Understanding Affiliate Marketers and Affiliate Partnerships
Welcome back and get ready for part 3 of the Affiliate Marketing for Your Business series. In case you missed the previous posts, check out Part 1 and Part 2. We’ve already covered what affiliate programs are and the basics of setting up an offer, and now it’s time to go into the minds of affiliate partnerships — and your new online sales force. In this post, we are going to cover the role of affiliates, how to think like an affiliate marketer, and cover how affiliates operate their businesses.
The role of affiliate partnerships
To better manage affiliates that join your program, you must first understand a little about affiliates themselves. You should know what they want, what they look for in affiliate marketing programs, and the tools they need to be successful. One of the most important things to an affiliate is the opportunity to represent a product or offer they have confidence in; one they would purchase themselves and use on a daily basis. For this reason, most of the top affiliates choose to represent products related to their interests or areas of expertise. This helps give affiliates the drive, knowledge, passion and interest necessary to successfully promote your offers.
Affiliates are often times the most cost effective way to generate sales with little risk. They also enable businesses to reach consumers they may have otherwise missed. However, in order to take full advantage of this marketing channel, you need to start thinking like an affiliate. Successful affiliate management means knowing how to recruit the right affiliates and provide them the tools to be successful. (See our Ultimate Guide to Partner Marketing for more information on motivating affiliate partners.)
How to think like an affiliate partner
To recruit affiliates, you need to understand their needs and what drives them. You’ll have trouble recruiting affiliates if they’re disappointed when they visit your website, if your payouts are low, or if you’re not specific in your affiliate agreement.
Affiliates try to monetize traffic they’ve either purchased or put incredible amounts of time into creating. Think of it like investing in real estate. If you put hundreds of thousands of dollars into a new home or spent all of your weekends for two years fixing it up, you’re going to want to sell it for the best price possible. Affiliates feel the same way about their traffic and as you might imagine, they get pretty passionate about it.
The first thing they’re looking for is the right offer. If the offer doesn’t match their traffic sources, their users won’t convert and they won’t make any money (and neither will you). For example, if they have a website that provides reviews for Hollywood movies, they’ll be looking for offers that fall into the same niche of interests. Perhaps they would look for offers that showcase celebrities. If they’re trying to monetize traffic they’ve purchased from Google Adwords, offers that have low price points, free trials, or sign up forms work best for these users. In CPA (cost per action), affiliates have to make sure the offers they promote match their users.
On top of that, your offer has to have a great conversion rate. As an advertiser or affiliate network representing an advertiser, it is your job to make sure that a reasonable percentage of people that enter an offer actually complete it. If something happens to your sales funnel and visitors are no longer converting, affiliates start losing money by the second.
The second most important thing to an affiliate is getting paid. This means they’re looking for clear terms and conditions, competitive payouts, and responsive affiliate management. Affiliates need to trust the affiliate marketers they’re working with to pay out on time. You can imagine the pressure associated with buying traffic for an offer and not receiving payment quickly enough. It can seriously bring an affiliate’s business to a screeching halt.
Along the same lines, affiliates need to trust the tracking platform your affiliate program uses. They want to make sure every conversion they generate is recorded so they are compensated fairly. Downtime and broken tracking issues are the biggest pet peeves of any professional affiliate.
A successful affiliate program accurately represents their offers so affiliates can best match it to their audience, they make sure their offers convert, they payout on time and have reliable and trustworthy affiliate tracking software in place. Set your program apart by providing your affiliates with accurate and transparent data and a variety of tools to help them make you money. You should always be testing new landing pages, banners or trying to squeeze another 1% out of your conversion process.
Again, make sure you accurately represent your offer so affiliates can match it to their traffic. Make sure your offer converts. Make sure you have competitive payouts and you pay on time, and make sure you have a solid affiliate tracking software in place. Beyond these things, you can improve business for your best affiliates by providing even more data and tools. Maybe you test out some new landing pages, churn out some awesome new banners, or improve your conversion process by 1%.
How affiliate marketers target an audience
Most top affiliate marketers find that focusing on a particular audience is very important to their long‐term success. Picking a specific niche or subject is one of the most effective methods for building up traffic sources with a very targeted audiences. For example, an affiliate might choose ‘personal finance software’ instead of ‘software’. This allows affiliates to build their own marketplace and target one specific audience looking for help with personal finances.
In order to identify a potentially successful niche, affiliates evaluate their passions, interests, and hobbies. Once they’ve narrowed this down to a few topics, they’ll need to perform extensive research to determine which options will be most viable, popular and profitable. Affiliates look at the demand for the products related to their niche, they investigate the market and level of competition. A great affiliate knows how to fill a need that already exists. They’re able to find customers with specific wants and expectations and provide them with a solution, your offers.
Applying to your affiliate partnership program
Before an affiliate can begin promoting your offers, they must apply to your partner marketing program. The affiliate will visit your site and complete an application to become a member. The application will ask for personal information (name, address, payment method) and information about the affiliate’s site(s) (URL, name, and description of content) and provide a service agreement. The affiliate program must screen and approve/deny the affiliate, establish payment arrangements and explain the affiliate tracking system in place.
Now that you know affiliates, what’s next?
Now that you know a little more about affiliate partnerships and what top affiliate marketers do and look for, you can start to shape your affiliate marketing program. Next week we’re going to dive into more details about setting up affiliate offers, how they work, setting up creatives, and how affiliates get your offers.
- Part 1: Basic concepts for your affiliate marketing program.
- Part 2: A brief introduction to affiliate offers.
- Part 3: Understanding affiliate marketers.
- Part 4: Setting up your affiliate offers.
- Part 5: Variables and parameters for your tracking URLs.
- Part 6: Affiliate planning, research, targeting and traffic.
- Part 7: What can my program offer to attract affiliates?
- Part 8: Ways to recruit affiliates.
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Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.