Potentially having a touchpoint across multiple digital channels, affiliate marketing has become incredibly important to companies online.
Over 80% of brands and 84% of publishers now say they have or are launching an active affiliate program.
So, by not having one you are losing traction to your competitors. While also missing out on the huge number of publishers partnering with brands through the channel.
If you need more convincing. Here are 21 reasons you should be launching an affiliate program this year.
1. Low-Cost Launch
A few years ago, there were higher costs and/or barriers to starting an affiliate program.
Now, it seems like every affiliate network has seen the opportunity with SME’s and reduced entry costs as a result.
The benefit for companies looking to launch a program is it is now as cost-effective as ever to start. All you need is an active website and the ability to add some tracking to go live with a very basic program.
For brands with limited resources, partnering with an affiliate network can take a lot of the time and hassle away from the team. With a ton of affiliates seeking new advertisers to work with, you can plug and play with minimum effort at the start.
The beauty of paying on performance means the affiliate channel can largely be a very low-risk marketing channel.
Affiliates will earn their commission based on a pre-defined remuneration for customer actions on the company’s website. This could vary from signing up for a free trial or newsletter to placing an order.
So, unlike other digital channels whereby the cost is paid upfront by the brand without the resulting on-site action being guaranteed. Affiliate marketing flips that on its head to deliver a robust, low-risk performance model.
3. Multiple Payment Models
Not every company is created equal. As a result, not all affiliate programs should be carbon copies of each other.
A key benefit to the affiliate channel is the ability to cater your program to different payment models. So, if you are service-led you might want to offer a commission on a lead or phone call. Whereas typically, eCommerce businesses take advantage of the usual cost per sale model.
These payment models not only align with the company but offer publishers multiple different ways to earn their commission.
You might feel for example that publishers should be paid on various models to better incentivise customer acquisition alongside orders.
4. Targeted Traffic
Aside from the behemoth affiliates with huge audiences. There is a vast pool of affiliates that specialise in particular niches. It is these small or mid-size affiliates that could prove a goldmine to brands.
A camera company for example could target a blogger that reviews photography equipment. His engaged audience is ideal for the brand and could cost a lot less to target than in other digital marketing channels.
The bonus is that they will be warm leads. They trust the blogger and the products he recommends. So, would seem like the perfect partnership to me.
Without data, the affiliate channel would not be successful. The ability to efficiently gain knowledge of what partners are driving orders and which aren’t can improve decision making.
Over time, affiliate tracking has improved dramatically. Now giving us the ability to not only see the product, order, impression and clicks from campaigns. But, give insight on an affiliates influence within the customer’s purchase journey.
This crucial information can build better strategies and attribution models. With the overall vision to make the channel as profitably successful as possible.
6. B2B Partnerships
A trend that we have seen a lot recently is the influx of B2B partnerships facilitated through the affiliate channel.
Harnessing expert data that can record performance, brands can utilise another company’s audience base for mutual benefit.
By picking a brand that has a nice affinity to your own is a great starting point. Although, opportunities can be found all over if the proposition is right.
Harry’s for example offered their products as part of another company’s loyalty program – read more.
As a starting point, understand trends in your customer data. This can help focus the mind on what kind of brand might fit well with yours.
7. High ROI
The affiliate channel consistently outranks other digital channels for its return on investment (ROI).
This is due in part to the nature of some of the affiliate partners. Big order driving partners are sitting lower in the sales funnel where purchase intent is higher. Utilising them can help deliver a larger volume of orders. With payment only being given on a purchase (in most cases), the onus is on the affiliate partner to succeed.
Something I champion about affiliate marketing is how it can interact and benefit other marketing channels.
SEO is a multi-faceted beast. But, a key element of it is building a backlink strategy that starts with identifying sites with high domain ranking.
Thankfully the affiliate channel has a large pool of websites that have a high domain rank. For example, Daily Mail has a domain authority of around 94 (out of 100). Brands can take advantage of this by working directly with them or through their coupon partnership with Global Savings Group.
9. Brand Awareness
Brand affinity can go a long way in persuading a customer to purchase from a website. Getting your brand listed on key sites that have a mix of larger and small companies can benefit your brand.
A customer might never come across your site. But, by partnering with an affiliate, you can get your brand listed alongside more well-known companies. Whereby a better proposition can help to steal a customer away so they buy from you instead.
10. Brand Ambassadors
Like our aforementioned photography blogger. The affiliate channel gives brands access to a big opportunity when it comes to ambassadors and influencers.
The key to success is to look at the affiliate channel as a payment model. You can still have your PR or marketing teams recruiting and working with ambassadors. But, what the affiliate channel enables all teams to do is pay the influencers a recurring fee based on performance.
This can be tailored into negotiations or a sidenote to encourage post-coverage engagement. But, knowing they can earn residual income from pre-existing content can be a real winner to influencers.
Additionally, rather than hunting through Google Analytics or assigning vanity metrics to warrant adulation. The affiliate tracking enables everyone to easily (and quickly) see the success of a campaign in real-time.
There is no fudging the numbers with affiliates.
11. Foreign Markets
When a brand wants to launch into a new market, there can often be a lot of costs.
To reduce marketing spend, you can use your network to recruit market-specific affiliates to promote your products. Tapping into their expertise can help to gain valuable feedback on your company and proposition from those that know the market better than you.
Based on this feedback, brands can cater their proposition to the new market and scale marketing to support it.
12. Publisher Mix
A misconception of the affiliate channel is that it is just full of coupon and cashback sites. Yes, there are some huge partners in this space, but there is a wealth of other publishers that a brand can tap into.
