How to Manage an Affiliate Program that Attracts Both Buyers and Sellers

How to Manage an Affiliate Program that Attracts Both Buyers and Sellers


Last week, we wrote about how there’s been a change in perspective around what affiliate marketing is and the affiliate model’s role in companies’ larger marketing plans – especially companies who serve two different audiences: buyers and sellers.

We referred to these types of companies as “online marketplaces” and explained that their affiliate marketing model is unique because it needs to attract both buyers (B2C) and sellers (B2B).

These types of affiliate marketing programs must also be managed differently than a “traditional” type of affiliate program that primarily targets buyers (B2C). They also require more time, TLC and elevated expertise from your management team, simply because they are more complicated than a traditional affiliate program.

There are four overarching elements that are critical to running these types of programs efficiently and profitably, while also ensuring that your program is recruiting the right affiliate for the right buyers/sellers.

1. Understand high-level company goals, not just the affiliate program goals.

Where do your growth priorities lie for the organization as a whole? What are the bottlenecks to meeting those priorities – on a national and/or global level? Knowing this information can help you determine how your affiliate program(s) fit into your company’s overall goals.

For example, if sellers (B2B) are the key to your company’s growth, but it’s more challenging to attract sellers than buyers (B2C), then engaging sellers is your bottleneck for growth.

Why does that matter?

By understanding the overarching goal of the company and the bottlenecks to achieving those goals, you’re better able to develop strategies for your affiliate program(s) that help remove or shrink those obstacles. For the affiliate program specifically, a few things you need to clarify are:

  • Who is your target demographic for buyers? Sellers?
  • How do they differ from one another? Is there overlap between the two?
  • What types of affiliates do you need to be working with?
  • What’s the Cost Per Action (CPA) for each of these segments?
  • Are there geographical restrictions?
  • Is there a lot of supply and demand swings in your market?

2.  Create a customized program strategy.

Once you understand your larger company goals, bottlenecks and the differences and similarities between the different segments of your program, you’ll be better able to create more granular strategies for how to best manage the program.

You may decide to manage it all as one program with different CPA offerings that shift as the market does. Or, you may decide that you need to look at each group – buyers and sellers – as a different program. As such there will probably be little-to-no overlap between the types of affiliates you’ll work with for each group.

For example, if a lot of supply and demand swings occur in your market, then you might want to partner with affiliates who have geo-targeting capabilities for your seller group. For your buyer group, you’d want to partner with affiliates who can reach your target buyer demographics.

3. Optimize your affiliate partner relationships.

Once you’ve identified the affiliates you want to partner with for each group, you’ll want to work closely with them to develop and optimize those relationships. While it’s always important to manage and support your affiliates, it’s even more imperative to do so in this kind of multi-segment, buyer/seller-type of program as it’s an ever-changing model.

For example, if the market demand for a service suddenly decreases in one area and increases in another, having a positive, productive relationship with the affiliates is critical to ensuring that they respond quickly and efficiently.

This is also why it’s paramount to set expectations up front with your affiliates so they understand the complexity and the dynamics of this type of program and how often and rapidly the market focus can change. Establishing and maintaining clear, consistent communication with your affiliates is key.

(Case Study: Learn how we helped a client optimize their online marketplace with high-value affiliate partners).

4. Require higher-level program management.

In any successful affiliate program, there are many moving parts that must be managed. However, with a program that needs to attract new customers (buyers) and sellers, those moving parts multiply exponentially. Therefore, it’s absolutely vital to ensure that whomever is in charge of managing the day-to-day of your affiliate program have:

  • Sufficient time and resources to allocate to it (ideally a manager who isn’t managing more than 3 programs at once)
  • Exceptional communication skills
  • The ability to think outside the box
  • The know-how to dive deep to quickly learn your business (e.g. understand your calendar, understand what’s coming down the pipeline, etc.)
  • The ability to adapt to best practices and new markets
  • A clear understanding of the difference between paid search, affiliate,  SEO and social; can execute across all your marketing channels; and is knowledgeable about how to leverage each one to support one another.
  • Price transparency for all the services they are providing you (from technology support to account management, to the development of new relationships) so that you can see what you are paying for and determine the value.

Questions about how to set up an affiliate marketing program that helps you reach both buyers and sellers for your online marketplace? Let’s chat!