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Why Retailers Need to Transition to Performance Partnerships

What is performance marketing? There’s no consistent definition, really. It’s hard to nail one down when many in the affiliate industry are rebranding as “performance” marketers just to distance themselves from some of the low values, tactics and history in the affiliate industry. At the same time, other agencies increasingly call themselves performance marketers for doing paid search and Facebook.

You can see why confusion exists as to what performance marketing really is at heart. Purists believe performance marketing always has a cost-per-action element, not just the ability to measure what’s spent and results after the fact.

True performance partnerships reimagine affiliate marketing by focusing on building quality relationships with partners through transparent communication and activities. They also leverage a software platform that can track every partnership, helping brands better manage many different types of relationships at scale.

What’s in it for Retailers?

Retailers are in the perfect position to make optimal use of performance marketing. It provides a framework to maximize your efforts, especially if you find yourself doing essentially the same things 10 different ways. For example, you probably have someone chasing influencers, another person signing one-off partner deals, and maybe a team talking to potential business development partners, big and small.

What would happen if they could all work together because they’ve been brought into the same system? Therein lies the real opportunity for retailers. Instead of moving in too many directions, doing essentially the same processes in different ways, you can create one streamlined system and keep everything organized by tracking all of your actions and partnerships in one place.

Easier said than done, right? Not really. Here are three straightforward steps you can take to embrace true performance marketing through a performance partnership framework:

1. Integrate the management of channels. Start by getting to know what’s happening in all of your various channels. Pull these channels into a single program, giving your teams one unified structure for decision making and measuring success. This allows you to manage those partnerships more strategically and cost effectively, while also connecting more fluidly with partners around the world. It creates potential for you to extend into new verticals, and it helps you better meet your partners varying business needs.

Integrating diverse channels into one centralized performance partnership hub also helps your teams function with the whole organization’s operations and business development in mind. One team (or one agency) can work across all of these channels to leverage the same materials, to recruit, to onboard, to coach up partners and more.

2. Put everything into a single trackable platform. An affiliate network or Software-as-a-Service platform that can track all aspects of your performance marketing is essential, as is a team devoted to maintaining it. This platform helps you keep track of operating agreements, real-time reporting, payments, tax reporting and all other components of your partnerships. The advantages of having all of these channels on one tracking platform are much better data and analytics, fewer opportunities for fraud or arbitrage, and more streamlined management.

Make sure the right person is assigned to build and oversee it, as maximizing your software should be someone’s primary responsibility. If you can’t have someone with the needed skills do it in-house, hire an agency. You won’t get much out of your program if no one’s paying attention to it.

3. Focus on developing active win-win relationships. If your partners are just hanging around and being reactive, your performance partnerships will remain flat and stagnant. You need to talk to partners regularly, review data and performance together, and consider ways to expand the business they’re doing with you.

Discuss the need to recruit on an ongoing basis, then transition to engaging and activating new partners. Don’t let new leads or sales from affiliates remain anonymous; understand exactly where those leads came from, and fortify your relationships with the partners who brought them your way.

Retailers have a lot to gain from performance marketing, if they go about it the right way. Performance partnerships, by definition, pay off in the end when properly overseen. You’ll enjoy better, more transparent relationships with your partners, and you’ll see how successful this method is because every transaction is tracked and paid after the desired outcomes are achieved.

Performance marketing really lives up to its name when you align your partners and streamline your processes under one umbrella to take your affiliate marketing to the next level.

Robert Glazer is the founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, and the founder and chairman of BrandCycle.

By Robert Glazer