Using Affiliate Programs To Maximize Blogger Outreach And Brand Advocacy
Hi everyone. I’m Alison and I’m excited to talk to today about using affiliate programs to maximize blogger outreach and brand advocacy. Let’s get started with the basics.
What is affiliate marketing? Well in a nutshell, affiliate marketing is partnering with sites that have relevant traffic, so, for instance, if your site focuses on selling kids clothing, you should probably partner with sites that reach moms.
In affiliate programs commissions are paid for actual sales, this is called the CPA. This is versus paying per click or paying per impression, like you do in other channels. And because of this, affiliate programs are consistently one of the lowest cost acquisition channels out there.
In addition, merchants control all branding, messaging and creative. This can be done through the approval process, through terms and conditions and through creative, including text links, banners, widgets and videos as well as promotions.
And get this. Strong affiliate programs for large companies can generate between one and eight percent of online sales, but this depends on the goals of your program and the type of affiliates that you want to work with.
Let’s look at the players in affiliate marketing. First you have your merchants, of course, their ecommerce sites and, of course, want to work with bloggers, so they decide to start an affiliate program. The first thing you need to do is select an affiliate network.
In our example here we have Share Cell. And what Share Cell does is they provide tracking, reporting, payment, as well as communication to affiliates and the ability for merchants to store creative for affiliates to use. And, in addition, Share Cell also provides recruitment options, which is awesome.
It would be really hard for merchants to manage thousands of affiliate partners without an affiliate network.
Next we have our affiliates. These affiliates sign up to your network to have access to the merchants on that network. Affiliates can be content bloggers, these are the long tail or they can be large coupon – loyalty affiliates, such as Ebates or RetailMeNot, just depends on your strategy and your goals.
Finally you have, most importantly, the customers. So affiliates post relevant that their readers will like in a non-spammy sort of way and they’ll make money when a reader clicks on their affiliate link and makes the purchase.
Finally you have an affiliate manager. Affiliate managers, such as Acceleration Partners, will manage the day-to-day of your program, including FDC and Nexus compliance and they’ll constantly recruit, activate and optimize your affiliates to make a successful program.
In order to reach your target audience you must first recruit the right on-brand affiliates, so how exactly do we do that?
You want to set your program for a success so you should recruit your fans. These people already love you and chances are they’ve probably purchased from you as well, so start out with social media.
I’m sure you have thousands of followers and fans on Facebook and Twitter, why not post about your affiliate program and invite them to join?
In addition, your PR team has probably already working with bloggers that would be a great fit for the affiliate program. At the end of each campaign your PR team can recommend that they join.
Next you have your customer service team which I’m sure they receive inquiries all the time about free products or product reviews or giveaways. Instead of saying no, they can say sorry but feel free to join your affiliate program and you’ll be notified about all of the great opportunities to review products and bonus opportunities, etcetera.
Next you have your email lists. I’m sure you have your own list of members or customers. You can of course send an email out to all of these customers and invite them to join your program or you can add a footer link to the bottom of your newsletters with a link to join your affiliate program or for more information.
Finally you have blogger outreach software tools. These tools, such as GroupHigh, give you the ability to reach a whole new audience by creating targeted outreach lists where you can search, filter and store bloggers based on content. And we have a great example of this on the next slide.
So one of our clients was going to release a new line of Disney shoes and we decided to use GroupHigh to search for high quality bloggers that were focused on the Wonderful World of Disney. And we invited them to join the affiliate program and receive a pair of shoes to review. This was extremely effective in recruiting the right affiliates to reach the perfect targeted audience for the launch of these super cool Disney shoes.
So my final advice for recruiting? Focus on quality not quantity. You want the people that are going to reach the targeted audience that you want to reach.
Next we have affiliate approval. An important part of setting up a successful affiliate program that is brand supported is creating a process for affiliate approval. We suggest manually approving all affiliate partners. This can be time consuming and tedious, so why do it?
Well, number one, it reduces fraudulent affiliates in your program and, of course, makes you more profitable.
And, number two, you’ll find high potential affiliates applying to your program that you’ll want to reach out to and work with right away. You don’t want to let a second go by before you reach out to them because the quicker you get them active in your program in promoting your brand, the more successful they’ll be.
So create a formal process to screen. So we suggest screening for high quality brand relevant content. You can do this by just clicking on the website they put in their affiliate application and reviewing their site.
Of course a low Alexa ranking is always nice. This means they have a lot of traffic to their site.
And an active social media presence is also nice so they can push out messages to their fans and followers in Real-time.
Finally you should tag affiliates for future segmentation and tracking. This means that once they’re tagged you can send a segmented newsletter, messaging, a bonus opportunity or promotions. An example of this is on the next slide.
We had a client that wanted to reach out to soccer sites and soccer blogs for the World Cup, so what we did is we reached out to those sites, we provided them with site racks and segmented newsletters and special promotions during the World Cup, but just because the World Cup ended, doesn’t mean that we still don’t have special soccer promotions for them. So because they were approved and tagged in the program we can message them with various soccer promotions throughout the year, plus we could look back and pull World Cup results from the past years to optimize relationships in the future. That’s why segmenting and tagging is so important.
All right. So now you have your approved affiliates in your program. The next step is to be sure that affiliates are supporting your brand. What does this mean? You should set terms and conditions that manage how affiliates use brands names, logs and other trademarked items, you should also tell affiliates if they can bid on trademark terms and PBC and you should tell them the tactics that they’re allowed to use. Are they allowed to buy Facebook ads? Are they allowed to grab images off your site? You need to let them know.
In addition, you should also upload appropriate creative including text links, banners, videos, widgets, promotions, coupon codes, etcetera so that affiliates are armed with ample brand supportive material.
We also like to include sample blog posts and social posts in newsletters to help affiliates get a feel for the voice of the brand.
Next let’s talk about profitability. An attribution.
Attribution is a hot topic these days and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it other than to say that attribution ensures profitability.
You should have an attribution strategy for both or one of the following: An intra-channel attribution plan. So within an affiliate channel, some affiliate networks provide tools that will allow merchants to commission affiliates based on desired behavior and/or click stream data. An inter-channel attribution plan ensures that affiliate reporting overlaps with other marketing channels and identifies the percentage of new customers.
Ideally new customers would be more than 50 percent of affiliate sales and overlap with other online marketing channels claiming the same new customer would be less than 30 percent.
Having an intra and possibly an inter-channel attribution plan will ensure the profitability of your affiliate program.
Now that we’ve recruited the right affiliates, have set up the program to support the brand and we’re not profitable, we need to engage affiliates.
You need to give your affiliates a reason to promote your brand over all of the other brands out there, including your competitors. We recommend reaching out to bloggers to get them active. This can be done through one-on-one communication or newsletters.
We also recommend incentivizing bloggers to turn readers into customers. This can be done with various bonus strategies, giveaways, reviews, special promotions, coupon codes, etcetera.
Remember, affiliates have limited space on their sites and unlimited products to talk about, why choose yours? The main reason is you have competitive commission rates and cookie links so affiliates, remember small business owners, can make money by promoting your product, a product that they already love.
Finally, it’s very important to remember three things. Affiliates are small business owners and need to make money. Top of funnel content drives clicks then eyeballs, but bottom of funnel content drives sales and conversions.
Finally, let affiliates help you by including them in your overall marketing strategy.
Affiliates can support companywide promotions by getting the word out. They can also help solve specific inventory, whether it’s pushing a new product launch or using affiliates to liquidate a specific item that you have in excess but higher margins.
Affiliates can also be used to improve SEO. They can improve SEO by creating high quality brand and content regulated by you, the merchant. This increases the chances people will find a positive page about you in search engines.
Finally, affiliates can improve ROI on PPC. Many affiliates bid on branded terms and ad words, driving up the price for the merchant to bid on their own name. Enforcing terms and conditions may get rid of some of these competitors, lowering costs, increasing conversions and improving ROI.
A great example of integrating affiliates into an overall marketing strategy can be seen on the next slide.
One of our clients needed to boost offline outlet sales. We developed an online campaign using select affiliates. These affiliates promoted a principle outlet coupon which increased sales and represented an average of 13.6 percent of revenue during this campaign and was deemed a success by the merchant and by affiliates.
Thank you so much for being with me today. If you have any questions or would like to talk about using an affiliate program to maximize your blogger outreach and brand advocacy, I can be reached at Alison@accelerationpartners.com.
Have a wonderful day.