4 Things You Must Consider Before Starting an Affiliate Marketing Program
In the world of digital marketing, the one and the only constant is change. Tactics, tools, and strategies that worked last week won’t necessarily work again next month. Technology and algorithm updates happen all the time, too. And don’t forget about the competition. The digital marketplace is extremely noisy and to get any sort of traction, you need to have the right marketing mix.
Fueled by the explosive growth of eCommerce and social media, affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. in 2020 topped off at $6.8 billion–and that number is expected to increase by 10% over the next few years.
Affiliate marketing is a low-risk and high-ROI driving channel that connects brands with the right affiliate marketing partners to drive the right traffic in a way that results in new customers and actual sales. The beauty of the channel is that you only pay on performance, so you’ll know that it’s working. Before getting started, however, there are four things you need to know.
Make Sure Your Own Infrastructure is Solid
Before starting an affiliate program, you want to be sure of a few things. Do you have a site that is up and running? Is it getting good traffic, and can customers easily purchase right off it? Do you have shipping and fulfillment down pat and can you handle an influx of orders? If so, you are ready to start diving into affiliate marketing.
Affiliate Marketing is Not a Part-Time Job
It may be tempting to have your in-house marketing team head up your affiliate efforts but make no mistake: Affiliate marketing is a hungry beast. And it’s one that requires constant attention and expertise. Unless managing your affiliate, the program is the only thing your marketing team must do (yeah, right) and they have the expertise needed in this industry, you’re better off with bringing in a dedicated team who is able to invest all their time and energy into the success of your campaigns.
Another thing? At first glance, affiliate marketing may just look like a numbers game, but don’t be fooled: High traffic doesn’t always equal big profits. The reality is, a lucrative affiliate program must be constantly recruiting and nurturing the right partners, with the right audiences, to drive the right traffic in a way that results in new customers and actual sales for your brand. That calls for constant attention and a rock-solid strategy, one that is grounded in experience and sound enough to work week over week, month over month–and, by the way, also flexible enough to pivot when the market dictates.
Know That It’s All About Relationships
The bottom line, affiliate marketing is a relationships business. It’s necessary to consistently recruit, vet, and manage an ever-growing roster of quality publishers that are right for your brand. Not only does that help protect the reputation and integrity of your brand, but those long-standing connections will also prove to be invaluable as you grow your business. And believe it or not, who you know makes a big difference. In affiliate marketing, getting an inside edge on the best contacts through experts who know the industry inside and out is always a smart move.
When you start an affiliate program, there’s no such thing as over-vetting a potential affiliate. Implement a multi-step application process, and whatever you do, make sure an affiliate is legitimate and that their content aligns with your brand’s values. Be on the lookout for red flags like brand new websites that have already garnered top ranking, big traffic spikes that may indicate bot activity, and of course, any sort of plagiarized content. This is a 24/7 role but there are agencies that specialize in mitigating fraud and providing full content monitoring.
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Diversifying Your Affiliate Publisher Mix Will Get You the Highest ROI
In a perfect world, all it would take is one targeted piece of content and one well-placed affiliate link to convert a total stranger into a paying customer. If only it were that easy.
But what you may not realize is, reaching significant growth goals takes a rock-solid strategy and a diversified partner portfolio.
Over the last few years, a big trend in affiliate marketing has been to focus on full-funnel opportunities that include partnerships for every stage of the buyer journey. Not only will a diverse portfolio help you maximize results at every stage of the customer journey, but it will also help you reach a broader audience and broaden your revenue streams.
In conclusion, every brand is different, and in affiliate, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all strategy. Not all partners are created equal either. And guess what? Neither are all affiliate marketing agencies.