The recent pandemic, the closure of many high street stores and the rise of direct to consumer brands have all contributed to an influx of new affiliate programs.
Once maligned, the affiliate channel has now become a key marketing channel for brands. The industry has a low barrier to entry alongside a performance-based model which is easy to understand. This enables brands to see results quickly and scale efficiently to maximise ROI.
But, this newfound love for the affiliate channel from advertisers and publishers alike, comes with it, increased competition.
Awin alone saw 9,000 new advertisers join their networks in 2020.
With all these brands vying for publisher attention, how do you make your program stand out from the crowd?
The first step is to put yourself in the publisher’s shoes. Instead of looking at your affiliate program in isolation, start to understand how a publisher would differentiate one from another.
Not every affiliate is a big multi-million turnover coupon site. Some might need additional support or knowledge to get started. Others may need tips on how to improve their conversions.
Here are my ideas on how you can make your program more appealing to publishers.
1. High Commission Rates
Dependent on your budget, commissions are a great way to entice affiliates. It is the foremost payment model that the industry is known for, so use it to your advantage.
Before any program goes live, a competitor analysis is crucial to gain its potential success. Based on your budgets, how do your planned commission rates and incentives stack up against competitors?
If you are way below the average in your category. Then chances are you will find it hard when recruiting.
In an ideal world, you would blow your competitors out of the water with a high commission rate. But, that isn’t always possible. So, look how you could do high rates for a limited time (say for launch) or only with a select number of publishers.
Remember high commission rates are not only appealing to publishers. As cashback sites translate this to the customer, it can also help to drive orders.
2. Faster Payouts
Having been a publisher myself for several years, I know how tedious and long it can be to get your commission payout.
Once an order is validated in the network, it then has to pass through both the networks and the brand’s finance procedures before being allocated to your account.
Thankfully there are ways to speed this up.
Firstly networks can allow brands to access an API that will automatically approve a valid transaction. This reduces the manual side of validations in the hope of speeding up the process.
Secondly, if you have consistent return or cancellation rates, you can factor this into your commission rates. This could result in a lower rate to absorb the declined orders, but will allow you to auto-validate all sales.
Just be mindful that your network would need a robust anti-fraud detector to ensure no one takes advantage of this.
The default commission rate is only one way you can make your program appealing to affiliates.
I would recommend layering incentives on this based on particular actions to give affiliates more ways to earn.
These incentives could take the form of monthly leaderboards or even just rewarding traffic or banner targets. Look at your budget and publisher mix to start generating ideas on how you could incentivise better.
4. Payment Models
Yes, the CPA/CPS model is the most recognised payment option with affiliates. But, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it in isolation.
If your customer acquisition in other channels follows a flow that involves a newsletter sign up or free trial, you could introduce this.
Again, this could be an incentive or even a separate cost per lead program. Either way, it will enable you to use the affiliate channel to hit your wider digital marketing targets.
5. Full Circle Marketing
The problem a lot of brands have is that they silo each digital channel. Not realising how the work in one channel can benefit another and ultimately the business as a whole.
What is great about the affiliate channel is the diverse range of publishers. From bloggers and influencers to large online magazines and even key worker focused platforms.
Why not shout about all the great stuff your affiliate channel is doing?
Feature your articles and blog posts on social or tell your audience base how they can now get an exclusive NHS discount.
This can help to forge relationships as it brings much-needed eyeballs to a publisher which will help them to grow. As they grow, the potential for success with every campaign with them increases as well.
When you look at affiliate marketing as a payment model, not a channel, you can start to break out of silos and your brand will be better for it.