Affiliate marketing gets a pretty bad rap.
As respective affiliate markers, we hear plenty of complaints and questions such as, “Why pay for sales I’m already getting?”
Concerns involve the possible scrupulousness of affiliate marketing companies. Some worry these companies are nothing but coupon sites stepping in at the last minute and eroding profit margins.
Others believe affiliates generate fraudulent orders, bring in bad customers, and bid on their trademarks, damaging brand reputation.
If it isn’t dead, then it has changed for the worse, right?
There are definitely challenges with affiliate marketing, but they’ve been with the industry since its inception and can be handled with proper controls.
Thousands of prominent businesses have successful affiliate marketing programs, from online sales companies such as eBay and Amazon to retail stores such as The Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond. Even Apple, the tech giant, has an affiliate marketing program.
The future of affiliate marketing is far from dead. In fact, it actually looks pretty healthy.
For instance, we surveyed hundreds of advertisers for our affiliate benchmarks report.
The results were dramatically in our industry’s favor: More than two-thirds of programs met or exceeded expectations. Eighty-five percent of businesses thought customers acquired through affiliate marketing were as good as, or better than, customers acquired through other online channels. And a whopping 92 percent of businesses indicated their intent to invest more in affiliate marketing next year.
What Affiliate Marketing Has to Offer
Why are these industry leaders so interested in affiliate marketing?
Here are four simple reasons:
- Affiliate marketing has the best return-on-investment of any channel. Because you only pay for sales that actually happen, no money is wasted on impressions or clicks that don’t turn into paying customers.
- Affiliates offer more space on the page. Search and display ads are often nestled in the margins, away from readers’ eyes. Affiliates place your business front and center.
- Third-party affiliates are trustworthy. Paid ads are just that, but information from a third-party is different. When educational reading is provided for your business, it doesn’t seem like marketing copy. Rather, it becomes trusted advice from a familiar source.
- Good affiliate programs allow you to scale. The infrastructure provided by platforms such as CJ Affiliate and Rakuten Marketing allows you to work easily with thousands of partners rather than working with a handful of websites or search partners. This kind of scale simply isn’t possible through other channels.
Get the Most Out of Your Affiliate Marketing
For those who still have concerns, here are four ways to deal with the most common issues associated with affiliate marketing:
- Diversify. Fill your program with various types of affiliates instead of going solely for coupons. Introduce content verticals and loyalty sites.
- Monitor. Affiliate marketing is not the “set it and forget it” channel it is often said to be. Enforce strict guidelines and policies regarding what affiliates can and can’t do. Have a team in place to monitor and enforce those policies. Use tools such as The Search Monitor and BrandVerity to make this easier. Lastly, don’t be afraid to suspend affiliates who break rules.
- Check. Introduce controls to prevent fraudulent orders. Reverse those controls before paying commissions. This can be automated with just about any affiliate network or technology.
- Measure Value. Not all affiliates are created equal. Reward those who yield new or high-quality customers. Reduce commissions for those who don’t.
Once you’ve hopped on the affiliate marketing bandwagon, enhance your experience.
First and foremost, maintain great relationships. Affiliate marketing relies on trust between advertisers and affiliates. Ensure solid communication exists among your top partners. Also, be sure your program is meeting its goals and objectives.
Lastly, try to attend industry events. Not only does this allow you to stay on top of industry trends, but it also allows you to meet top affiliates in person.
Top-tier events include Affiliate Summit, CJ University, and the Rakuten Symposium.
Finally, join the Performance Marketing Association.
These conferences aren’t time-consuming, and a PMA membership will keep you updated on the latest industry changes, best practices, and thought leadership for the other 51 weeks of the year.
Bottom line: Affiliate marketing should not be ignored. In fact, implementing an affiliate marketing program may be the best decision you’ll ever make.
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