We all have those frustrating situations – you find the perfect content partner, you have a conversation with them and they’re interested in a brand – until they tell you, “but we don’t do affiliate marketing.” Very often, this ends a conversation – but it doesn’t have to.
Whether an advertiser wants to diversify its affiliate mix or is restricting traditional affiliate types on their programme (i.e. voucher, cashback), it is often necessary to go off the beaten track to recruit suitable content partners. For example, a programme for a global client that I manage does not allow most affiliate types. With this challenge, our team was tasked to drive the growth in EMEA primarily through content partners. After 6 months of trial and error, I was able to come up with an effective formula to recruit and activate content partners that are completely new to the affiliate channel.
Before you continue reading, let me give you a fair warning – with this new approach to recruitment, you may need to break your resistance for change, get out of your comfort zone and invest extra time and money (not just CPA) to make it work.
1. Scale-up content partner opportunities
After exhausting every single partner opportunity on our internal partner list, Google search and recruitment tools available on the internet, my search for new content partners had sadly hit a plateau. It was time for me to summon help. Two days later, I was having an animated brainstorming session with my team. They all came prepared with ideas of verticals that had a synergy with the brand. One week later, we ran a final brainstorming session with the client to discuss our ideas and narrowed down the list to about 20 focus verticals for the quarter.
An alternative to this approach would have been to first identify the key brand demographics and customer profile for the brand, and brainstorm verticals that may have an audience match for each of them. With that list of verticals, I would search for related keyword terms to source new partners. I would recommend focusing on partners with good levels of traffic and SEO to ensure content ranks high in search results for related keywords to your brand or category. This vertical-based approach allowed us to scale-up many new partners opportunities that we would have never found otherwise.
2. A partner marketing process to pitching
The approach I found the most effective to pitch partners was to position the opportunity as “partner marketing” or a simple partnership between the brand and them, instead of an affiliate opportunity. I customised my standard recruitment email template and scraped off any affiliate jargon such as “affiliate programme” or “CPA” and replaced them with terms like “partner programme” and “opportunity to drive revenue”. By doing this, I saw an immediate increase in response rates and lined up many calls. During these calls, I tried to understand how they worked with brands and assessed their view and involvement in the partner marketing/affiliate channel. I spoke to a mutually beneficial partnership with a performance-based goal tracked via a partnership platform without using the words “affiliate marketing.”
What I’ve learnt the hard way is that if you don’t have anything else to offer to these partners aside from a CPA increase, it will be tough to get them on board, even if you’re an excellent negotiator. Content partners need to invest more time and resources upfront to create content for your brand than simply adding links or banners. If a partner states from the beginning that a CPA-only partnership is a no-go, I would recommend a hybrid model. As most content partners operate on a flat fee basis, I would review their rate card to get a pulse of their cost and offer a low-risk test budget that would be combined to a CPA and take the negotiation from there. I would also position the campaign as a test and make it clear that the goal of the partnership is performance-based and that ROI is crucial.
Additionally, if your goal is also performance, avoid generic content to increase the chances of the campaign’s success. Instead, offer them a voucher to promote (preferably exclusive) or have them write about a promotion or a new launch to incentivise their userbase.
3. On-boarding support and campaign planning
Once you have agreed on a campaign with a content partner, setting a performance target is a good baseline for measuring the success. Be patient and make their onboarding experience as easy and smooth as possible. I would recommend providing a step-by-step onboarding guide to the SaaS platform or affiliate network. Additionally, I would provide them with all the materials in advance that they need for launch including their tracking links, creatives and supporting content.
Now you’re all set to launch your first campaign with a new content partner that is entirely new to the channel. At the end of the test campaign, discuss the results with the partner and agree on next steps. If the campaign performed well, you may be in a good position to move them to a performance-based model (CPA), or at least negotiate lower tenancy costs in the future. If it didn’t work well and you’re not willing to invest budget again, discuss other opportunities they may have to promote the programme and offer them the option to continue the partnership with a generous CPA increase. Finally, sit back, relax and watch your programme grow.
If you would like to find out more about running a better partner marketing programme, get in touch with our team today.