As the holidays approach, there’s no better time to freak out about next year’s partner marketing strategy than now. Don’t sweat. We’re here to help.
In this blog post, we’ll give you the tools you need to prepare for your best year yet with a checklist to ensure your affiliate or partner marketing program goes off without a hitch.
▢ Set Clear, Achievable Goals
As performance and partner marketing continue to grow in popularity, many advertisers have watched their partner programs become their top marketing channel, outpacing even display advertising and paid reviews. The clearer you are on your affiliate program goals, the easier it will be to design your partner strategy and measure its success.
Goals to consider include:
- Short-term or long-term: Are you building an affiliate or partner marketing strategy for an upcoming product launch (a one-off and/or short-term approach) or for ongoing customer acquisition and sales?
- Target customer: Who is your ideal customer in your partner program? Are you attempting to get new customers, or re-engage old ones? Are you trying to get customers from a competitor or a new source, or improve conversion with an audience you have been targeting for a while?
- Specific outcome: What would you like your affiliate marketing campaign to produce? Is it new customers, email subscribers, app downloads, or something else altogether?
(Brand new to affiliate marketing? Check out our related post, Getting Started With a New Affiliate Program, for a comprehensive guide on everything you need to get ramped up. You can find even more performance marketing resources here.)
▢ Craft the Perfect Portfolio
After determining the goals for your program, begin brainstorming what your ideal partners look like. This will help you align your affiliates with your goals, and lead to the most effective portfolio for your business.
To find the right partners, first think about the demographics that make up your target audience: where your potential customers shop, what they read, which social media accounts they use, the kinds of products they buy, whether they are more likely to browse and buy on mobile or on desktop, etc. Then, take this information and match it to any affiliates that fit the bill. (Yes, even if that affiliate is Kim Kardashian, and your budget is not on her level.)
Once you’ve figured out an affiliate dream team, use their profiles as guidelines for building your perfect portfolio. Keep in mind that a healthy mix of partners can minimize your potential risk. (Don’t want all those eggs in one basket, after all.) Consider selecting profiles that vary across social media platforms (Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.) and formats (video, native, blog, display, etc.) to diversify your program.
Even current customers can be part of your portfolio. Referral programs can bring incremental value to your business, but their effectiveness is dependent on the kind of product or service you provide. (Note: the way you interact with and reward your referral program members will differ from your affiliate program.) For a good example, check out Blue Apron or Thrive Market, which incentivize current customers to share referral links to drive new customers in exchange for discounts on future orders.
▢ Determine Payout Structure
Once you decide on your dream portfolio, you’ll want to determine what’s realistic based on your budget. Kim Kardashian might be your perfect partner, for example, but she’s not going to be affordable for everyone. (And depending on your goals, she may not even be your best option.) So determine early on what kind of payout structure works best for your brand — and for your affiliates.
There are five main types of payouts:
- Cost per Action (CPA): Action essentially means conversion. This is the most common payout method for offers.
- Cost per Sale (CPS): This is a set percentage of the total sale of a conversion.
- Cost per Conversion plus Cost per Sale: With this option, you are setting a flat payout as well as specifying a percentage of a sale amount on top of that. This is essentially a combination of the two above payout types.
- Cost per Click (CPC): Instead of paying out on conversion, you can also set a flat payout on click, and each unique click will receive a payout.
- Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM): If you are interested in tracking impressions instead of clicks and conversions, this option is set to pay out for every 1,000 impressions.
Payouts can be made a variety of ways as well, from flat rates to dynamically tiered commissions. With the right platform, payouts can be as flexible as you are. (Check out the TUNE platform for the industry’s most flexible partner marketing solution. It makes payouts simple, automatic, and transparent for both parties.)
▢ Create Click-Worthy Content
Once you’ve determined your program’s portfolio and payouts, it’s a good idea to create some content. Yes, you can leave it up to affiliates to promote your brand to their audience in a way they know will resonate. However, usually it’s useful to prepare resources ahead of time. You’ll want to put together content like swipe copy, banner ads, logos, images, and/or videos, depending on your chosen platforms.
You’ll also want to make sure your program looks presentable, reputable, and dependable from the affiliate’s point of view. Try to hit these 10 essential elements to attract the best partners to your program.
▢ Plan to Keep Affiliates Engaged
Now that you’re prepared for your program, it’s time to go out and connect with your new partners. Some businesses reach out to specific partners directly, while others turn to specialty affiliate networks to act as a liaison between the two sides of the performance relationship. Other companies leverage current customers as part of a referral program.
If your goals are based around a specific product or promotion, you can create an affiliate marketing calendar to train your partners on how to use your content and set schedules for when to promote it. If your strategy is more ongoing, make it easy for affiliates to find your content in their account or on your website, so they can quickly and regularly share with their networks.
Some brands even find it useful to hire an affiliate manager to handle their performance relationships, share new content and promotions, and provide other helpful information or services. Either way, here’s an example of how to keep in touch: every month, send out a newsletter to your program that shares upcoming contests, coupons, and promotions. This can help to ensure your partners are always in the know about your brand, and can make it easier for them to come up with new material for their followers.
In addition, chances are high that your partners will have questions about payouts, procedure, technology, and lots of other things. It’s a good idea to have one place for everyone to get everything they need, whether that’s a direct relationship management platform like TUNE, or a network, or something else entirely. You can see the pros and cons of different performance marketing strategies in our Buy vs DIY white paper.
▢ Adopt the Mantra “Measure, Optimize, Repeat”
Once your strategy is underway, it’s time to measure performance. Keep track of which partners perform best — either by new leads, customers, or both. Also note which platforms, time of day, locations, etc. deliver the best results. The more you can drill into your data to fine-tune your program, the more return you will see for your money.
Remember: Successful affiliate and partner marketing programs don’t come together overnight. They are the result of a lot of tweaks, failures, and optimizations in content, relationship management, and measurement over time. You can do this!
Your Best Partner Marketing Awaits
To learn more about building your best affiliate or partner marketing program, click here to get your questions answered by a performance marketing specialist, check out pricing for the TUNE Partner Marketing Platform, and sign up for a free 30-day trial today.
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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. You can find her waxing poetic about the South and exploring her new home from her headquarters in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood.