Partner marketing, sometimes referred to as affiliate marketing, or performance marketing is rapidly growing on the web. Parallel to a manufacturing company running a channel of distributors, it helps online companies spread their product faster and deeper than would normally be possible with internal resources alone.
Online Marketing wise, a strong partner channel can help lower your overall cost of acquiring new customers (CPA) while exposing you to niches you wouldn’t be able to tap using your own marketing team (local markets, large websites, groups, and more). Properly executed, a company can gain a substantial competitive advantage in the marketplace, by recruiting numerous active promoters on the web.
Building the channel, however, is a multi-dimensional undertaking. It involves:
In this article, I’ll try to provide a useful overview for companies considering entering or expanding their partner marketing channel.
There are certain functions any system should support. These are the main:
The system should provide the tracking template for partner links, with static affiliate ID’s and at least one dynamic parameter.
The system should ideally support referring traffic to any landing page on the website, and not just a pre-defined set of pages or a dedicated partner page. This will help partners to test and optimize their traffic, and generate more conversions for the advertiser.
The reporting system should be an online system accessible 24/7, that is ideally updated in near real time, or several hours (to 24 hours) delay.
It should include a dashboard with the financial snapshot consisting of a balance and payment status.
The Bare Essentials
Powerful Feature – Postback / Server to Server Pixel Integration
The system shall provide marketing banners, in all available languages in the sizes, featuring your latest promotions/features /…etc..
The system should provide suggestions on existing/recommended landing pages (a “killer feature” would be to provide conversion rates per landing page), by language and /or by country.
Tools and Widgets
If you have tools and widgets that can be useful to users, consider exporting them for partners to use.
In case you have great content relevant for marketing, consider exporting it (with proper canonical tagging) for partners to use.
Developing a full blown and effective affiliate system is a large-scale task. Most companies that take their first steps in the channel are better off using a 3rd party affiliate system. This will cost a fraction of the time and money compared to custom development and will expedite the critical “time to market” factor. Furthermore, modern systems such as the ones listed below offer significant customization options.
Among some of the leading tracking/affiliate systems to consider are:
Another option is to join an existing affiliate network and post an offer to the network. This is the least favorable in terms of building your asset and catering to your affiliates, but is probably the most economical option. If you choose to go down that track, use only networks that offer your partners the reporting options specified in this post. I would recommend considering AWIN or ImpactRadius (the two I know which provide granular reporting).
Advanced affiliate marketers may, however, find substantial advantages in building their own system for maximum control and flexibility. This does not need to happen on day 1 or 2, but long-term – should be an option.
To properly manage the affiliate channel, a dedicated team will be needed. It can start off small and scale with the growth of the channel. The team’s main functions are:
Rewarding partners should be generous. In the digital economy, the cost of sale for any incremental unit is nearly zero, and the main cost component is marketing.
Bear in mind that the partner is sending user traffic to your website, with no guarantee for any payment, thus taking the full risk upon themselves. This risk should be rewarded broadly if the traffic is turning into actual business. In a competitive market, those that nurture their partners are the ones that get the lion’s share of visibility and traffic.
The following shortcomings will inevitably lead to failure of the channel:
The answer depends on your type of product and your marketing strategy. The more online and consumer oriented your product is, the more it makes sense to develop the channel.
Partner marketing should generally not be your first marketing activity. You need a certain maturity, so it’s better to start off with direct marketing via search, social and other channels, and after reaching a level of maturity – and needing more scale – entering performance marketing.