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AFFILIATE MARKETING

How Brands Can Use Affiliate Marketing to Increase Their Marketing ROI

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How Brands Can Use Affiliate Marketing to Increase Their Marketing ROI


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Getting a strong return on a marketing investment: It keeps a lot of people up at night. How will the money spent on that PR firm translate into sales dollars? How will that huge advertising campaign that cost a million dollars impact your brand? For most marketing initiatives, determining ROI is an unpredictable waiting game with no guaranteed outcome.

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There’s one marketing model that plays by a different set of rules, however — rules based on paying for performance after results have been driven. Affiliate marketing, once viewed as a shot in the dark, is driven today by sophisticated technology, transparency between partners and compensation tied to specific, measurable results.

Related: How This Affiliate Marketer Learned Enough About His Craft to Strike Out on His Own

That said, a successful affiliate program requires the right experience and partners. Whether you’re looking to start an affiliate program or take an existing program to the next level, you need a strong team behind you. Here are the five players you need to ensure you’re driving the affiliate ROI you want:

1. An Agency

Unless your company has the resources and bandwidth to build a team of several people with extensive affiliate marketing knowledge and experience, hiring an agency is the best option. Agency marketers are experienced at handling the multifaceted complexities that come with building and growing a high-performing program.

Make sure you’re clearly looking at the agency’s setup, ensuring it’s based on performance. I once saw a speech by Robert Glazer, the CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global affiliate marketing company. He wrote a book called “Performance Partnerships,” which focused on aligning any affiliate program with performance. It’s easy to fall for the trap of working with a company that says it will bring you sales, but make sure it puts its money where its mouth is. If it doesn’t deliver in the short term, chances are high it might not be able to meet long-term expectations.

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2. A Scalable Network or Platform

Whether it’s an affiliate network or SaaS platform, all affiliate marketing programs need a technology platform to run on. Your platform should be able to support your growth plans and offer you the right features and geographical coverage, particularly if yours is a global brand.

Awin is an example of this type of platform. The firm provides technology that helps address industry challenges, such as third-party tracking, data light tracking, attribution and advanced commissioning. These types of data weren’t available years ago, but with new tech advances, you can identify what works, as well as when and why. It’s not just valuable for the affiliate program, but for also learning what works so you can apply that knowledge to different sales channels.

3. Loyalty Partners

If you want to scale your program quickly, you’ll need to partner with players who are focused on establishing loyal customers. Ebates is one of the bigger players in the loyalty sector operating on a performance basis. The brand is actively expanding its markets and its categories beyond retail to include travel, dining and ride-sharing for cash-back rewards.

It’s important to determine whether these types of partners will truly create loyalty or attract the wrong types of customers. If you pick the right type of loyalty partner, it can result in the strong, loyal customer base that’s key to long-term brand survival.

Related: How Loyalty Programs Are Emerging as Effective Marketing Tools

4. Mobile Partners

Customers are increasingly spending time on mobile devices and apps, so it’s imperative to have partners within your affiliate program who dominate the mobile ecosystem.

Ibotta is an example of one of these apps in the U.S., connecting consumers with grocery, retail and lifestyle brands and rewarding them with cash for buying things they need. I used the app pretty easily when I was standing in line with customer service after a purchase. I simply took a picture of the receipt, and the app applied the cash back to my account. With a lot of mobile user growth, it’s good to look at partners who have developed a mobile user experience that makes things easy and accessible for the customer.

5. Tech-Driven Publishers

The affiliate space has grown well beyond coupon and deal partners. To drive incremental revenue on a performance basis within your program, consider partnering with publishers who are advanced in e-commerce technology, including deep website integration and artificial intelligence.

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RevLifter is one example: The company helps brands deliver more conversions, incremental sales and customers by personalizing deals for advertisers across marketing channels. Available worldwide on a pay-per-performance model, it uses AI to understand real-time signals from users’ on-site behavior and deliver the right deal to the right customer at the right time.

Related: Partner Programs Turn Competitors Into Collaborators

Whether you’re new to affiliate marketing or simply needing to step up your game, checking off these boxes will help you develop a strong affiliate marketing program. ROI is hard to manage when you’re running a bevy of marketing programs, but the right team can help you take the reins — and get the outcome you want.



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AFFILIATE MARKETING

A Step-by-Step Guide to Your First Affiliate Marketing Campaign

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Your First Affiliate Marketing Campaign


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A newly-created project should manage significant issues to survive the first year of operating. The key target to hit, especially in a highly-competitive market environment, is finding product-market fitting. Affiliate marketing is giving a variety of instruments to reach that goal. And even more: It engages potential customers, who can become a core — and some can even become brand ambassadors in the future.

