Affiliate Marketing is without a doubt the Daddy of performance marketing. Running affiliate programs is all about spending X and making Y. If you get it right, it’s a licence to print money.
In 2016, in the USA, companies had spent $4.7 billion on affiliate marketing. Marketing experts predict that is going to increase to an estimated $6.8 billion in 2020.
So many businesses are built and run on receiving commissions from affiliate links. Large companies such as Trivago, uSwitch, GoCompare and OhMyDosh are some great examples.
Down the other end of the scale, lots of people are making a decent living with affiliate promotions such as Influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, social media fanatics and bedroom affiliates.
For those that don’t have an affiliate program, or aren’t quite sure how it works. It might sound intimidating or complicated, but actually, it’s actually straightforward.
Advertisers and retailers will pay an affiliate (also known as publishers) a commission for promoting their product, service or website based on performance. This can work in a number of ways, and the typical methods are a cost per acquisition (CPA), cost per sale (CPS) and cost per lead (CPL).
If you want to know more about how it works, I have a detailed article on how affiliate marketing works with examples here.
I have worked in the affiliate marketing space for 6 years. Here are 8 tip top tips that will help you improve and grow your affiliate programs performance.
Running an affiliate program takes time, commitment and effort. You can’t just wing it if you want it to be successful and drive large volumes. Unlike most digital advertising methods, you have to deal with humans rather than machines.
You’ll need to be; keeping an eye on the competition, chatting with existing affiliates, finding new ones to work with, testing new landing pages, integrating and trialling different technologies and spending painful long hours analysing data.
Like anything though, if you don’t have the time you can outsource and integrate your program with an affiliate network. This can be quite costly, but we will get more onto networks on tip number 6!
Knowing your demographics a must have rule with any advertising, affiliate marketing is no exception. Once you know what works, you’ve done most the hard work and no longer need to make guesses as to what works and what doesn’t.
Although this seems basic, some so many marketers don’t know their own product. Seriously, ask yourself “What is the perfect demographic for what I’m doing?”. If you can’t answer that, find out!
When you know what users engage well, you can start to build a picture of where they hang out on the internet and what social groups they are part of. Then you can contact the relevant websites, influencers, bloggers, whatever it might be to get them to work with you.
It’s also handy information so you can optimise your website. For example, if you 80% of your engaged customers are female and 70% of them use you on a mobile, you don’t want a manly looking website that doesn’t work well on mobile.
As a marketer that has run 1000’s of affiliate campaigns, nothing drives me crazier than promoting someone’s affiliate program, and when you have questions or need help, they ignore you or just simply aren’t helpful.
Remember these publishers are promoting and making YOU money! You should be treating these guys like your best friends and growing a relationship with them. If they need help or have any questions, help them. It’s in their interest and yours to drive as many customers as possible.
You should regularly be checking how they are getting on if they need anything from you and how you can improve performance. If it doesn’t work for the affiliate, they will just end up promoting your competitor instead. You don’t want that…
If you do have an excellent relationship with someone, it makes it that much easier to be cheeky and ask for more traffic.
Having one landing page for all 100 of your affiliates is so last year! Every traffic source has different types of users clicking through and that will result in different conversion rates.
The best way to maximise conversions on landing pages is to understand what the users want from each of your affiliates. If you can crack what they want and what type of people they are, you can then customise your landers to reflect that. This all falls back to my last tip about communicating with your affiliates.
Extra incentives such as an exclusive discount, welcome bonus, free trials, more entries or freebie will be even better.
If you can’t do go into that much detail, even wacking the affiliates brand on each of your landers will help. Or some sort of “in partnership with…”. Test, test and test some more until you’re completely happy with each lander per affiliate source. You’re over the moon because you have more conversions, the affiliate is happy because they’re earning more commission. Win-win!
If you are running a program where you are sharing profits or revenues with your affiliates, then you can skip this section.
If you are running a CPL, CPA, CPC or any flat fee, listen up!
You need to keep an eye on the quality of every single affiliate promoting you. Ensure you have the tracking in place that allows you to drill the data down as far as this.
The reality, you will get good traffic with 500% ROI. You will also get shit traffic that costs you money rather than gives you a profit.
Sometimes it’s just the affiliates traffic doesn’t work with what you’re doing. Other times it could be fraud, incentivised or misleading adverts.
This is when you need to go from Mr nice guy to not so Mr nice guy (or Miss/Mrs!). You have three options.
Affiliate networks are like the middle man of affiliate marketing on steroids. They are basically platforms that have a lot of affiliates, and even more programs all in one place!
Networks tend to work in one of two ways. Firstly, they’ll charge you nothing to feature on the network for free, but will take a cut of the rate offered to affiliates, industry standard is typically 20-30%.
For example, like Monetise, if your program pays £1 per sign up, the network will offer it to their affiliates for something like 80p and keep 20p for themselves.
So, it’s free to get started, but your program isn’t as valuable. Also with these types of networks, they’ll keep their affiliates information private. They do that to stop you reaching out to the affiliate and working with them directly.
On the other hand, a network such as AWIN, will charge you a set-up fee for getting on to the network. But, they will give the affiliate 100% of the rate you offer. So in theory, you’ll get more leads as your program is more attractive. However, it does mean a small upfront investment. Some will also have a monthly charge too, and others won’t.
Those same networks will also give you full access to all of their affiliates details, so you can reach out to them yourself and build a relationship. It’s in their interest to keep you on board.
If you are little short on time to dedicate to an affiliate program. Networks like AWIN will offer you an account manager. Meaning that person will work with you and run the program full time. So you don’t have to do the hard work and focus on other things. Of course though, that comes with a price. But, bear in mind that these guys really know what they’re doing. They are affiliate marketing masters, so it could be worth coughing up the extra cash.
Choose wisely! I’d defiantly speak to a few different networks, get some prices together and get their thoughts on your program.
Also, remember that different networks will have different niches and focus areas. For example, Rakuten is well known for their retail and fashion, so if that’s you, perfect. Optimise are known for their insurance campaigns and Monetise for their lead gen. (These networks are UK based)
Having creatives ready for affiliates to use straight away is sometimes overlooked by marketers setting up affiliate programs… ROOKIE ERROR.
What sort of standard creatives are needed? Guidelines for the best subject lines, headlines, what can and can’t be said in an ad. A couple of email templates is ideal, along with several banners.
Firstly, remember no one knows what you are selling better than you. You know what works best and how to ensure the best conversion rates possible.
Secondly, 95% of affiliates are super busy, and probably partly lazy. You want to make their lives as easy as possible.
Search for niche bloggers, influencers, gaps in the market. Find those affiliates that no one knows or even thinks about.
Innovate man! New sites and affiliates are coming into play every day, even if you pick them up and even if they are small, if you can get 20 of them, it all adds up.
Anyone can be a good affiliate manager. But to be a GREAT affiliate manager requires treating affiliates well, attention to detail, an eye for opportunity and commitment.
A recap of my eight tips to improve your affiliate programs performance
Are you an affiliate manager? Let me know if any of these points help you out!