Affiliate marketing – a good strategy to achieve systematic sales growth
One of the most effective ways to increase your sales is through affiliate marketing. Ewa Dudek, CEO of the webePartners affiliate network, talks to Justyna Bakalarska, author of the book “Value Marketing”. She talks about what is most important in affiliation and how to use affiliate marketing in online stores.
Justyna Baklarska: Why is it worth to bet on affiliate marketing? How to sell more in an online store while maintaining optimal promotional expenses?
Ewa Dudek: From the perspective of the owner of an online store, the ideal solution is the promotion tools and methods, for which they pay when the effect is achieved. In this case – when the sale is completed. Affiliate marketing offers such opportunities and therefore wins the hearts of advertisers.
Internet is the most measurable medium. Thanks to tracking and analytical systems, we can evaluate the effectiveness of every, even the smallest, activity in the network. We can precisely reach the designated target groups, analyze, and evaluate the potential and commitment of each group. Therefore, not only the methods of conducting marketing campaigns are changing dynamically, but also the methods of their settlement. Hence, affiliate marketing is called performance marketing. It assures the advertiser that they will pay only for those activities that provide them with measurable results.
When selling online, apart from tools, the strategy is also extremely important – what place should affiliate marketing take here?
Affiliate marketing, thanks to the tools it provides, directly increases online sales. It is a value in itself. The greatest value it gives though, which advertisers often forget, is a network of various publishers.
The model of such internet advertising is implemented mainly through affiliate networks. Networks gathering hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of affiliates (publishers). Affiliate marketing means building your own network of publishers. They undertake independent cooperation with the advertiser. Thanks to this, we can work out the most effective areas of activity with them. It gives a systematic increase in sales, as well as carrying out non-standard sales and promotional campaigns through them.
Affiliate marketing is a strategic exercise. Cooperation with publishers is undertaken as part of the affiliate program. Running an affiliate program makes sense in the long term. It does so throughout the entire period of running an online business. The affiliate program grows with the company. It does, because the network of publishers joining the program who promote the advertiser’s offer is growing systematically.
What distinguishes affiliate marketing from performance marketing?
Performance marketing achieves goals and delivers specific, quantifiable effects. Basically, each type of marketing is supposed to achieve the set goals. Not always their implementation is fully measurable and countable. The results in performance marketing must be measurable and only such are settled.
It depends on the advertiser what effect, i.e., what user reaction to the advertisement, is the most important for them. Also, what they want to achieve through the campaign. Whether it is to only increase the number of visits to their website, reaction in the form of filling out a form or leaving contact details or whether they are interested only in selling the service or the product. When a goal is defined, the type of action and tools are selected to achieve that goal. Thus, each marketing campaign that accounts for the achieved results is performance marketing.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, it is one of the activities that implements the assumptions of efficiency marketing, i.e., it provides measurable results. What distinguishes affiliation is the fact that the goals are achieved in cooperation with affiliates, i.e., publishers of various websites. They are cooperating in the “for effect” model as part of the advertiser’s partner program.
The second very important thing is that affiliation is not used to implement short campaigns and achieve quick results. As I have already mentioned, this is a long-term action that systematically increases sales along with the increasing involvement of publishers.
What goals can we achieve through affiliate marketing?
Affiliation usually implements the most difficult goals: from obtaining complete contact details of potential customers, to selling services and products in the online store. To achieve them, you need to target precisely defined target groups with your ad. As a result, the achieved conversions are high, which translates into real profits for advertisers.
Affiliate marketing is all about precisely connecting advertisers with the right publishers. Affiliate networks that cooperate with various publishers, know their ranges, target groups and, based on experience, know which publishers generate the most actions in specific product or service categories.
Always remember that the most important factor in affiliate marketing is the publisher. Their ability to convince their own group of recipients to a specific action determines whether the cooperation will bring benefits to both parties. It is the publisher who takes the risk of the conducted activities. If they do not deliver the specified effect, they will not receive remuneration, and thus the advertiser will not increase sales. The efficiency model is one of the most difficult cooperation models, but with the right combination of publishers and advertiser, it is profitable for everyone.
In what areas of activities can affiliate marketing be used?