Here are some bulletproof tactics of how to launch a new brand, service or app using affiliate marketing channels.

Related: Use Affiliate Marketing to Create a Loyal Audience

Why affiliate marketing can be an effective strategy channel to use

An affiliate partnership is based on a сost per acquisition model (CPA). The advertisement provides results in the form of sales and target actions, which gives direct profits. Worth noting, the affiliate marketing advantages are:

  • The absence of reckless risk-taking investments.
  • Promotion is taking place only among the relevant audience.
  • The wide range of different niches to be efficiently used.

But the main thing is that the budget spent is under your control. The basic operating principle of affiliate marketing is you get what you pay for.

According to Publift, 86% of audiences are suffering from ad blindness, meaning they simply do not see the ads. To get confidence that the budget won’t be wasted on irrelevant clicks (cost per click) or views (cost per view), the affiliate partners’ reward depends on the success of the promo campaign.

Having all these advantages of affiliate-based tactics, it’s time to roll out our very first affiliate marketing campaign step by step.

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Related: An Affiliate-Marketing Program Might Be the Perfect Move

Step 1: Creating an in-house affiliate program or joining a travel affiliate network

Building your affiliate program is not a cheap exercise. However, big brands like or Booking.com could do that. So looking for a proper travel affiliate marketing network would be a more realistic option. Their framework and experience combined with the right tools should help you as well. The cooperation with external CPA platforms (i.e. Travelpayouts, CJ, AWIN, Partnerize or others) seems more manageable, especially for the newcomers.

Step 2: Propose a suitable affiliate offer

It must be based on an analysis of competitors and companies’ ROI models. The proposal should include commission rate, cookies lifetime and payout policy.

The cookies’ duration is the length of time when a customer and an affiliate are associated together. It starts from a client’s click on the link and may last from one session up to a year. If it has expired, the partner won’t receive a commission from a purchase.

Also consider determining a payout policy: a variety of actions, which are taken into account as target ones and being paid. Pay-per-click (PPC), pay-per-action (PPA) and pay-per-impression (PPI) models are concentrated on different aims — the number of clicks, lead generation and sales guarantee, respectively.

3. Get a list of top-notch affiliates

The subscribers and followers of a partner should be your final . For example, if you have a coupon service, the potential users’ audience from your partners should be interested in travel deals, coupons and discounts. Keep on the influencers with high-quality content. It’s okay if they’re local bloggers with fewer than 5,000 subscribers, compared to the more popular ones with 1 million or more subscribers.

The figures for the blogger subscribers are not as important as the quality of the audience — the major thing is how many sales a partner can attract. The affiliates with a low traffic volume can also become a great source for your actual sales among the loyal and active audience.

Related: 3 Tips to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

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4. Sharing your brand’s values with partners

The affiliates will recommend your service to their audience, so they should be aware of your brand values. A simple solution is to create a promo or landing page to share with potential partners. On this page, you can provide product features, strengths, tips, etc. Go even further, and create a media kit with a detailed description. But remember, not all the affiliates are willing to go through a 30-page document. So be sure to create a summary that includes all the basics.

5. Analyze the efficiency of the campaign

Usually, at the launch of an affiliate campaign, it’s enough to provide partners with affiliate links. By using them, an affiliate would provide and drive traffic to your site or link for app download. Efficient cooperation can also encourage other ways to contact the audience in the future as well. It could be such effective formats as search forms, banners or APIs. While affiliate partners attract their audience, your task is to analyze the quality of incoming traffic.

The essential point of the first stage is to inspect the affiliate campaign’s effectiveness (to improve it for the future). The initial traffic flow and sales will indicate further actions to be done. For example, you can try reaching partners with different target audiences or using additional tools to attract a new audience yourself. You could also try changing program conditions or pushing extra promotions. Traffic analysis is an everlasting process for the affiliate program optimization, as well as the identification of anomalies and possible violations on the partner’s part.

Related: How Affiliate Marketing Can Work for Entrepreneurs

Be patient

Affiliate marketing is not a one-shot game. So be prepared for different experiments with advertising formats and channels. Perhaps, you would figure out that social media promotion is a better way than traffic from travel blogs or vice versa.

This process demands flexibility, constant self-improvement and deep analysis of audience behavior. Don’t panic if the first results of the campaign don’t match your expectations. Launching an affiliate program is just the beginning of a long journey. Affiliate marketing is, in our humble experience, the most cost-effective marketing channel worth taking a chance on.



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