How can advertisers retain control, using affiliates to generate the right kind of consumer leads; and reward them appropriately?
Affiliate marketing is a fantastic channel to be part of. Defined through its ability and success at driving sales on a highly measurable cost per acquisition (CPA) model, affiliate marketing provides merchants with multiple opportunities to reach a greater audience, through a variety of online mediums – from search marketing to blogs, and price comparison to user reviews.
The one thing I always stress to merchants is to work closely with your affiliates. It’s also important to be as transparent as possible, meet with them regularly, understand them, and learn what makes them tick. Don’t treat them the same, as they all require different things. A voucher code affiliate needs to know the latest codes and the latest products you are trying to promote, while a price comparison affiliate wants the best up to date product feed you can possibly provide.
So how do you determine how to manage affiliates? Work out what a lead / sale is worth to you and what you are able to pay for it. Then determine where affiliates can produce essential coverage and ensure there are no gaps in your ppc campaigns. Each affiliate will work like any other media owner and give you the coverage or push your campaign based on your brief, as much as the margins will allow. The key is to provide a compelling offer that will make sense to an affiliate, and then refine to the types of affiliates you are working with.
In addition, it’s important to work closely with your network too – they know the affiliates inside out and have regular communications with most. Leverage this experience to your advantage. It’s vital that you communicate, communicate, and communicate. While you can use the network’s platform to push out offers, emails and updates, it’s worth speaking directly with your affiliates, or at least your core affiliates, if you are looking to make changes to a programme. If you need to pull back your CPA, make sure your affiliates are aware of this, and you are aware of the impact it will have on their performance. Perhaps you want to offer a bonus – shout about it, so your affiliates can inject more time and effort into your campaign.
How should they prioritise where they focus their affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is still about the merchant, and how it fits into their overall online marketing. We’re seeing more and more merchants gaining a greater understanding of the contribution of each of their online channels – with affiliate marketing continuing to play an integral part.
The focus of affiliate marketing really has to sit with the merchant. From the outset, decide what you are trying to achieve with the campaign. For some, it may simply be sales but for other merchants it may be about solely new customer sign-ups. Affiliates are able to fill specific gaps, particularly in the online arena where you feel you may be lacking in experience or are vulnerable against your competition. Your affiliates have a wealth of knowledge to develop successful campaigns to meet your targets, so brief them accordingly, and this will free-up your time to focus your attention on other business objectives.
What is the key to protecting your brand/product, and its value, in an online environment?
A brand needs to be protected in many ways – from misrepresentation and from the competition. No one wants to see old adverts and old marketing campaigns across the Internet – there is a need for consistency in messaging. The networks can help with this by enabling you to replace banners on the networks and by communicating new offers. Indeed, some networks have tools that will identify old banners, old vouchers etc.
The online environment is highly competitive and protection of your brand is key. Take a look at the recent case of Louis Vuitton v Google, who lost their long-running battle to ban the use of their trademarked keyword in the sponsored listings. What does this mean for the merchant? It means that Google, at any one time is displaying up to nine sponsored ad results on a branded search time. The merchant is only able to feature once on their search term, meaning the opportunity now exists for competitors to jump into the space and try and snatch those customers from your grasp. Affiliates have done a great job in helping to close down this space, by providing branded sites that sit beneath the merchant’s ad, providing the user with a good user journey experience, which ultimately leads to incremental sales.