Just maybe, now is the right time for advertisers to think about partner development. Ask yourself, how can we drive incremental sales and add value to existing activity and affiliate programs?

Here we will aim to guide you on the must haves to diversify from this.

Therefore Let’s focus on three key areas: Ensuring you have the right publisher mix, maximising geography from local to global, and really thinking about what partnership success looks like (win-win-win):

1.The Publisher Mix

Start by answering some questions. Who is the end customer?  What do they like? Where do they shop? Where do they go online?  Which consumers are more valuable? That should in turn help you understand which partners to approach, and broaden your perspective from the traditional affiliates that everyone else works with to be more creative.

A typical breakdown of an affiliate programmes partners. High reliance on voucher and cashback.
(A typical partner contribution Acceleration Partners see when we consult with new clients)

Many brands find themselves stuck with a partner contribution like the example here.   It takes time, resource and expertise to understand the brand and find new, valuable partnerships. Brands need a partner development expert working with them to find success. The broad brush of traditional publisher development doesn’t cut it anymore. 

HS: “Every business knows that to be reliant on one revenue stream is risky; this is no different when considering your partnerships. If 80% of your revenue is coming through a handful of partners, it is high risk. Don’t wrongly assume we’re recommending reducing activity with top partners (usually cashback and voucher). The opposite is true; continue building relationships and value with these partnerships, but in addition build relationships with new partners and spread the risk. That’s just good business sense.” 

“Your customers have a broad range of interests, by discovering new partnerships you can target prospect customers that your existing partners are not yet reaching, unlocking new revenue in the process.”

To build on the point of diversification = it is also equally important to match brand to environment from a contextual point of view. Think Horses for Courses:

SA: “On brand partnerships- match the products to the audience environment. The right horse for the right course. The visual below is of course no way exhaustive, but it should set the scene on getting the right environment and context for the right product and/or offering”

A simple example previously shared in a webinar. By no means exhaustive.

SA: “Association and positioning is critical. Like any media buy context is king. For example, you are selling high fashion, do you really think you want your Luxury bag to be alongside a restaurant 2 for 1? Also don’t ignore the opportunity of brand awareness/tenancies. WIth the push of ROI across the board, it is easy to take actions to diminish the brand value. Think about how the affiliate channel can drive incrementality for the brand, far beyond just claiming the shorter-term 30-day attributed conversion. INvesting now will yield results and sustainability down the line”

2. Planning Locally & Globally

Two of the key trends of the pandemic in particular are the penchant for supporting local, and the removal of geography (essentially accessing a global customer base). Both represent exciting partnership opportunities:

Tap into local searches, and maximise the global commerce opportunity

SA: “Locale is so important, particularly now. Tap into the resonance. So important. Hyperlocal. Google are now charging for local listings, so if ever there was a time to wake up and realise how proximity is important – then it is surely now According to site Small Business.co.uk, 41% of people are more likely to trust local businesses- so make the most of this!”

HS: “In today’s online marketplace, there are no country borders. Your customers are from all over the world. Analysing your affiliate programme from a customer-centric view is vital.  If you only find partnerships from where you are based, this limits your opportunity and growth.  If your customers are from the US, China, or Italy, you can expand your programme by finding partners in these countries who are already engaging with your prospect customers.  

In short – get it right, the mix in one country/region/locale , then scale etc for the nextmarket (e.g. a playbook, or a franchisable model of success if dealing with multiple stakeholders on the ground in each market)

3. Win-Win is not enough – think WIN WIN WIN

In case you missed it, we’re bringing the success back round to the end consumer. That is the real benchmark for ‘the win.’

HS: “Looking at this from the end consumer perspective is simple, yet powerful.  As an industry, we’ve traditionally looked at it the wrong way round – Brand – Affiliate Partner – End Customer, when it should start with the end customer. To do this well, your partner development team/individual needs to get under the skin of your brand, understand your customers, products, culture and discover new partnerships that will appeal to your target market. The days of the Publisher Development working broadly across partners is over.  To be successful, each brand needs a bespoke, targeted approach.  I can see Partner Development teams outpacing account management teams as this approach becomes more and more successful.”

SA: “Respectfully, thinking your customers are similar is not enough. Because after all, if they are, they are probably aware of you anyway. Don’t you owe it to yourself to unlock new audiences? I cite the example of Kayak/First Choice in my inbox last Black Friday. The epitome of Win-Win-Win. Kayak are happy because they are the publisher monetising their database, First Choice are Happy as they are partnering with an ‘objective’ comparison site (gives them a subliminal edge), and I am of course happy (which is most important as the prospective customer) as I feel I have unlocked something of value as a Kayak subscriber”

WIN-WIN-WIN in the Inbox
WIN-WIN-WIN in the Inbox

How to recreate the Win x3? A couple more bits:

  1. Get to know and love the key brand moments of your partners. e.g: I implore the event calendar. Where the win win win comes in.
  2. Furthermore, Agency navigation secures partnership success. Be sure to work with this for the greater comms plan. Do not go against the grain of the communication message, work with it for true long term growth.
  3. Creative execution and meaningful imagery are key. Too many cooks can spoil the broth, however, the danger of any partnership with the conflation of two messaging tactics. Whether Big brand or small, the buyers’ mindset is focussed on the product and what it does for them at that time, so the imagery and messaging is key. It is a marketing 101 – but so often we see the proposition get diluted and ultimately lost through stock imagery or worse no imagery on the partner site. Then what?

Always Come Back to this Central Point – The Customer

Those brands finding success and growth in affiliate marketing are committing the time, resource and expertise to discovering, onboarding and activating new partnerships.  Whilst at the same time optimising existing partnerships. This is leading to substantial, and more importantly, incremental growth. 

Final point: partnership marketing is about an area of a market or customer base that you’re interested in selling to, by collaborating with a business who has that relationship with said target. So tap into their knowledge of their audience to help talk the language of their customers. Whether it be local or global, aligning your product and offer with the key environment will only serve to deliver sales in both the shorter and longer term.

About the Authors

Helen is the Managing Director for Acceleration Partners across EMEA and APAC. She has over 18 years of experience in the digital marketing sector working for high-growth companies. Helen previously served as Managing Director at affilinet, one of the largest European affiliate marketing networks and on the digital marketing team at Sky PLC. In her spare time she likes to cycle up and down hills and support her home football club, Norwich City.

Simon Akers is Founder of Archmon, a growth marketing consultancy that delivers actionable media strategies that deliver performance and new customers. Simon has been a contributor to PerformanceIn and the digital press over the last few years, documenting his experiences from over a decade working delivering demand gen and performance campaigns to some of the UK & world’s leading brands.