They say perception makes reality, and if that’s the case, affiliate marketing has a problem. The truth is that many sales and marketing professionals view affiliate marketing as a last-click diversion tactic, used to entice consumers about to buy with a coupon or coupon.
Although this is an old view, it still exists and prevents many companies from taking full advantage of affiliate marketing as a full-fledged strategic activity.
Even some of us (maybe especially us) who are indulged in affiliate marketing on a daily basis would benefit from taking a step back. Before the summer, when we hosted the first meetings of the Rakuten Advertising International Collective (RAIC) – made up of prominent advertisers and publishers from around the world – we certainly felt we had given ourselves some space to breathe and think.
It also gave us the opportunity to gather the insights and examples that formed the basis of our recently published guide “5 Key Steps to a Successful Affiliate Program”. This guide appears to us as a real reference for all who wish to change or update their vision of belonging or the vision of stakeholders.
Despite the fact that the RAIC is made up of advertisers and publishers who I consider to be affiliated experts, as a group they are knowledgeable enough enough to know that they do not represent all marketers. Yet the appreciation came that affiliation was still hampered by a disturbing old perception.
Fighting one of the major misconceptions: Affiliate marketing as a conversion tactic
There are actually two misconceptions: that affiliation is a tactic and that it is only about transformation.
Accepting that affiliate marketing has gone from being a tactic to becoming a strategy is key to estimating the value it can bring to your business. The strategy sets out the overall approach to how you will achieve your goals; Tactics are the separate things you put in place to implement that strategy.
Take traditional advertising for example. While the tactic may be to create and run a display campaign, the strategy defines how the different channels will need to interact to influence the audience.
The same goes for membership. A successful affiliate marketing strategy will seek to combine several affiliate publisher models—from content and comparison to cashback, coupons, and more—to support the company’s business goals throughout the conversion funnel. Attracting and acquiring new customers from previously untapped demographics or regions, introducing and promoting new products, appropriately positioning brands… all of these can be supported by Modern Affiliate.
I’d be crazy for pretending that conversion isn’t one of, if not its main, affiliate marketing goals. An affiliate’s ability to generate sales and profits is fundamental, and often the starting point for many advertisers. Unfortunately, he’s also the one that many confine to. In doing so, they miss a great opportunity.
Build a vision that includes the complete conversion path
Consider the elements of typical customer journeys. Extensive online search leads to content and reviews, then possibly price comparison. An influential post that sparks a specific interest in a product, before looking for a coupon or coupon. A post on Pinterest, may lead to the advertiser’s mobile site, before the customer selects the payment method with the best option.
Modern affiliation can play a role in every step of the customer journey, but many people still view it as a way to convert the customer at the point of purchase.
There is no doubt that effective attribution helped build that reputation. Affiliate marketing compatible with last click conversion simplifies the process of allocating and paying commissions. But much of the incremental sophistication of affiliate marketing—including the investments that publishers are making to expand their own offerings—relies on the ability to implement multi-touch referral and commission higher in the sales funnel. With effective in-app tracking.
Use data to define, justify, persuade, and develop
The use of data is essential in defining any marketing strategy. One of the most striking aspects of discussions during RAIC meetings – and one that is highlighted in our guide – is the amount of data used in recent affiliate programs.
The data comes from both advertisers and publishers. After all, finding the right balance between the advertiser’s target customers and the publisher’s audience is the key to success. In Forward Thinking Partnerships, both parties see the benefit of sharing this data transparently to better inform program implementation.
Data is essential for planning but also for measuring performance, which reinforces the argument that affiliate marketing is an essential part of an advertiser’s marketing strategy. As Josh Collins, RAIC Fellow and Affiliate said, “The more information and insight we can provide internally about what we do and what we contribute, the more support we can have to grow our affiliate strategy.”
A common finding at RAIC meetings is that aligning affiliate strategy and KPIs with overall business goals, as well as communicating regularly about progress and success, is the path to engagement. More visible internally. This changes the concept of affiliate marketing value.
Getting the Most Out of Modern Affiliate Marketing
A few individual marketing tactics can turn an unknown individual into a loyal customer, even a brand ambassador or even an influencer in turn. This is the power of belonging.
Affiliate marketing has become a sophisticated and measurable marketing strategy. New publisher models are constantly emerging to help advertisers find and influence new customers throughout the customer journey, from discovery to conversion. It’s time for a new look.