Affiliate marketing is cooperation with publishers, i.e., websites that generate results based on their own business models. The publishers are: industry thematic websites (e.g., fashion, lifestyle), price comparison websites, discount and cashback websites, bloggers, vloggers, YouTubeers, mailing database owners, webmasters, retargeting systems and finally active social media users. With each type of publisher, you can work out an area of activity that will be the most effective for the advertiser, using the right tools.
Direct translation into sales is a skillful presentation of products, as opposed to the pushy call to purchase, which we consciously avoid in affiliation. So it’s safe to say that affiliate marketing is product marketing.
How affiliate marketing works in practice?
For example, thematic websites build communities around specific interests (e.g., fashion, sports, technology) and present products from this category in various combinations. The user is not attacked by advertisements, on the contrary – they receive what they are looking for at the moment: the most beautiful outfit for a given occasion, the most comfortable shoes for a trip to the mountains, the latest smartphone model. Website users are unaware that this is, in fact, an advertisement. Influencers who recommend products from the industry in which they have earned the name of specialists, work similarly. In affiliate marketing, they do not focus on promoting the brand itself, but its offer.
The same applies to discount websites, where Internet users look for promotions and discount codes. They go there consciously in search of the best offers. And that’s the main goal of affiliate marketing, reaching out to users with the products they are looking for. Serve the advertisement in such a way that the user does not realize that they have just acted on it.
Affiliate marketing and image – what should the distribution of brand activities look like here – should something prevail?
It all depends on at what stage of image building the brand is and what is most important to it at the moment. It is ideal to ensure that these activities are evenly distributed. However, in a situation where there is no sale, it is difficult to think about purely image-building activities. In such a situation, it seems obvious to focus on relevant affiliate activities.
Although, by definition, affiliate marketing is supposed to translate into sales as quickly as possible, not image, it has a very strong influence on building the brand image. In order for affiliate activities to be effective and profitable for publishers, it is necessary for the ad to reach the target audience precisely. That is why affiliate campaigns involve industry thematic websites and specialists in their categories. They have smaller ranges than large multi-topic websites, but have a loyal group of recipients for whom their opinion on a given topic is important when making their own decisions. In this approach to affiliate marketing, when we cooperate with influencers, it has a great impact on building the brand image.
Affiliate marketing – where to start?
From the launch of the affiliate program. Most store platforms have an affiliate module built in, so technically it’s very simple. In the terms of the program, you must specify the billing rates with publishers and what effects should be delivered (sales, contact lead or other action) to receive remuneration. Knowing the terms of the program, publishers decide whether they will cooperate on the terms proposed.
However, you should be aware that the mere fact of launching an affiliate program will not cause an automatic wave of applications to the program. The process of acquiring publishers is arduous, lengthy, and therefore expensive. Then, when publishers are successfully involved in promoting the offer under the program, you have to provide support at every stage of cooperation and settle accounts with each publisher separately.
It makes sense to refer to an affiliate network that professionally runs affiliate programs.
In a webinar devoted to the virtual network of merchants, I will tell you what the running of the affiliate program within the webePartners network looks like and what are the challenges facing advertisers.
At the moment, Polish networks gather from several to several thousand publishers, depending on the industry to which the network dedicates its services. By launching the program on the affiliate platform, the advertiser is immediately connected with the publishers appropriate for them. In addition, the networks are constantly acquiring new services for cooperation, which allows for the constant development of the partner program.
As part of cooperation with the network, the advertiser receives a program supervisor, who solves any problems and questions from publishers. They also suggest which tools to use to increase sales thanks to cooperation with publishers. When it comes to billing, the advertiser receives a collective invoice once a month. They do not have to worry about payouts for each publisher.
How to choose the right affiliate network?
There are several models of accounting in performance marketing. In the context of sales, the two basic ones are Cost Per Sale and Cost Per Lead. It is important for the advertiser to work with a network that has a clearly defined model of operation. One that’s consistent with the goal they want to achieve.
So if the advertiser runs an online store and wants to increase sales in return for a commission on sales (Cost Per Sale model), then they should choose a network that specializes in this model. In this case, the affiliate network focuses on recruiting publishers who have experience in cooperation in CPS or have the potential to achieve results in this model. On the other hand, if the advertiser wants to acquire new contacts with potential customers (Cost Per Lead model), they should establish cooperation with a network that has at least several programs in this model in its portfolio. Then they can be sure that the network has publishers who can deliver results in this model.
To sum up, before you start cooperating with the selected network, make sure that the network runs programs from the industry in which you operate yourself.