As the original performance marketing channel, affiliate marketing has been effectively driving performance-based sales since the mid-90s. But the characteristics of an effective affiliate program have changed dramatically over the years. Whether marketers choose a closed or open affiliate program, or optimize their program monthly or annually, they should view affiliates differently today than they have in the past.
When evaluating the worth of any affiliate in any given program, ask yourself questions that consider the increasingly mobile, social and local reality of today’s online world. A few starting point questions include the following:
- Do your affiliates actively work for you?
- Do your affiliates develop content around your products/categories to improve natural search exposure?
- Do they generate new traffic/users to your site, both online and offline?
- Do they use social networks like Facebook or Twitter to encourage brand interaction?
In some cases, the onus falls on marketers to do more to empower affiliates — i.e., arming them with vital brand information to help them drive high-quality sales and more volume. That includes the following:
- insights on what the best-selling products are;
- seasonal issues to be aware of, including holidays;
- dates of catalog drops;
- seasonal product lines;
- anything unique about the marketer’s products;
- proven tactics that have worked with customers; and
- the type of conversion rates typically experienced.
Marketers should proactively provide affiliates with this critical merchandising information to help them work effectively for their brands.
Give affiliates relevant and timely content, such as how-to articles, important/relevant trends and customer reviews. Provide affiliates with compelling creative assets, including valuable promotions and special offers. Offering great resources for content can help affiliates perform better on natural search and/or increase the clickthrough rate of an advertiser’s promotions by establishing credibility with prospects.
Likely the most substantial change affiliates have had to deal with in recent years is the emergence of social media. Social media has opened up many new opportunities for affiliates. Marketers should seek out affiliate partners that add value by actively embracing this new medium.
Social media offers affiliates an additional distribution channel to interact with consumers. Similar to brands, affiliates use social media to gain followers, generate traffic, distribute offers and promotions, and drive conversions for retailers. Social media enables affiliates to engage more with consumers than ever before, creating deeper relationships with consumers who opt in as brand advocates by becoming fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Seek out affiliate partners with loyal user bases; social media prowess often provides a good indication of this loyalty.
Careful consideration to these crucial questions will help marketers better understand which affiliates are their best channel partners and which might have the most untapped potential. After all, the original performance marketing channel is here to stay. Updating one’s view of the channel will help you remain strong and keep a competitive edge.
* Special thanks to contributing authors Leo Dalakos and Megan Halscheid of Performics.