Mix it up with affiliate marketing

Jason Cohen
Founder and president, MediaWhiz

When online advertisers think about affiliate marketing, they frequent­ly think of the larger affiliate programs such as Linkshare or Commission Junc­tion. These programs typically act like application service providers (ASPs), where the advertiser interfaces with and motivates affiliates.

In recent years, a plethora of cost-per-action (CPA) affiliate networks have evolved. CPA networks place the burden of managing affiliates and driv­ing traffic squarely in the hands of dedi­cated affiliate managers. This approach enables advertisers to leverage the expertise, relationships, and resources of their CPA partner.

Since CPA networks are closed networks, advertisers do not directly communicate with their affiliates. If you select more than a single network part­ner, it is important to understand that affiliates — even underperforming ones — may appear more than once during a campaign without you knowing about it. This is due to the fact that affiliates frequently join multiple CPA networks at a time, each of which identifies that affiliate in a different manner. Selecting one partner will enable you to perma­nently remove affiliates driving lower quality customers or sales.

If you cannot decide between CPA networks you like, identify a key strength for each. Some programs have very strong distribution through e-mail, while other programs work very closely with search publishers. Test firms by giving each a piece of your affiliate program, so that one partner manages search, while the other manages e-mail, for example.

Remember to establish different price points for different forms of traffic, as all sales are not created equal. See which firm does a better job with reporting, optimization of underperforming affili­ates, and, most importantly, servicing you as a client. With all of this in mind, you will be well on your way to finding a quality long-term CPA network part­ner and embarking on some great affili­ate marketing.

Test different partners to create the best affiliate network for your company

Chris Henger
VP, affiliate marketing, DoubleClick Performics

Affiliate marketing is the origi­nal and purest form of performance-based media and a critical weapon in the customer acquisition arsenal for many online retailers. Affiliate publishers can deliver a steady stream of online sales and actions in exchange for a commis­sion, but affiliate marketing does not equate to “build it and they will come.” Advertisers must recruit affiliate publish­ers and secure optimal distribution.

Affiliate recruiting works best when an advertiser understands its audience and communicates in a way that reso­nates with that group and meets their needs. The tools to recruit one classifica­tion of publishers may be very different from another. When approaching loy­alty publishers, for example, messages should focus on the consumer reward. Advertisers should share a promotional calendar with shopping/promotions-oriented publishers and make sure they understand available offers and seasonal considerations.

Affiliates need information, attention and resources, as well as a compelling product and payout. Smart affiliate mar­keters help affiliates succeed.

Most affiliate publishers are entrepre­neurial, with a lot of business savvy, and the best affiliates are typically the most forward-thinking marketers on the Web.

Smart marketers gain a thorough understanding of the competitive land­scape before beginning to recruit affili­ates, and determine which promote their competitors and evaluate their own pro­gram relative to their competitors, build­ing a case for why publishers should want to work with their brand.

Share information with affiliates so they can put out the right brand message

Christopher Dessi
VP of advertiser sales, North America, Zanox

Some advertisers flinch at the idea of affiliates generating results on their behalf. No matter what doubts you may have about affiliate marketing, the exciting reality is that it has proven to be effective.

If you don’t employ affiliate market­ing tactics in your e-marketing strategy, you’re missing out on new markets and a guaranteed expanded workforce at no cost. For example, if you decide to partner with a network that offers inter­national affiliate reach – you now have an instant international e-marketing strategy. Similarly, if you allow search affiliates to proactively bid on search words – you’ve now just penetrated the search market, without internal staff and at zero cost to you.

Once you have decided to leverage affiliate marketing, the next step is to select a preferred partner. If you ask these four questions before you move forward, you’ll find an affiliate market­ing partner that is significantly more valuable to your organization.

First, is your affiliate network trans­parent? As larger brand advertisers start to spend more money with networks, a real need for transparency has emerged.

Ask if you are obligated to pay for the conversion when a pixel fires. Savvy networks rely on delayed confirmation of a pixel firing. Then, look for a part­ner that offers international reach.

Finally, ask your potential partner if it will allow your company to work with other affiliate networks. If a partner is attempting to lock you into a contractual obligation of exclusivity, they’re only limiting your market reach.

Affiliate marketing helps you reach new markets and expand your workforce

Jason Oates
VP of media services, NetMargin

Marketers who leverage affili­ate programs typically allocate much of their time and budget to display and search advertising. But these methods only represent two pieces of the online marketing puzzle, and therefore only generate a finite amount of traffic and sales. Savvy marketers add e-mail to the mix to drive incremental leads via an integrated, multichannel approach.

The benefits of e-mail for affiliate marketing are tied to the inherent advantages it provides as an advertis­ing, customer acquisition, retention and monetization medium. One example is apparent in e-mail auto-responder programs, which help marketers recover significant leads that might otherwise be lost. Auto-responder programs take advantage of e-mail’s “push and pull” nature as a marketing vehicle. When combined with multivariate testing, they provide insight into what really works, enabling sophisticated optimizations and stronger campaign performance.

E-mail is also the ideal channel for acquiring new customers because it delivers those who may be impossible to reach across the search and display channels. These consumers have proven responsive to subsequent e-mail com­munications, such as relevant up-sell opportunities, that work by leveraging analytics that complement consumer preferences, interests and responses.

Recently, an online dating brand asked us to add e-mail to its display model for affiliate marketing. Display ads drove singles to a landing page where they could sign up for a free trial — but not everyone immediately joined. A multitouch e-mail strategy was employed, serving a targeted com­bination of informational and incentive-driven follow up e-mails, including newsletters and promotions.

The campaign strategy simultane­ously enabled significant win-backs and increased loyalty. Within months, it drove more leads at a higher retention rate than all search engines combined. Today, e-mail is the dating network’s largest lead generator.

Don’t overlook adding e-mail as part of your affiliate marketing mix

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