I have worked in and around affiliate marketing for a decade and I’m a passionate proponent of the value it creates. The performance-based marketing channel is one of the the most efficient and lowest risk channels that advertisers can work in, and every piece of incrementality testing I’ve seen shows affiliate to be of a similar level of incremental value to other performance channels. 

When used effectively (as opposed to setting it and forgetting it) traditional affiliates such as voucher and cashback sites drive not only large volumes of sales, but also more new customers or increased frequency of purchase for existing customers, or more high margin purchases. These affiliates, however, have got different needs, from both technical and strategic perspective, to other types of partnerships. 

The term partnerships is important because it encompasses a much wider array of partner types. Affiliate is one of these types, but there’s a dozen others; brand-to-brand partnerships, influencers, software integrations, in-app, media houses, social responsibility – the list goes on. These different types of modern digital partnerships are all distinct and all provide a unique opportunity to create value for your business. 

Why does it matter?

You might be wondering why the labeling matters, or if indeed it does. Why can’t we just say media houses are a type of affiliate, or influencers or brand-to-brand partnerships? The reason why it matters is because these partnership types all have a separate and discrete set of needs. To bundle them together is to fail to recognise not only the different strategies required to achieve success with those partner types, but also the technological requirements. 

Imagine trying to work with influencers through an affiliate network. Are you going to wait for the most relevant influencer to your niche to sign up to that network independently so that you can find them in your network recruitment searches? Or should you instead use that platform integrated with Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and so on, so that you can seek out those influencers based on their vertical or their hashtags and then communicate with them in their own environment?

The same is true for each partnership type. Each necessitates a different form of outreach, a different form of remuneration, and a different strategy. A flexible technology platform is fundamental to achieving this. If your tech can’t keep up with the varied needs, you can’t execute the varied strategies required to make a success of each partnership type. 

There’s no denying the value of affiliate marketing and nor would we want to. The channel continues to grow around the world and help hundreds of thousands of brands achieve their goals. But affiliate marketing is just one arm of partner marketing, so make the most out of each type of partnership with their different needs, different audiences and enormous growth potential.