Thinking back to my early years in college, the term “affiliate marketing” wasn’t listed in a single textbook that I owned. In fact, even “digital marketing” was only beginning to make its way into the classroom and lesson plans, starting with a hybrid Social Media Marketing class my junior year.
Fast-forward to my senior year, when I landed an internship in Affiliate Marketing. My friends, family—even my professors—had no idea what that meant. I can honestly say that I didn’t either at the time.
With affiliate marketing being the fastest-growing digital marketing model, the lack of teachings surrounding the topic is not only a major oversight in our higher education institutions, it’s a missed opportunity.
Without the proper knowledge of this performance-based marketing framework, the emerging workforce is not equipped to hit the ground running in this lucrative industry.
Let’s take a look at five reasons why affiliate marketing should be taught in college.
- E-Commerce Prevalence: It is no surprise that the internet has disrupted traditional marketing methods over the last 20 years, and there are no signs of that stopping. Unfortunately, many college curricula are only now adapting to industry changes and the needed skills for the emerging workforce. At present, the only option current and upcoming college students interested in working within the e-commerce industry have is to look for internships, externships and job shadowing within these fields to offset the lack of introductory coursework.
- Creative Thinking and Strategy: One thing that I’ve cherished since joining the affiliate industry is that each day is different. As client goals are always changing, affiliate marketing leaders need to keep up with creative and out-of-the-box ideas to meet those goals. These include developing strategies for clients to run co-branded promotions or execute an optimization campaign to drive incremental revenue from their affiliate partners while closely monitoring client goals and budget. If more college courses focused on strategic campaign projects, case studies and proposals for affiliate marketing, new grads would be better equipped to tackle these early on in their careers.
- Trustworthy Partnerships: Since childhood, we were taught that it’s important to build healthy relationships; this value is also highly applicable in affiliate marketing. College students interested in this marketing sector need to be equipped with more than the “Four P’s” (remember: product, price, place, and promotion … I used to recite this in my sleep).
Today, affiliate marketing has grown from its original roots to what we’ll reference as the “Two P’s” of affiliate marketing, Performance Partnerships®, which is a refined way to operate on a performance model while working efficiently and strategically with partners such as affiliates, influencers or other brands. Performance Partnerships® are built on a foundation of trust and creative thought, and a lot of collaborative development.
Affiliate is no longer a “set it, and forget it” marketing method, so it is important that any digital marketing or affiliate marketing course teaches the fundamentals of Performance Partnerships® and what it takes to build healthy and trusting relationships with clients and partners.
- Data: Analyzing large data sets is not something that I was taught in college from any marketing or business course. In fact, it’s common that many college students do not have thorough coursework using Excel, Structured Query Language (SQL) or even Google Sheets. In almost any digital marketing position, affiliate included, you’ll be analyzing a lot of data, including reporting on performance, forecasting, and preparing quarterly and fiscal analyses.
Offering the aforementioned as coursework not only effectively prepares the emerging workforce with skills for preparing client reports in programs such as Excel, but also how to understand and analyze affiliate data in a meaningful way.
- An Industry Need: Since there are few formal affiliate marketing courses available, training can be on a whim and at a “learn-as-you-go” pace, often when a new grad enters in-house or agency management or affiliate networks. While marketing and business courses set a strong overall framework, it’s time to incorporate more e-commerce into the classroom.
If colleges and universities implemented “Affiliate Marketing 101” courses and more advanced performance-based digital marketing courses, graduates would have a foundation of what affiliate marketing is and be equipped to enter the industry without a knowledge gap. They would also be doing employers a favor by increasing the number of grads with the necessary requirements needed for affiliate marketing positions.
The AP Solution: Affiliate Academy
Acceleration Partners has taken action to bridge the gap of experienced affiliate marketers by developing our Affiliate Academy, an in-depth, three-month training program specifically designed for experienced Digital Marketing Account Managers looking to become an expert in affiliate and manage programs for AP clients.
Through formalized training and job shadowing, Affiliate Academy graduates are given the knowledge required to oversee their own portfolio of clients, including strategically managing publishers, networks, and clients by the end of the program.
Are you a marketing instructor at a college or university? Check out our abridged version of Performance Partnerships by AP CEO Robert Glazer to help guide you as you build out your affiliate marketing syllabus.
You can also learn more about why affiliate marketing should be taught in colleges and universities on this episode of our Outperform podcast.