Affiliate marketing is an ever-changing industry. What works for some brands might not work for others, what some consumers want, others couldn’t care less about, and current societal trends can have a big impact on how the channel will perform—it’s a lot to stay on top of, to say the least.
Despite all the factors that come into play, growing a successful and adaptable affiliate program is possible.
To help you determine the best route for your program to take, I’ve interviewed one of our AIM-azing Senior Account Managers, Natalie Filion. With over 7 years of experience working in digital marketing, Natalie has successfully launched and managed several affiliate programs for companies in the health & fitness, retail, and travel verticals. Her education in Business, and experience in affiliate marketing, have allowed her to develop a keen understanding of industry best practices and successful strategies that drive winning programs.
In this interview, we discuss valuable growth opportunities and how you can set your program up for success this Q4 and beyond. Read on to learn more.
Q: What kind of growth have you been witnessing as an Account Manager this past year?
A: Growth can mean many different things depending on the brand and affiliate program. For example, for some of my clients, valuable growth could be based on the number of new affiliate partners joining their recently launched program or the increased number of sales active partners year over year. For others, it could be in terms of new customer acquisition, overall revenue, or return on investment. In general, I’ve seen a lot of growth for most of my retail programs this year, especially my apparel and health & beauty brands as more customers are shopping online as a result of Covid-19.
Q: Any trends you’ve noticed that are key to growing your affiliate program?
A: I’ve noticed a lot of Buy Now, Pay Later partners coming into the market and are now working with brands on an affiliate basis (such as Affirm, QuadPay, and Sezzle). This new publisher type poses a lot of opportunity for brands as the current economic climate has driven consumers to look for flexible payment options. They’ve also already established a large user base that brands can immediately tap into.
Another thing I’ve generally noticed is an increase in competition in almost all verticals. With many consumers having shifted their shopping habits as a result of the pandemic, more brands have been embracing affiliate marketing as part of their online marketing strategy. Being aware of this increased competition and how other brands are positioning themselves on affiliate websites compared to your brand is key to any growth strategy.
Q: Where would you say most programs are lacking when it comes to valuable growth?
A: With the increased number of brands entering affiliate marketing, I would say monitoring top competitors need to be conducted more frequently across many programs. Running regular competitor audits is a great way to spot opportunities for growth. Affiliate Managers should be looking at the following at least on a monthly basis:
- What cashback rate top competitors are offering on loyalty programs?
- What offers/discounts top competitors are currently promoting?
- How are their partnered affiliates promoting top competitors on their sites?
- What sites are driving traffic to top competitors, and are there partners that competitors are working with that you don’t?
Q: How important is recruitment campaigns to growth versus activation campaigns?
A: The two really go hand in hand in my opinion for any growth strategy. The goal of recruitment campaigns is to onboard new strategic partnerships in your affiliate program and to help diversify from your existing affiliate base. However, once these new partners have been onboarded, you’ll want to get them click and sales active as quickly as possible to not lose momentum. This is where activation campaigns come into play. Some ways to get your new partners activated as quickly as possible is to provide them with all the tools and assets they need to promote your brand along with any incentives, such as a short term commission increase, bonus for generating their first sale, or providing them with an exclusive coupon code for their audience.
Q: If a brand/company is looking to add valuable growth to their program, where should they start?
A: I would start by looking at your performance data from the affiliate program as well as from other marketing channels and identify any trends or areas where you are seeing success or growth. Having insight into what’s driving performance for the brand in other channels such as top converting keywords, best-selling products, best converting banner ads or promotions, as well as strategic partnerships will help formulate a strategic growth strategy for the affiliate program, and it will help you provide the right tools and assets for your affiliate partners to successfully promote your brand and generate results.
Q: What 3 key factors would you say are important to gaining growth before Q4?
A: The holiday shopping season will be here before we know it, so it’s important for brands and affiliate managers to start preparing right away to stay ahead of the game. Here are the top 3 things I recommend brands start thinking about right now:
1. Button up your promotional and content calendar through the end of the year. These will help guide your communication and promotional strategies with your affiliate partners. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday being the biggest online shopping days of the year, it’s important to have a competitive discount or promotion planned in order to break through the clutter and maximize exposure. Think about promoting sitewide offers, free shipping, or deeply discounted products with your affiliate partners. Also, be sure to outline any free shipping deadlines in your calendar and make sure to communicate these dates with affiliate partners.
2. Start planning your Q4 budget and asking your top affiliate partners for their Q4 media kits. Generally, Q4 is where we see some of the biggest spend and budget being allocated and placements with top partners sell out quickly. Most affiliate partners have their Q4 media kits ready in August, if not earlier, so don’t wait and start planning your exposure right away.
3. Keep in mind that many sites have code freezes during Q4, which means they can’t add any new merchants on their website. This means now is a good time to crank up any recruitment campaigns you have going on. Try to lock in new strategic partnerships before the holiday rush begins.
Q: Any other advice you can offer?
A: In general, the best way to identify growth opportunities is to look at your data & reports to identify any trends that could help drive performance, in addition to looking at what your top competitors are doing. Keep in mind that things are constantly changing, so what might be working for your program now, might not work in a few weeks or months from now. Anticipate and be ready to adapt to change!
AIM has been in the industry, helping manage a plethora of programs, for over a decade. In this time we’ve seen many ups and downs, many changes, and of course even a pandemic recently. No matter what, we’ve been able to help our clients grow and be successful no matter the circumstances.