Is Google Shopping proving expensive? There is an affiliate for that
Are you struggling to convert customers on your site? There is an affiliate for that
Do you want to target parents specifically? There is an affiliate for that
Don’t just scratch the surface of what types of affiliates are available. Otherwise, you are going to miss out on the full publisher mix and the potential for more orders.
13. Diversify Income Streams
Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. Only relying on SEO or social media can put you at the mercy of a Google or Facebook algorithm update.
Successful online marketing should be an assorted mix of efforts driving brand awareness and sales. Affiliates can deliver both and enable you to diversify which channels are driving your growth.
Once you have a good selection of channels working together, you can scale or reduce each one based on their KPI results.
14. Incentivise Your Partners
Should you want to scale other digital channels, there may be a requirement to invest more money upfront.
With affiliates, there is the golden opportunity to use different incentives to engage and grow your program. Offering your partners performance-based rewards can ensure you see improved results without an upfront cost.
Your incentives could be around a first-order bonus or a league table of sales. Either way, as long as it fits within your budget it can be a carrot to partners wanting to earn more than just a standard commission.
Take note of your competitors and if they offer any incentives. If not, this could be a great way to make your program stand out and to engage with partners working across both brands.
15. Support Wider Brand Marketing
Tapping into the audiences that affiliates have can supercharge your marketing efforts.
Should you be running a promotion, for customers to see it, they typically have to already be engaged with your brand.
With large audiences (some millions in size), affiliate partners can push your promotion to a much wider set of eyes. As long as the costs are right. The ROI brands can see off the back of affiliate paid promotions can far outweigh that of other channels.
16. Seasonal Partners
Not only can certain affiliates help you bring greater awareness to your wider brand marketing. Seasonal partners can also enable your company to stand out at congested times of the year.
Capitalising on the search intent around key marketing dates such as Black Friday. Niche affiliates have built their entire model around being most visible at these times.
By purchasing related domains or building out their SEO strategy to target this holiday. They have managed to create a presence year after year.
Brands can then book coverage exposure with these partners to get their business in front of customers with high search intent at these marketing dates.
Aside from Black Friday. You could seek out affiliates that target Christmas gifting or New Year health kicks.
Not all companies have an endless resource of expertise to manage all their digital channels.
Barring some time, in the beginning, there is an element of auto-pilot that can be applied to certain affiliate programs.
As long as you have onboarded the right partners and typically those operating in the lower end of the sales funnel (like cashback and coupon). If you concentrate your efforts on upper-funnel brand awareness there will be a trickle-down effect to your affiliate program.
This though could result in only a handful of orders and is a method of affiliate management I wouldn’t recommend. It would be a huge missed opportunity not to engage with the full suite of publishers. As they can usually deliver far better ROI results than other channels.
Taking note of the above point and how a program on auto-pilot can result in a huge missed opportunity. It’s important to caveat that your affiliate program can be as large or small as you wish.
Should you want to only onboard and work with a handful of publishers regularly, then that is your decision.
There is no minimum or maximum amount of affiliates to work with.
Just remember, the larger the program, the more work it can be. It takes time to onboard, engage and incentivise affiliates. So, to maintain the standards of a great program you might want to limit your number of affiliates.
19. Resource Cost Savings
Dependent on the partner, I have always found a willingness for affiliates to take on a lot of the resource for running campaigns.
Brands have to balance the internal time of developers, designers as well as senior management. So, anywhere resource time can be saved can be a blessing for a company, especially an SME.
Through network integrations, affiliates have removed the need for developers to add complicated scripts onto your site.
Other affiliates will happily create the assets or content needed to launch a campaign on your behalf.
Removing just these two elements can speed up the launch of campaigns while removing the need for any potentially valuable resource time.
20. Manage Expensive Digital Channels
When we look at the affiliate channel as a payment model rather than just a channel. It enables us to see how it can be a cost-effective way to scale our marketing efforts.
As we mentioned before, there is a wide mix of affiliate partners. Working with certain partners can ensure brands test or run digital channels on a different cost model.
PPC is a good example of this. Since Google opened up the shopping platform to third-party CSS partners, affiliates have taken advantage. By offering the chance to run Google shopping on a CPA instead of a CPC model it becomes much more palatable to brands.
Not only that, these CSS affiliates are managing multiple campaigns. So, you are combining expertise with a better payment model to help scale your paid search activity.
21. Traffic Volumes
Ultimately, as online companies, we want to bring as much traffic to our site for the cheapest cost.
That is why channels like email and social are so valuable. In essence, by removing the time they take to optimise, they become free traffic. Or rather, traffic with little or no cost associated.
With channels such as CPC and Display, brands are paying for the privilege of driving traffic to their site. A huge risk if no one converts.
Affiliate marketing, done right, can be a fantastic way to deliver large volumes of traffic to your site at minimum costs.
Contrary to belief, that doesn’t always mean working with the largest sites. Yes, they have the chance to send huge swathes of traffic from a single placement. But, that placement would come at a significant cost.
Alternatively, working with a mix of small and medium affiliates in different ways can help keep traffic consistent, while minimising costs. This could be gifting a blogger or offering a higher commission to a content site.
With adequate testing and learning, you can find the best partners for delivering engaged traffic at the lowest cost.
The flexible and cost-effective nature of the affiliate channel can enable you to test with minimum risk.
Then over time with the right management, you can nurture it to be a vital digital channel for your company. On average, affiliates can drive 10-25% of online sales with a very strong ROI.
So, no matter whether you are looking to start a small program or are hoping to create a greater buzz. The affiliate channel could and should be a vital element of your online marketing strategy.