On occasion, we encounter retailers whose business model, for all intents and purposes, would fit perfectly with affiliate marketing. Yet, not only do they not have a program, they actually express disinterest in establishing one.
This situation always gives us pause because it’s as if there is only one way to run an affiliate program, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Unfortunately, much of this negative sentiment is the aftermath of a bad experience with network-based affiliate program management and the conflict of interest that manifests from that type of arrangement.
With that said, affiliate marketing has gone through considerable growth and transformation over the past five years and has proven to be one of the most important models a company can have in their marketing portfolio.
When managed properly (that’s definitely key), an affiliate program can account for up to 15 percent of online revenue and have an ROI among the highest of any online channel. In fact, it’s the most affordable, trackable, efficient and low-risk marketing model available.
So then why have some retailers taken the stance that an affiliate program isn’t a good “fit” for them? From our experience, it boils down to three grossly inaccurate but ingrained myths about affiliate marketing:
- Success means working with coupon sites
- You’ll have no control over your brand
- Sales aren’t incremental
Before we go in to why these myths are misguided, it’s important to point out that, if these myths were even remotely true, then successful, reputable, well-established brands would not give affiliate marketing the time of day. Yet thousands of them do—with much enthusiasm.
With that said, let’s dissect each of these myths and (hopefully) put them to rest.
To give each myth its due review, we decided to segment this topic into a three-part series. For this first post, we’ll scrutinize Myth #1.
Myth #1: Success in affiliate marketing means working with coupon sites
Affiliate marketing programs are comprised of many different types of affiliates, including:
- Content affiliates (individual bloggers, publishers, review sites, etc.)
- Sub-affiliate networks (offer services to bloggers and website owners that can make it easier for them to monetize their blog/website)
- Loyalty and reward affiliates (collect an audience base by offering a unique reward or loyalty incentive)
- Deal affiliates (focuses on a deal from that day or within a short-term time-frame. They are more involved with social media to promote the short-term deals than coupon affiliates and they need to be managed differently than coupon affiliates).
- Coupon affiliates (large companies that try and cover every deal. Very general.)
The term “affiliates” even include non-traditional affiliates, such as schools, nonprofits, apps, individual professionals, public relations firms, influencer networks, business development teams and referral programs.
Each of these partners can be manually approved by the program manager based on the criteria of your program.
What’s more is that your affiliate program can also be invite-only and private.
What’s more is that your affiliate program can also be invite-only and private (e.g. adidas’ affiliate program).
Affiliate Evaluation is Key
When advising our clients, we always emphasize the importance of evaluating affiliates before accepting them into your program. Does this require more work for your program management team? Absolutely. But it’s an essential step in order to ensure they are:
- affiliates who you want to be associated with
- affiliates who make the most sense for your business goals.
For example, if you don’t offer coupons and your goal is to build a program with high-quality content publishers, then excluding coupon sites from your list is a rational strategy.
Whereas, if the goal is to drive an increase in overall revenue through the channel, then it may make sense to work with coupon and loyalty affiliates.
That choice is yours.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, no two programs are the same.
You and your affiliate program managers are in control of which partners you want to work with and how you work with them. Whether you choose to work with coupon affiliates or not, a key factor in the success of your program is the quality of your affiliates, not the quantity.
Check back in with us next week for part two of this series where we’ll address the second affiliate marketing myth: You’ll have no control over your brand.
Questions about whether or not an affiliate program is right for you? Reach out to our Affiliate Marketing team. We can even provide a free evaluation to help you see where implementing an affiliate program may help you tap in to hidden sources of costs and expand your opportunities for growth.