As a new affiliate marketer, performance marketing can seem daunting. It’s an industry that is ever evolving, which can make it challenging for any brand marketer to know the best way to start and scale an affiliate program.
To make things a little easier, we asked five affiliate managers at Acceleration Partners to share the top mistakes they see new affiliate managers make. Keeping an eye out for these as you embark on your affiliate journey will ensure you avoid the most common mistakes and structure your program so that it’s poised for growth from the get-go.
- Treating affiliate marketing as any other digital marketing channel. Affiliate marketing works very differently from other digital channels, such as paid, social, or display. Affiliate marketing is about building relationships with brands and publishers alike, getting to know them, and treating them as partners in your business as opposed to someone you just engage in a transaction with. It’s these partnership-focused relationships that help brands get the most exposure and value from their affiliate partners.
- Putting affiliate marketing into its own bucket. We often see affiliate marketers not leveraging other departments in their company, such as the social media, paid marketing, organic search, and business development teams. For your affiliate marketing program to be successful, it is imperative to understand how, for example, the social team is leveraging influencers, or how affiliate marketing might be assisting conversions for the paid marketing team. Taking a multi-channel approach to your affiliate marketing will help ensure efforts are unified and that each channel’s efforts are properly attributed. The affiliate team also needs to work in congruence with the team in charge of promotions so that any planned promotions can be maximized while also preventing duplicate payouts.
- Not having clearly defined goals. Affiliate managers need to have a clear understanding of how the affiliate channel fits into the marketing mix and a company’s overall marketing goals. The strategies employed via affiliate marketing would be completely different if the goal was brand awareness compared to acquisition or conversions. Trying to do everything and not having a clear definition of success makes a lot of programs fail even before they have taken off.
- Underestimating the time it takes to ramp up. Unlike a lot of digital channels, affiliate marketing requires time to ramp up and begin driving performance Relationship-building is at the core of affiliate marketing and, like all other relationships, it requires time to nurture and grow those partnerships. All effective affiliate marketing programs go through the three stages of strategy: recruitment, activation and optimization, and affiliate managers need to allow enough time for each stage to flourish before declaring a program a success or failure.
- Not being competitive. With the rise of performance marketing there are a lot of marketers competing for exposure on affiliate sites. This makes it important to launch a program with competitive offers that would interest larger publishers or publishers with a loyal following. Offering attractive commission structures helps you jump-start your publisher relationships and scale your affiliate program.
For an affiliate marketing program to drive incremental sales, strengthen brand awareness, and shine as the only true performance-based marketing model, it requires a person or team overseeing it who has a depth of experience and understanding of the industry.
We often see merchants lean on someone from their digital marketing team to launch and manage an affiliate marketing program. Unfortunately, rarely does this person have a clear or complete understanding about what‘s required to make a program successful. This is when we see most of the mistakes mentioned above being made. As a result, the affiliate program produces lackluster results and marketing decision-makers base that on why affiliate marketing is “not right for them.”
From our perspective, having established and managed incredibly successful and lucrative affiliate programs for the world’s largest brands, it’s critical to have someone overseeing an affiliate program who genuinely understands the model. In addition, they need to know how to reach, engage, recruit, activate, and optimize all different kinds of affiliates – from bloggers, influencers, and review sites to coupons, schools, and partners who traditionally have fallen in to the “business development” bucket. Last, but most definitely not least, they need to know how to align affiliate marketing efforts with other digital marketing strategies and the company’s overall sales goals.
Use our free affiliate grader to assess the strengths of your affiliate program and where and how it could be improved. Don’t have an affiliate program yet? Check out our Affiliate 101 series on our blog.