Tips to Improve Your Affiliate Marketing Program
Knowing which affiliates are primarily responsible for a sale is crucial to encouraging future success. Gen 1 programs simply give commissions to the last affiliate to touch the customer before a sale is consummated. However, that disregards those affiliates that may have been more influential earlier on in the buying process. Gen 2 programs use dynamic attribution technologies to identify the affiliates most responsible for a transaction — not just those last-in cookies — and compensate them accordingly. Understanding attribution helps properly assess the value an affiliate brings to the table, not just the volume it generates.
Value is of primary concern to Gen 2 programs, which place emphasis on high-quality content. With more than 80 percent of affiliates typically coming from generic coupon or toolbar sites, adjectives like quality aren't accurate descriptors of Gen 1 affiliate programs.
Identifying valuable affiliates is the most effective way to make an affiliate program successful. However, instead of a targeted approach, Gen 1 programs cast as wide a net as possible by using multiple networks, which are often in direct competition with one another. A "bigger is better" approach isn't the case with Gen 2 programs, which choose to operate on one to two networks and are increasingly managing large partners directly on a branded SaaS platform.
Transparency is also a top priority for Gen 2 programs, which require URL data for all clicks and sales. Good luck getting that information out of Gen 1 programs, which usually don't even understand the business models of many top affiliates.
If your current affiliate program sounds like its closer to Gen 1, or if you're looking to transition it fully into Gen 2, making a few simple changes can get your program up-to-date:
- Know what each of your top affiliates is up to. Keeping track of their activity is key to serving partner brands effectively.
- Conduct a conversion rate analysis to detect any abnormalities in affiliate performance.
- Use attribution tools to alter payouts so that affiliates which generate incremental sales are rewarded.
- Make affiliate marketing a specialized division within an overall marketing plan. Keep those in charge of other marketing channels up-to-date on affiliate efforts as a way to prioritize affiliate performance.
- Complete an audit of your affiliate program with a reputable third party to identify possible weaknesses and opportunities.
Determining where your program stands is the first step toward making affiliate marketing a major ROI producer for your company. When properly managed by in-house specialists or a third-party affiliate management firm, it's clear that the affiliate industry is leaving its dark days behind and moving up to the marketing big leagues.
Robert Glazer is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards, including Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards two years in a row. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, author the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller, Elevate, and of the international bestselling book, Performance Partnerships. He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast.