Recently, we looked at opportunities, drawbacks, and best practices for online influencer outreach. As a follow-up, I’d like to take a look at online influencer marketing’s cousin, affiliate marketing partnerships.
Affiliate marketing partnerships basically turn online influencer marketing on its head. Normally, you compensate an influential figure to recommend your brand, without knowing how successful it will be. With an affiliate marketing partnership, you only pay affiliates a portion of revenues generated by sales via the affiliate channels.
Because you’re only paying affiliates a commission for customer referrals that result in a sale, as Alison Chew at Acceleration Partners puts it, “this compensation structure consistently makes affiliate marketing one of the most cost-effective acquisition channels.” So, where should you start?
Features of Strong Affiliate Marketing Partnerships
Affiliate marketing presents a more mutually beneficial way to generate online sales than online influencer relationships. Its aim is a bit different, however–just like your strategy should be. Chew notes that “Affiliate programs are primarily designed for new customer acquisition and incremental revenue growth. Influencer marketing tends to be more focused on brand awareness.”
You need to gear a strong affiliate marketing partnership more toward promotions that will garner a customer response. Less, therefore, toward measuring the impact of the affiliate’s social reach. Strategic use of coupon codes, banner ads, special promotions, and, above all, relevant and up-to-date content, will make conversions much more likely.
In order to promote your brand and drive customer action, you also want to choose affiliates carefully. You can advertise anyplace you’d like, but something tells me it’s been a while (and by a while, I mean never) since you clicked on an ad for golf clubs while reading the morning news on the train. You should carefully tailor your affiliate marketing partnerships to your brand’s niche, just like online influencer relationships. Seek out websites that complement your market, and determine the kinds of promotions that will best fit.
Steve Olenski, writing for Forbes, suggests, “The best way to think about affiliate marketing is quality over quantity. There are lots of small websites that will promote your product, but the key is finding a small number of partners that will deliver conversions… Stay in line with the goals and mission statement of your company and find affiliates who understand the relevance of working in a market where you are comfortable.”
Where to Start: Options for Affiliate Marketing
One important decision is whether to join multiple affiliate networks, or stick to just a few. Proceed with caution, especially at first. More is not always better. The folks at Acceleration Partners note, “Many retailers with affiliate programs have been sold on the idea that they should run their programs on multiple affiliate networks. They think that with more networks, they will have more reach and, in turn, will drive additional sales. While this logic seems sound and there are certainly cases where multiple networks can add value, for the majority of e-commerce players multiple networks can add unnecessary complexity and unintended consequences without reaching the desired objective.”
So, where should you begin? Amazon Associates is one of the first online affiliate marketing programs. They have a long track record of developing advertising solutions, and Amazon is a great place to start.
Here is a comprehensive list of top affiliate marketing networks to help you consider which direction might be best for you.