When it comes to affiliate marketing, it can be difficult to know whether you’re getting the most out of what you’re putting in. From attribution models to budget analysis, there’s a lot to keep on top of and measure.

Luckily, with some best practise knowledge and tips, you can better optimise your budget to see maximum return. 

Know your strategy

If you know what works, you know where to bolster your budget. A budget that works smarter, goes further. Instead of throwing tenancy all over to anyone that can offer you a homepage banner, or an email solus, step back, and think. Is this the right audience? Is there anything you can factor into your strategy that would make the investment work harder? Are you able to offer something bespoke that the audience of Paul’s DIY Demo’s will find more of an affinity with rather than a generic bit of messaging or promo? 

And remember, rate card prices are exactly that. Rate cards. Feel free to try and barter, add incentives if goals are reached based on a performance basis, and you’re rewarding your affiliates for delivering and exceeding anticipated results – it’s a win/win!

Validate results efficiently  

You’ll never be looking after your budget if you aren’t validating efficiently and accurately. I’ve audited three affiliate accounts in the past three months, and none of them were validating sales. Whether there was no awareness of being able to validate or the assumption that product returns were so low it wasn’t necessary, it’s essentially wasted money basing your validation process on an assumption.

It’s all well and good implementing a top tier strategy, but if you aren’t validating the results you achieve, to understand their impact on your bottom line, you’ll be blinded by an inaccurate picture that can hugely skew your future plans.

Analyse your budget regularly 

Now you’ve got to the bottom of your real, validated results, it’s time to try and understand what they mean. Do you simply spend most of your budget through your commission, do you aim to layer in tenancy?

No affiliate campaign will ever flourish if it ticks along. If you aren’t optimising the rest of your campaign, you can be sure your budget isn’t being optimised either. Are you paying too much, or too little, to affiliates based on your commission structure? A key area that most campaigns fall short on is their commission structure. Having a basic, flat % for all publishers, of all types, is simply not reflective of a mature programme. Yes, there are definitely times that this is a valid structure, but have you made sure that there’s a clear reason for that? 

Amending your commission structure to reward higher AoV baskets, greater margin products, or reducing the incentive for lower-margin products and free trials is a way to mix things up and prevent stagnation. As long as you make sure you communicate changes and make any changes with valid, and systematic reasoning, you can’t go wrong!

Use multi-touch attribution

So, all that analysis you’ve just done…is it actually out-dated? It depends, is your attribution model out-dated?

Not all affiliates are created equal, but neither are all attribution models. If you can assign value based on pre-de-duplicated last-click numbers, the chances are, your numbers somewhere along the line are misrepresented. Have you reviewed your results across several different models, first-click, multi-touch, and compared them with your other channels, to understand how they work in tandem?

Multi-touch attribution will give you far more insight as to what your affiliates are driving in real terms, their overall contribution to the life cycle of a customer, rather than seeing the channel as a “goal-hanger” or a conversion stealer.

If you know what value specific affiliates are assigned throughout that customer journey, you can make a conscious decision as to whether you invest more in affiliates who drive more revenue on a multi-touch model as opposed to a last-click model, or vice versa.

Assign a true value to publishers 

Ultimately, the most important way for you to improve efficiency in your affiliate campaign is to assign a true value to your publishers. If Vera’s Vouchers wasn’t on your programme, would you be losing sales from the channel, and wider digital? If you’d lose these sales completely, and they’re seeing a palatable ROI, you need to offer these publishers more. As I’ve already touched on, whether this is through a giveaway, free items, incentives (monetary or otherwise), bespoke terms, or something else – the possibilities are almost endless really.

Publisher value isn’t resigned exclusively to strong ROI or revenue though. By value, I’m not just talking about revenue and ROI. Yes, these metrics and crucial important overall, but are there specific publishers that could get your brand in front of the right audience, that isn’t being utilised, simply because they have a low ROI.

No affiliate campaign works in a silo of other marketing channels, so if you’re able to look at key traffic driving affiliates, who have highly relevant and targeted audiences, then you should be working with them without a moment’s hesitation. Getting potential users to site is highly important and will allow your other remarketing activity to pick up on them and re-engage them if they didn’t convert at the first touchpoint. Which, again, comes back to the importance of an equally rewarding attribution model to reflect this.

So, there you have it – five tips for optimising your affiliate marketing budget. Which one of these will you be implementing first?