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.

The affiliate channel represents a unique opportunity in a brand’s digital marketing mix due to the ecosystem of publishers and partners available being so vast.

Affiliates cover all aspects of what we consider the classic marketing funnel; from upper funnel brand awareness-driving activity to the lower funnel conversion partners that are great at getting that end customer over the line.

But how do you make the most of the opportunity available?
Build strong foundations. The affiliates you select to work with are the backbone of your affiliate activity; forming a list of partners that align with your brand and your business objectives is really key to ultimately determining how valuable and sustainable your activity is. It’s important to know and understand your partners from the off, this enables you to build the right mix of affiliates across the marketing funnel and harness how to work with them in the right way for maximum impact.

So, how do you build a diverse programme? Below are five tips to ensuring your affiliate activity is balanced and aligned with your brand.

1. Know who you are approving and what they are doing
Affiliates typically have to apply for an affiliate programme and then be approved by someone. Being stringent and thorough in your approval process and criteria should ensure that the partners you have are valuable. It is also an opportunity to consider if you have too many of a certain partner type and if approving more is worthwhile. Key considerations:

  • Do I know how I am going to be promoted?
  • What other brands are featured? How are they represented?
  • Can I speak to the publisher? Check things like the demographics of the user base to see if they align.

This takes more time, but it really is a vital step to ensuring you are building a strong partner list with clear promotional methods.

2. Don’t just rely on programme approvals
Proactively going out to recruit and find the partners you want to partner with is especially important if you want to work with upper funnel partners. You need to research and look for the partners that are a great fit for your brand. Network tools can aid recruitment as well as partner lists that can be requested if it’s included in your service level agreement. carry out keyword research to search for those ranking high for key terms. Influencers can be found on platforms such as LTK. Ultimately, finding the partners you want to work with is the key to building diversity.

3. Understand what partners you need to thrive
If you want to build a diverse affiliate mix, you can’t just apply a one size fits all approach to your offering. For example, if you never deviate from a CPA-only offering, you will end up with a programme consisting solely of high-conversion partners. Although these will be a valuable part of any programme, to achieve diversity, especially within upper funnel partnerships, you must expand how you work and reward your affiliates accordingly.

Think about it like this – a cashback partner is more likely to convert a customer as they are searching for a product and have a strong reason to choose your brand (i.e. an appealing cashback rate). However, an editorial site might be talking to a customer looking for advice, for example ‘Best Products for Long Hair’. The user’s primary interest is tips and useful content, the recommendations of products in this kind of article are useful but might take longer for a user to decide to purchase as often this could be the first time they have heard of the brand. In this scenario the content partner will likely want a higher commission to feature a brand (as ultimately, they are likely to convert less direct sales) and they might want a fixed placement fee. This kind of fixed fee enables them to pay for the effort it takes to produce the content and acknowledges the fact that as this activity is higher up the consideration cycle of a customer it may take longer to convert.

If you don’t engage with partners in different ways, you won’t create diversity with the affiliates you work with.

4. Track as much data as you can
Having a programme rich in data can help you analyse your results and spot opportunities beyond those pure ROI metrics. For example, tracking new/existing, products sold and assisted conversion data can support your decision making in partners across the affiliate funnel. New and existing data does not need to be about a reward system for partners but the ability to understand the role a partner plays, for example Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) partners often have a high new customer rate which can help you in optimisation and supporting expanding activity with a partner. A cashback partner is likely to have a high existing customer rate, this should not be seen as a negative – ask yourself – do they create loyalty? Have they reengaged a lapsed customer? Equally, assisted conversion data can also be key in supporting investment in the upper funnel, it can showcase the value of a partner beyond the last click.

Understanding the roles your partners play and the value they have is key in building a diverse partner mix – make sure your tracking supports you and showcases the channel.

5. Test and learn
This is probably included on every how to build an affiliate programme list, but fostering diversity is also about trialling activity and evolving the activity you run. Programmes become reliant on a few partners and stagnant when you stop testing and stop looking for opportunities with the partners you have. All the above should help you build a strong list of considered partners and support you in assessing the value of those affiliates. However, without an open approach to trialling different ways of working or fostering continuous partnerships you will see your programme fall back to being reliant on a few conversion partners only. Testing should not always mean big money investment, there are lots of things you can try – different commission rates, strategic offers, vanity codes for influencers, average order value (AOV) lead activity… there are so many options!

Building diversity in your affiliate channel is to truly harness the power of affiliates, if you feel your programme is solely reliant on one partner type – look again! Look for those partners who are there but not converting or find the partners you want.

Be intentional with the activity you do, and diversity will follow.

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.