Affiliate marketing is ideal for SMEs – you’ll never pay more than you can afford based on your profit margins and as all activity is performance-driven – you’ll never pay unless you make a sale.

Ahead of an exciting release coming from PerformanceIN this week, we spoke to Seth Rubin, Managing Director of Grow, TradeDoubler’s SME business. He spoke to us about Grow and why these products aimed at the SME market are so useful.

What’s the best way to recruit new partners for my stores affiliate programme?

What we tend to forget is that most of the micro/SME type businesses that enter the affiliate world assume that the channel is much like other marketing channels; they assume that they can simply sign-up and, out of nowhere, the networks’ partners will start driving sales for them. 

They are often mis-sold in that they aren’t aware of the work needed to launch and run their programmes. Likewise, experienced and established brands look to migrate/create mature programmes where they focus a lot on affiliate recruitment, working closely with their network partners to build substantial (often wasteful) affiliate bases.

For me, start-up and SME brands should initially look at conversion-type affiliates, and in doing so, generate sales for their programmes from the beginning. Therefore, the best way to recruit new partners is to first identify a handful of partners that you want to work with initially and reach out to them directly. Grow provides automated suggestions and an in-platform message centre that encourages one-to-one communication between affiliates and advertisers and facilitates this initial recruitment effort.

Should I permit voucher code and cashback sites onto my new affiliate programme from the outset?

Absolutely. Whilst simply listing on their sites will likely not provide the anticipated volumes that most small businesses, without established brands would assume, there is definitely benefit in partnering with these incentive sites. Certain markets are better than others in this regard, as an example, the average UK consumer is quite savvy, often finding their product then searching for an incentive to buy from a specific store.

Additionally, once you’re listed on these sites you can then engage with the affiliate to run additional campaigns or take out tenancies that will create more exposure for your brand and ultimately promote your business to their vast user bases, in turn, generating more traffic and sales for your programme.

What is a mistake you often see SMEs making when they first get started with affiliate marketing?

I think the biggest mistake is that they often under-estimate the amount of work involved in running a successful affiliate programme. I’m not sure where it comes from or why they believe that it’s like a “set and forget” type activity when it’s really the total opposite.

People that work at smaller businesses, where resources are limited are usually pretty good at wearing many hats but are also usually very time poor. So, they often can’t focus on their affiliate programs, which usually comes as an addition to their already stacked workload.

One of the biggest operational mistakes I see regularly is where a merchant will create a really strong voucher code and set it as generic for all publishers. They assume that because they have such a great discount available, they’ll generate more sales – sure this could happen, but it isn’t very tactical and probably won’t add much incrementality to their figures.

There’s also this myth, especially for a start-up brand, that the more publishers they have the more sales they’ll generate. So, brands will spend the little time they have reaching out to as many publishers as they can and try onboard them all at once. Yes, there’s no denying that a diversified affiliate portfolio is beneficial and the ultimate goal, the first step should be to meet and onboard the top publishers that will drive sales for you immediately and that have the experience and resources to help you get a swift start.

Can you give an example of an SME you think has made great progress through affiliate marketing?

One of the coolest things I’ve seen at Grow is the use of influencer marketing for small, single product brands. We have a client that sells gym wear for ladies and only uses influencers to promote his products. They have about 20 or so on their books that drive ridiculous amounts of sales for them on a pure CPA basis.

Another very successful programme that started with nothing is one that runs on Grow that resells courier services. They have built a very successful affiliate programme using our product and platform and have a well-established and diversified publisher base that Grows each month and delivers new ongoing opportunities for them.

The third example that comes to mind is a mask manufacturer that initially launched with us during the height of the pandemic and who have successfully built their businesses using affiliate marketing across all their channels – pushing the risk onto their affiliates but rewarding them with fantastic CPAs. They have done so well in the UK that they’ve just launched with us in the US as well.

What tips can you provide to avoid fraudulent transactions?

Know your affiliates – start off working with established, well-known partners that you trust and monitor your sales activity closely. They are well-known brands in their own rights and do a lot, on their side too, to prevent this kind of thing. This is key to preventing any untoward activity on your programme and allows you to flag anything that looks awry with your network and the affiliates in question as soon as it happens.

I do think that fraud is less prevalent than it was, say 10 years ago, and as an industry, networks have got a lot better at dealing with this kind of thing. We’re also quite fortunate at Grow as our reporting and transaction modelling is so good that any abnormalities are picked up very quickly and addressed almost instantly.

Grow has a lot of unique features and innovations that you won’t find in other SME offerings. Whilst other networks essentially offer a small business/self-service SLA on top of their existing platforms the Grow platform was designed with small and SME businesses in mind and the tools and automation powering it is key to its popularity (and success). It’s therefore difficult to identify a single, most popular, feature of the product.

What I do think is that our in-built messaging system is very popular. It is so widely used; we see thousands of conversations happening each day across all our markets that enables our advertisers to work more closely with their affiliate partners. Removing the middleman and enabling such communication between parties is key to any self-service platform – after all, what’s the point of sending bulk communication to all your affiliates if their needs and opportunities are all different.

There’s something exciting coming – this week, PerformanceIN will be releasing something new with the sole purpose of aiding SMEs in getting started with affiliate marketing. Keep your eyes peeled and sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date.