Performance Marketing

Using Research to Perfect Your Affiliate Offer

Guest Contributor

Does your affiliate offer lack appeal?

The other day I got an email from Groupon promoting 50% off a manicure/pedicure. Hmmm… though that’s tempting and I certainly have a sensible appreciation for personal hygiene… I’m gonna pass on this one.  Really? Don’t they input the gender of a new user on like the third question? Inefficient marketing like this not only gives us marketers a bad name, but it can send your cost per acquisition through the roof.

Segmenting and targeting can be the saving grace to any offer, no matter how niche or broad your offer may be. You must rely on your affiliates to provide segmentation and targeting, but with a few simple exercises you can give your affiliates amazing data to target and decrease your CPA, which will make you look like a Rock Star and reduce the strain on your affiliate’s distribution inventory.

Below I’ve broken effective segmenting and targeting into three main categories: Data Analysis, Researching Market Demand, and Finding the Right Mediums of Distribution.

Data Analysis

Before you launch any offer, you must know your target customer. There are several ways of getting this data. Taking a look at your internal customer data is a great place to begin analyzing demographic segments (establish a relationship with your BI guys, think Starbucks gift cards here). If your target customer is not obvious from the product of your offer, demographic data will begin to tell you who responds to your offers and who you should be targeting. I like to split the data into profile segments that show percentages for Sex, Age, Location, Ethnicity, House Hold Income (if you can get this), Children and Relationship status. If you don’t have access to this level of personal information, you may find PRIZM (this is FREE Nielson information) helpful.  Just enter a zip code and away you go.

Research for Affiliate Marketing

Think back to the Manicure/Pedicure email I received, of all the personal data inputs I gave Groupon, they only utilized Location for this offer. Had they segmented their list thinking that men wouldn’t likely be interested in getting their nails done, they could have avoided two critical mistakes in online marketing; wasted deployment spend and distribution exhaustion.

Bottom line here,  find out what data you have, organize how it’s been collected (Excel will be a great tool for this), see if there is any additional data (PRIZM) you can tie to your internal data. Work with your sales team to get additional insight they may have on your customers, perhaps you can send a survey email (Survey Monkey is free and easy to use) to your existing customers and acquire any missing data points you don’t currently have. Now you can start building your customer profiles and gain that understanding of who you are targeting. Knowing your customers will reduce your cost to acquire new ones and keep your RIO high.

Researching Market Demand

It is imperative to know what demand exists in the market for your industry and offers. When I would package offers for my affiliates, part of my pitch would include the data I collected from doing market research. You don’t need to give away every little secret you’ve dug up, but communicating to your affiliates more than just “my offer is going to kill it, dude” will score you big points and get additional attention to your offer. Don’t fool yourself, you can create buzz or demand for your offer just by doing a little research and communicating appropriately. Affiliates love when you can provide them insight that they don’t have, this can benefit them in other aspects of their business and help them optimize their assets.

Efficient market research can be as simple as creating a “fake email” address and signing up on as many email lists as possible. Take a look at your inbox and see what types of offers you are seeing, you will find that good mailers will send their most effective offers, which will tell you what is performing well in the marketplace. Additionally, keep a mental record of which offers are getting inboxed and which offers are going to your junk folder, this will assist in avoiding Subject Lines and other copy that can be deemed as Spam by ISP Postmasters.

Just like the Billboard 100, you can also track popular Blog sites (see Technorati.com as a great resource for this). Following the trends in Blog viewership will tell you what online readers are interested in and which Blogs to reach out to for a potential partnership. When identifying which Blogs to display your offers on, think of the value prop to the author or site of the Blog. Are their synergies between your offer and the Blog that will be mutually beneficial? Perhaps the Blog is focused around a complimentary product to your offer, this way there won’t be a competitive threat. In addition to traditional display on a Blog page, inquire about the possibility of utilizing hyperlinks within the Blog. Run a quick export of your top SEO keywords and offer that list up to the author as potential keywords to target and hyperlink. I also recommend doing a little Social Media sleuthing; this consists of monitoring the number of Facebook “Likes” and/or Twitter “Followers” any particular company or site has. At the end of the day, you should have an understanding of where your customers go upstream and downstream from visiting your site (Quantcast is a FREE resource for this), this will assist in your targeting.

In addition to market research, you should also perform extensive competitive research. You will already have an understanding of who your direct competitors are, now is the time to begin monitoring what they are doing and keeping an eye out for any changes or new directions they may be taking. Knowing what changes are being made to their campaigns will help you make decisions on what optimizations can be done to your campaigns. This research will keep you competitive and in the game, even if you’re not the one pioneering the new path.

“…keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” – The Godfather

Finding the Right Mediums of Distribution

Now that you know who your customers are, what demand there is in the marketplace, you’re ready to think about driving volume to your offer. Determining the traffic channels couldn’t be more important, when brainstorming how to most effectively and efficiently reach your audience, you should be thinking about where your potential customers go on the web. Do they frequent niche sites; maybe they regularly read content heavy pages that feature articles and resources? Do they respond best to a more direct form of messaging like Email (MailChimp has FREE services and easy to use) or Facebook? Do Blogging sites speak to your audience (remember hyperlinking here)? Perhaps they download and utilize coupons via websites designated for engaging consumer spending? Many sites offer advertisements on Thank You or Confirmation pages, this is a great way to target who and how your offer gets displayed to potential, qualified users. Depending on industry and customer perception, you may also think about incentivized placements. Don’t forget about messaging your own Facebook “Likes” and Twitter “Followers”. This is a FREE way to get a short message in front of a very targeted demographic, up-selling or cross-selling products work really well this way (remember to use Tiny URLs)!

After you’ve tested several different mediums of distribution, you will find that a handful stand out from the rest. Use this knowledge in leveraging where your offers are placed and begin testing different creatives, messages, images, call-to-action buttons, conversion funnels, etc… This will ensure that you are constantly working towards the highest levels of user engagement possible. Never rest until your conversion rate is 100%.

Your interaction with potential customers is limited by so many different variables. Make sure that when you do grab their attention, you do it correctly. Collect and organize your data into customer profiles, understanding who you are targeting. Get your affiliates familiar with those customer profiles and work together on what segmentation and targeting is available. Don’t be the mailer who sends the male demographic of your list a pedicure offer, your open rates will decline and reflect this inefficiency.  Complete your market/competitive research, have an understanding of where you stand in the marketplace. Know what your competitors are doing and how they are doing it. Your market research should create a compelling argument as to why your affiliates should be promoting your offer. If you don’t feel like you’ve painted that picture, continue researching and brainstorming reasons why your offer warrants your affiliate’s attention. Lastly, there are several mediums of distribution that will speak to your future customers in a way that will be meaningful and efficient. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect science, and it requires patience, time, testing and of course, more testing. All of your hard work will pay off in the way you shape your offers, making your CPAs low and your ROI high!

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