I’m often asked if I have any top tips for brands seeking to use affiliate marketing to their advantage. Affiliate marketing has been recognised as one of the fastest growing and most effective channel within digital and one where we see advertisers invest in a lot more. In considering this, I’ve looked back at one of our most successful – and award winning – projects for key learnings.
But first, let me set the scene. The iProspect affiliate team were tasked to grow and efficiently optimise a client’s programme. When we began the two brands were active in four markets across three different affiliate networks. The country managers were focusing on their locale without the benefit of consistent central coordination between markets.
Our brief was to maximise revenue, reduce costs and establish the brands in constant prominent positions on publisher sites. We as a team have taken away five key learnings from embarking on this affiliate journey:
Centralisation and migration to one technology platform:
We decided to centralise and run all four markets for both brands from London. With a single team handling everything under one roof we were confident we would learn more, adapt faster and be more efficient. The next step was to migrate all affiliate activity to one self-service platform where we could monitor activity and manage all the parts of the campaigns ourselves – ultimately driving performance even further. Indeed, removing the middle-men meant we were also saving on costs – which was appreciated by our client.
Quality vs. quantity:
We have found that in many affiliate campaigns a minority of affiliates will drive the vast majority of revenue. This insight led us to migrate into our platform those affiliates we deemed as having potential for uplift. This allowed us to better manage the various markets with a smaller pool of affiliate partners. It also allowed us to focus on recruitment in particular sectors to suit the client’s product range. We realised we could plan much more efficiently this way. We could set up bespoke incentives, tie-ins and implement targeting ideas using audience and customer insight to drive cost-per-sale down even further.
Analysis is essential. Quality analysis allowed us to understand the challenges and highlights of the past year and individual promotions. With this in mind, we opted to move to a more granular reporting system whereby we are able to track by product category and, eventually, individual product ranges. With each affiliate possessing a vastly different audience demographic, it was imperative that we promote the correct products with the correct partner. Being able to see which affiliate generated sales each which category was key which enabled better planning for future campaigns. We could then up-sell and cross-sell to a higher degree in line with product margins.
Test and learn:
A narrower pool of high-performing partners gave us more control for ad-hoc and tailored activity, which allowed us to test complimentary marketing channels, while still driving down cost per sale. Amongst the digital advertising and marketing disciplines, we incorporated display campaigns via key category sites, email and strategies for mobile amongst others.
It must be said that we benefited from working with a wonderful, smart client from the outset. However, the success of the overhaul of the affiliate programme has deepened this relationship and built trust by adding value in new ways, investing in specific sites, tailoring messaging at a product level and expanding into new formats.
Off the back of truly understanding the brand and the client’s objectives, not only have we been able to drive outstanding results (increased revenue and reduce the cost of sale), we have also been able to push the affiliate boundaries and introduce new, exciting opportunities moving into new areas of the digital landscape. We’ve been able to redefine the role of affiliates in our clients’ business, and are creating new strategies they can bring to different areas of their organisation.