate channel is much more than just another paid marketing channel. It’s a framework for managing and leveraging partnerships of any shape and size. 

Re-frame and sell it as a partnership channel. The use of the channel’s performance model, as well as the access this gives to detailed tracking and reporting, allows you to leverage and optimise partnerships to their fullest. Brands gain the ability to see a holistic view on channel performance, and where partners and other channel touchpoints fit into the overall customer journey. 

So, shift the focus to measurement of success through valuable metrics such as Lifetime Value (LTV). Consider how your affiliate partners can drive the incentivising of repeat purchase, how you can use content-based partners and review site partners to educate audiences on the lifetime benefits of your brand’s service or product. 

One example of a brand doing this and reaping the benefits is one of our subscription clients. As a business, they now consider the affiliate channel as their most profitable channel, looking at the bigger picture of LTV of the customers their huge variety of partners are pushing through the door. 

They continue to see increasing YoY growth globally, currently sitting at a +121% YoY uplift for their affiliate channel alone for 2020 to date. There’s your incremental value. And because that’s proven, the channel has the highest budget investment with an ability now to pursue globally leading partnerships and creative campaigns, positioning themselves ultimately as a market-leading brand.

How the partnership approach can work for everyone

What if it’s not all about money (bear with us) and your brand or your client is looking to maintain a position of luxury? ‘Affiliate’ may seem like a dirty word in that world. However, looking from a partnership angle, the channel can be used to drive brand awareness, audience growth and engagement while maintaining brand integrity. 

One brand adopting this stance is Plum Guide. The current climate has not been kind to travel, and even harder for the luxury travel sector. In spite of this, Plum Guide have seen the potential of partnerships via the affiliate channel as an opportunity to build brand awareness, promote their expanding staycation offering and leave their name in the minds of jetsetters for their future travels. They witnessed content partners driving an 80% increase in clicks in the first month; brand awareness based-data can be used to retarget to customers who have shown interest at a later date – ensuring the brand isn’t missing out on any opportunity.

The adoption of a partnership framework for affiliates makes content partnerships a mutually beneficial proposition. Commitment to ensuring you’re paying and rewarding partners for their contribution through flexible, attribution-based affiliate rewards can prove invaluable. Our client, ATG, and their cohort of close content partners provide the perfect example here. Their commitment to this framework resulted in over 70% contribution to affiliate channel performance from key content partners.

Collaboration is key!

So, now you’ve got buy-in from the boss, how do you now get buy-in from your peers? You’re pitching partnerships, but how do you make sure you don’t step on anyone’s toes? 

Reframe again. The affiliate channel is a partnership ecosystem, working holistically across all brand marketing channels. Commit to collaborating with other channels to achieve a common goal. A solid example of this comes from a key partner site, Totum. On receiving a market-leading offer from one of our brands, they shared this with the wider business, encouraging them to shout about it via their channels: paid social, organic social, direct mail, on-site. This resulted in the offer reaching many more customers at all touchpoints, boosting performance for everyone. 

Since engaging in this collaborative approach, Totum have seen an impressive 440% uplift in performance for our client through the channel. Collaboration, done right, can only be a win win!

By tailoring your message to your audience, whether that’s your boss, a client, or even your colleagues, you can demonstrate the value investment in the affiliate channel and maximise your results.