What is the current state of affiliate marketing?
Is it still as profitable as we believe it was several years ago?
And should you even consider the promotion of your products through affiliate marketing?
Questions like these popping up on different forums may easily mislead you and make you doubt the profitability and efficiency of affiliate marketing.
When, in fact, affiliate marketing remains popular and expenses on digital advertising are only growing each year.
Product owners from different spheres (from grocery goods to B2B solutions) choose affiliate marketing to boost their sales.
And there’s a good reason for that:
Affiliate marketing ads are now done so professionally that you may not even be able to distinguish them from quality product reviews.
Do you still need more convincing?
If you have a product, a partner program can be of added value to your marketing strategy.
Is your product already a big name?
Or, are you planning on cultivating it into a big brand?
Either way, setting up an affiliate program can help you achieve your goal.
If pursued seriously and with the right strategy, affiliate marketing can significantly increase the number of visitors to your website and boost your product sales or subscriptions.
There are plenty of success stories when brands successfully grew their affiliate programs and increased sales.
Let’s take an example of Kismia, one of the world's largest dating websites.
Since the moment they launched an affiliate program, they received 3x more traffic than that from in-house media-buying. At present, on average, they receive 2.5 million users from affiliate traffic every month.
Image via Affise
Here are four main reasons why you should start an affiliate program for your brand:
Setting up a partner program is a low-risk promotion strategy for product owners as you only pay for completed sales.
You can partner with as many affiliates as you want. Your payouts to them will grow in proportion to the amount of growth in your sales. It is a win-win case for both parties.
You save your team time on generating numerous pieces of content. When working with a large number of affiliates, you will inevitably have a lot of content out there on the web.
Your partners will generate different reviews, articles, videos, and banners. You may not even need to run your own Google or Facebook Ads in any massive amount. In essence, that will also be taken over by your partners.
As you receive many mentions from third-party sites from your affiliates, you will notice a significant growth in the SERP rankings of your website. As a consequence, you will receive more organic traffic and you can lower your ad budget.
So, are you ready to improve your search rankings, drive more organic traffic, and boost product sales?
You wouldn't surprise anybody by launching a partner program in 2020. At the present moment, many big brands have already incorporated partner marketing into their general marketing strategies.
In 2020, the question is not whether you should create a partner program, but how to approach it smartly so that you can start efficiently and avoid the most typical mistakes.
Affiliate marketing offers a variety of working courses of action, particularly concerning which responsibilities to take on yourself and which to delegate.
You can attract bloggers and other influencers on your own or assign this project to an agency. You can launch a program using an existing affiliate platform like Amazon, ClickBank, or ShareASale or you can create your own program.
Are you ready to have affiliate sales rolling in?
Let’s get you started.
You need to know a few things about affiliate marketing before you launch your affiliate program, including:
Don't make the mistake thinking that once you create a partner program, affiliates will start bringing you thousands of sales. You need to work on it. From this moment on, your affiliate program is another project of yours that you need to nurture.
Check out whether your competitors offer a partner program. If they do, you should compare their prices, conditions, bonus systems, etc.
This information will help you make your program more attractive to affiliates.
Once you decide to start a partner program, you will need a tool to run your program, in particular, to manage affiliates and track sales.
Advertisers have two options here: You can either join an existing affiliate network or create your own program.
Affiliate networks bring together different affiliate programs and serve as an intermediary between affiliates and advertisers.
Joining an affiliate network has its own set of advantages. You can pass on major responsibilities such as finding a tracking and reporting tool, partial recruitment of affiliates, and further communication with them.
The cost of working with an affiliate network for you as an advertiser is a commission from your sales, which can be up to 30% of what you charge affiliates. Additional extra costs may arise for additional services and custom settings.
If you decide to go with your own program, it will be your responsibility to think about software solutions to use and partner management. But obviously, you win in terms of transparency and space to grow.
Quite often, advertisers decide to create their programs on a separate affiliate marketing platform after doing advertising on their own or using the services of affiliate networks.
If you sign up for an affiliate tracking SaaS solution, you will be able to launch your program fast as the platform already has all the necessary settings and functions.
The program setup process will be pretty similar to the processes of affiliate networks.
Often, it is the same solution that networks use. The difference is that networks manage your access to certain information while, as the program owner, you will have complete control.
Here are a few steps to get you started:
In the description of your program, you will need to strictly define the target audience, indicate the category, location, and type of acquisition.
You also need to specify the payment model, affiliate commissions, payout timeline (usually affiliates receive commissions upon achieving a threshold), length of cookies, etc.
If it is crucial for your product, you can also specify the preferred weekdays and time of ad campaigns running.
Nowadays, a majority of affiliate marketers, especially advertisers, prefer to work on the cost per acquisition (CPA) model. It is a reasonable choice for product owners interested in final conversions.
You can calculate the commission you are willing to pay affiliates based on the expected amount of sales, cost per acquisition, and average customer lifetime value (CLV or often CLTV).
It is important to ensure that your commission percentage is realistic. You should analyze how much commission your competitors are offering for similar products.
If your goal is to increase brand awareness, you can work on the CPM (cost per mille/thousand views) model. The commission under the CPM model can vary from $1 to $10 depending on your vertical and other factors.
However, most affiliate programs consider an increase in sales as an important goal.
Actively recruit affiliates to your program, but also pay attention to their trustworthiness. You should check their websites and social media accounts and, if possible, ask for analytics from previous campaigns.
If you decide to join a network, you can still look for affiliates on other affiliate marketing platforms as well. You can join affiliate communities, attend affiliate conferences, and reach out to influencers and other affiliate marketers.
Don't treat affiliates like short-term partners. While some of them might be just that, there will also be those whose partnerships will bring you the most value. Like in any business, you are likely to meet affiliates with different experiences and intentions.
What type of affiliates could you come across?
Affiliate marketing is a rapidly changing business. And its modern solutions attract a lot of newbies who are attracted by the prospect of quick money. They sign up for numerous programs but don't yet realize that, in order to earn, they need to put in extra effort.
On the other hand, there are affiliates who are very determined to drive the best results for their partner brands. You need to learn to recognize those who do a great job and treat them as your business partners and communicate regularly.
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) applies to affiliate marketing as well. 20% of your affiliates will bring you 80% of all affiliate income.
To motivate your affiliates, you can create a bonus system.
Upon reaching a certain amount of sales, an affiliate will receive a higher commission.
I mentioned less content creation effort as one of the benefits of affiliate marketing. But I didn't say that you won’t have to create any content at all.
You will need to give your affiliates an idea of the kind of content you want them to use to promote your product and any specific guidelines they will need to follow. And the best way to do that is to provide them with samples.
This can help your affiliates understand your product better and speed up the promotion process. Further, affiliates will modify the content on their side as they also need to stand out from other affiliates promoting the same affiliate product.
Following each of these steps to prepare for your partner program launch and keeping respectful business relations with your partners are the keys to your overall success.
The affiliate marketing industry is a competitive field. Still, it creates a wealth of opportunities to attract internet users whom the typical online ads can’t impress.
Affiliate marketers always compete with each other for their audience’s attention and the ones with the most engaging content win. Encourage affiliates to create high-quality content and join the winners' side.
Do you have any more questions about setting up your affiliate program? Please feel free to drop them in the comments below.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in influencer marketing, content marketing, and SEO. He is the Co-Founder of Attrock, a digital marketing agency. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.