Traditionally, affiliate marketing was reserved for retail brands, leaving B2B-focused companies with an empty dance card.
As awareness grows regarding the affiliate landscape, an increasing number of diverse publishers are joining the ranks and swinging the door open for B2B-focused companies to get in on the action.
For a B2B company to develop a strong and productive affiliate marketing program, they can't rely on the same playbook as a retail brand, like many do.
If you're a B2B brand looking to start an affiliate program, here are six essential things to know to get started on the right foot and set a strong foundation for a healthy affiliate program.
1. Ask yourself: What are you trying to do? What's the end result?
For many B2B companies, increasing sales may not be the end goal. Perhaps you're looking to produce email sign-ups, leads, subscribers or form submissions.
First, define the final action and then define your "value points." A value point can be defined as a point in your conversion funnel that increases the likelihood of your consumer reaching the final desired action (E.g. they become a consumer of your product or services).
Value points are imperative to define since they will (most likely) be the points you'll a) pay commission to your publishers and b) are the steps in the process we need to optimize before reaching the final result.
It's not enough to simply say "I want new subscribers." You first need to define the steps between a potential new subscriber seeing a piece of content and them finally subscribing.
Having a strong understanding of your conversion funnel and pinpointing the "value points" along that funnel is extremely important for the success of your program. Without this information, you could be:
a. Paying a significant amount in commissions for a less desirable stage in your conversion funnel hoping to see conversions without fruition.
b. Not tracking or optimizing the value points before the final action.
c. Or, worse, not seeing any results, thus deeming affiliate marketing as invaluable to your product.
It's a fine balance to be struck and one that needs careful attention.
2. Consider how difficult it is to buy your product.
Do I have to give you a credit card during a free trial period? Do I have to speak to someone on the phone before I can purchase? Do I have to play 21 questions before I'm granted access?
These seemingly minor things can wreak havoc on your affiliate marketing program, which is another reason why defining value points is so crucial. If a consumer has to jump through too many hoops to buy your product, and you only offer commissions to your publishers on the final result, these partners probably won't stick with your program for long.
By offering commissions on earlier value points along your conversion funnel, you increase your ability to build real, lasting relationships with your publishers.
Taking this a step further, it's essential to talk with publishers individually about your goals and how they can help you get there by increasing leads to each value point. This gives them a better understanding of what you're looking for from them and, in turn, better positions you to increase your results as your publishers will realize monetary value more quickly.
3. What are the value points in your conversion funnel worth?
Each value point in the conversion funnel has a different, well, value. You don't want to pay too much for a top of the funnel action but if you don't pay enough, you'll have trouble with recruitment.
The value is typically defined by your overall Cost Per Action (CPA) and how you would break it down for each value point. For instance, if you have a financial app and your overall CPA target is $20, perhaps you'd offer $1 for an app download, $4 for the app install and $10 per registered user – knowing that only 30 percent of people who download the app reach the final and most desired destination of "registered user." As such, that action would be the most valuable.
Using a dynamic commission strategy for not only each value point in your conversion funnel but across your publisher base will set you up for success. You'll know that you're paying the correct amount to the correct publisher for each specific action that will get you closer to the final desired result.
4. Keep an open mind about who a publisher partner is.
The affiliate world is big – and getting bigger each day. More and more publishers are joining the ranks of the affiliate army, which is good news for you.
As you look at the wide-ranging roster of potential affiliate partners, one of the best-kept secrets of a successful affiliate program, especially for a B2B company, is keeping an open mind about the type of publishers you allow into your program and how you work with them.
Someone who is savvy in the ever-changing world of affiliate marketing can help you pinpoint undiscovered publisher partners and discover new, unique ways of working with the venerable players. The right publishers in your program will give you and your brand fresh insight and content within your affiliate channel. However, if you put a hard and fast "no" on certain publisher categories or types, it often only serves to inhibit your own marketing growth and potential.
5. More limitations can result in a less productive program.
If your list of "don'ts" is longer than your list of "do's," an affiliate marketing program might not be right for you.
We strongly encourage robust rules, boundaries, terms and conditions, but the more restrictions you place on your program, such as limiting your publisher options, only paying commissions on new clients, or delaying payments to publishers outside of vertical norms, the more likely high-value publishers will pass over your program.
What's more, is that unreasonable or strict restrictions could also lead to missing out on untapped verticals that would change your entire program for the better.
6. Have patience.
Any affiliate marketing program, regardless of what vertical you operate in, takes time, patience and perseverance. Each affiliate partnership will be a unique relationship that takes time to build and manage.
What shouldn't be a secret, but is to many who are new to affiliate marketing, is that if you build a strong foundation, keep the faith and be intentional about only working with credible partners, then the fruits of your labor will pay off.
The world of affiliate marketing is full of untapped potential and opportunity for B2B companies IF you understand your desired result and value points, have a focus, keep an open mind and trust in the program.
Work with the right partners, build your program deliberately and accurately from the outset and you, like many other B2B companies, will find that affiliate marketing is one of the lowest cost channels as well as one of the highest performing in terms of volume, quality and value.
Are you a B2B company looking to grow your business with high-value partners? We can help! Reach out to our team for more information.