This content has been authored by Rachel Said, Head of Affiliates at Genie Goals. Genie Goals are a founding member of The APMA and a global award winning agency specialising in Affiliate Marketing, PPC and Paid Social.

When launching your affiliate activity there is a need to put the time in to lay the foundations of a great programme. Affiliate programmes can grow rapidly but this is usually based on an ‘approve everyone’ approach and not checking what activity is driving sales.

Taking the time to build a programme that works for your brand is the best way to ensure your affiliate activity continues to grow. However, the aim should be to grow in an incremental way that means you can secure the long term investment needed to ensure the channel can thrive.

It usually takes 6 to 12 months for an affiliate programme to begin gaining traction and the speed in which you will see growth depends on lots of factors – mainly how flexible you are with the partners you work with. A programme that accepts all partner types will typically grow at a faster pace than one that only works with a few affiliate types or is focused for example on upper funnel activity only. 

But why can’t I just switch the channel on and get sales? 

You can to an extent – there will always be some partners that can become sales driving quite quickly. However, taking this approach will be limiting and may mean that the activity driving those sales is not of a high quality. 

Real growth and value comes from taking the time to select, engage with and nurture your partners. Each affiliate is a business in their own right and will have their own optimisation opportunities within their platform. Investing the time to talk to your partners and to communicate regularly is what ultimately leads to growth. Affiliate programmes with engaged publishers that are actively notified of product launches and offers are those that thrive. 

Picking some key focus partners to engage with one on one can be a great start to building your activity; it will help you to understand how best to work together. Taking this focused approach of optimising a few partners to start with, will help you begin to test and learn in channel. Without trialling activity and working closely with your key partners, consistent growth will be hard to achieve. 

It can be overwhelming to think about working with lots of partners at once, that is why being focused at the start can really help. You will also gain great learnings that you can then roll out and adapt to your wider programmes.

I’m not gaining traction with my partners!

Look at your offer! You only have to look at the pages of a cashback site to see the sheer number of brands engaging in the affiliate channel. Gaining traction, especially if you are a smaller challenger brand will take a bit more effort. Being consistent and competitive is the key – being competitive should not mean maxing out your commission rates (you need to make a profit!) It should however mean being realistic – for example an affiliate promoting a well-known brand even on a lower commission will make money as conversion is higher as the brand demand is high. An affiliate promoting a newer brand will likely see less conversion initially, it is therefore harder for them to justify promoting a brand on a lower commission rate and why you might see additional payments such as fixed fees requested.

Being competitive can stretch beyond just CPA rates too; don’t underestimate the power of having timely validations, payments and robust tracking. These three things ensure your affiliates feel safe in promoting your brand and that for any activity they do put live they have the best chance of being paid fairly for. Tracking especially will become more and more important this year with GA4 changes relating to cookie consent – getting ahead of these changes and talking to your tracking provider on how you can improve your setup will ensure you are doing all you can to maintain conversion rates for your partners or at least reward fairly. 

Smaller brands can absolutely gain traction in the affiliate channel but you need to be consistent. Choose a select few partners to build with and use all the tools you can: commission increases, flexibility to provide samples quickly, some budget for fixed fees and tactical offers.

I need ROI now

The affiliate channel has long been known as the efficient and ROI driving channel, at its heart there is still a strong core of partners that deliver this. However, I would suggest that having ROI as your only metric will again limit growth, it will also rule out plenty of diverse publisher types such as upper funnel partnerships. ROI is great, it’s what most performance marketers are tasked with, but the channel can offer so much more. Keep your conversion driving activity at the heart of your programme, but switch your goals for content based activity to a metric like life-time value.

We have seen a brand invest £1,000 in an article inclusion on a well ranked editorial site, for the first 6 months this was traffic driving only, on the face value of this it seems like it failed the ROI test. Fast forward to a year later and that article regularly delivers sales every month, the revenue far exceeds the original investment and it continuously drives both traffic and revenue back to the brand. That content now pays for itself – but the brand had to wait and understand that this type of activity is not a quick win. 

But I don’t have the time to invest?

To grow an affiliate programme, time is your biggest and best investment. If you don’t have the time yourself to invest in nurturing your partners then look elsewhere to find the support to get it up and running – time can come from your SLA with your tracking provider, from an agency, from a freelancer or upskilling someone internally. Spending time to grow and understand your partners is what will grow your programme – programmes won’t thrive when they are set up and forgotten. 

Even with little time the absolute best things you can do today to get your activity going are:

  • Do your approvals – growing your partner base will expand your potential partnerships, but ensure you know how you will be promoted 
  • Validate sales – affiliates like being paid on time and it will make your programme more appealing
  • Select three key partners and start a conversation with them – be transparent if you only have a limited budget, you might be surprised on the opportunities there are 
  • Communicate – send a programme newsletter bi-weekly if you can, (it can be a really simple format), and add your offers to the offers section in your tracking provider

Be patient and you will reap the rewards of this amazing channel that has so much to offer for brands looking to grow.

 

About the Author:

Rachel Said is Head of Affiliates at Genie Goals – an global award winning agency specialising in Affiliate Marketing, PPC and Paid Social.

With 12+ years experience in the channel including client side, six years at Awin and now an agency channel lead, Rachel prides herself on a holistic and sustainable approach to affiliates. At the heart of Genie Goals ethos is ensuring ecommerce brands set up and manage their affiliate partners in a way that fully aligns with their wider business objectives. Rachel regularly contributes to panels at leading industry events such as PI Live, has been a Performance Marketing Awards judge and contributes to podcasts. 

To find out more about Genie Goals and how you can work with them to support your affiliate, PPC or Paid social activity visit www.geniegoals.co.uk or email hello@geniegoals.co.uk.