Whilst affiliate marketing is primarily known as a channel aimed at driving sales, it can also be an effective tactic to drive leads in order to support an advertisers’ goals.
Lead generation can be defined as “a performance-based marketing model where affiliates receive compensation for referring leads”. Applying the same strategic approach to lead generation as a traditional cost-per-sale (CPS) programme may not be the right approach. That’s why being aware of the key nuances between both models is crucial. In this article, I will share my top tips for successful lead generation campaigns, focusing on the main best practices that differ from running a traditional CPS programme.
Set the right commission model
To define the right commission model, you will need to identify the end goal that you want to achieve through your lead generation efforts. It could be building an email database, getting information from the leads or having them purchase your products or services. Once your goal has been set, you will be able to build the commission model that aligns best with your goal and as a result, it will incentivise your publishers to drive leads in a way that will support your own company’s strategy.
First, you will need to pay on the right action(s). Whilst a traditional CPS programme traditionally compensates on the last action of the consumer funnel (the sale), cost-per-lead typically pays at an earlier phase in the funnel. It could be a sign-up, a trial, a call back request, an appointment booking, an app install etc. If you don’t pay on the first action in the funnel, make sure that the action happens fairly quickly and has good conversion across your business, otherwise, your publishers may lose interest in the programme if commissions are low and leads take a long time to convert. If you still choose to compensate on such action, it is best not to have a cookie window, to transparently communicate lead time to publishers and to offer higher commission on the action to make it more attractive.
Secondly, you will need to determine the commission amount on the action(s) selected. Very often, it would be a fixed fee per action generated, compared to a revenue share on a CPS programme.
And finally, don’t forget to run a competitor analysis to offer the most attractive compensation.
Adopt a recruitment approach focused on quality partners
Before you start building your recruitment list, the first step is to identify the audience for your campaign based on your business vertical. Because lead generation tends to be very niche, this will help you segment the type of publishers you want to partner with but also allow to serve them with the best content and creatives that will appeal to their audience.
The key to effective lead generation recruitment is to focus on quality partners, over quantity. High-value partners are those who have engaged and relevant users to your audience, provide full transparency and ensure compliance. Remember, having a few partners who drive high-quality traffic is much better than driving high volumes. Fraud is at higher risk on a CPL programme since the action paid is not a sale and therefore more easily faked, this means it’s even more important to focus on quality partners.
It is best to conduct personalised outreach to your recruitment leads, at least for the key publishers you want to engage with, as opposed to a mass recruitment approach. In your communications, transparently outline the steps of the flow and at which point they will earn commissions, you may also offer an incentive to get them on board quicker. In some instances, you may go after niche publishers that might not be accustomed to affiliate marketing. To increase their engagement, it is best to position the opportunity as an online partnership based on a performance model. Keep your pitch as simple as possible and position affiliate marketing more as a payment model applied to a partnership rather than an additional channel that they need to adopt.
Facilitate on-boarding and activate publishers
Onboarding publishers on a lead generation programme can take a lot of handholding and between 2-4 weeks on average. Therefore, if the programme is complex, it is best to create an on-boarding guide or even a video including all the necessary details of the on-boarding process to help publishers get active quicker.
Activation campaigns are quite similar to a CPS programme; regular communication with your partners, a newsletter campaign to educate them about the programme, as well as offers, incentives and bonus opportunities are often effective tactics to activate partners. The main differentiator to take into consideration for lead generation is the period for conversion to identify inactive publishers. You may want to choose an earlier metric in the user flow to determine which publishers are inactive if the payable action has a long conversion time.
Evaluate performance and optimise
To effectively evaluate and optimise programme performance, track all the actions involved in the user flow and have clarity on the timing and expected conversion between each step. The first actions in the funnel can serve as an early indicator of publisher performance. Also, tracking leads in real-time can help to better optimise publishers and give additional insights into the data.
In addition, after you have built a quality relationship with your publishers and start seeing the results from the partnership you can apply standard affiliate marketing tactics to optimise them including tiered pay outs, incentives and offers. You may also consider incentivising them by paying on actions earlier in the funnel.
Now you should know everything you need to get started and run a successful lead generation programme. Remember, whether it’s on-boarding publishers or starting to generate quality leads, be patient, as cost-per-lead campaigns often take more time and efforts than traditional campaigns, but it will be worthwhile.