What makes the right affiliate partner mix to deliver incrementality? Who do we recruit? How do we recruit? What’s our strategy? These are not easy questions to answer in the affiliate space, as recruitment is and will continue to have challenges for most affiliate programs. In addition, each affiliate program, vertical, and partner mix are all unique.
I like to view these questions through the perspective of one of my favorite pastimes – the game of chess. My grandfather introduced this game to me at a very young age, and it has stayed with me throughout my life. Affiliate marketing recruitment doesn’t quite fit the chess analogy perfectly, but nonetheless the principles translate well. In chess you have pieces that have specific roles and abilities, for example, a Bishop can only be moved diagonally while a Rook can only be moved horizontally or vertically. The board represents an area of limited options for the pieces within it. It’s important to know each piece intimately. Possessing a keen understanding of the interplay of the pieces and how to best position them to maximize their influence on the board will get the outcome desired.
We have our own version of chess pieces in the affiliate world, such as affiliate networks and partner types. Each piece has specific roles and abilities. An affiliate network can provide insights and breadth of partner types and partners, themselves, own a variety of digital assets and control a sphere of influence.
If we say the chessboard represents an affiliate program’s conversion funnel, then the key to this game will be knowing the capabilities/influences of each piece and their affects on the different levels of the conversion funnel. If you aren’t familiar with the different partner types and networks, my colleagues have made previous posts you can view for an in-depth look.
In chess, you must start with a game plan that fully utilizes the strength of your pieces and be ready to adapt. In the affiliate world, tools such as Similar Web, network attribution insights, and Google Analytics help provide the intimate knowledge of your affiliate pieces. Analyzing trends, backlinks, traffic, and attribution data will paint the picture for the optimal partner mix. Once you identify the gaps you need to fill, you’ll then need a recruitment plan. When dealing with partners you must also be mindful of their barriers. What are their intrinsic costs? What are their resource challenges? What are technology limitations and strengths? Being able to speak their language and meet their challenges will help you help them be able to execute your plan.
We know the goal in chess is to checkmate the King, essentially trapping him by positioning your pieces in the optimal areas of the board. To achieve the optimal partner diversification, you must go through a similar process by identifying gaps in your partner mix and find opportunities to position the right pieces for maximum impact. For example, how does a tech partner such as RevLifter contribute alongside similar tech partners in your program? How does a toolbar partner such as Honey, and a cart abandonment partner such as Upsellit, affect your funnel and at what value? How do these diverse partners contribute to your program and add significance? This should all be addressed in your game plan.
Knowledge, Innovate, Execute
Within each level of the conversion funnel, partners have specialized their ability to convert. Identify them and position them accordingly. The difference between chess and the affiliate space is there are constantly new pieces being innovated and brought to the game board. Affiliate marketing continues to grow and evolve, technologies are being developed, and online behaviours continue to change. Partners and networks alter their value proposition, influence, and insights. This provides opportunities! Leveraging your expertise through your game plan, being willing to innovate, and being ready to execute can mean the difference of having a diverse partnership mix or chasing after one.