We can all appreciate the power of content marketing. It provides online searchers with answers to common questions that have about a product, service, or topic of interest. In the digital marketing space content is used to draw interest for a brand by answering common questions searchers are asking for across a range of search engines.
In affiliate marketing, one common misconception is that all it takes is one or two content placements to elicit a massive consumer response. This is not the case. Content is important, but it’s not everything. You need a variety of publisher types to effectively build an audience.
The Context for Content
Supporting the Brand Growth strategy
Each quarter, a large retail brand decides on a storyline for their product line. All content emphasizes a compelling aspect of the brand platform, and supports various product lines with a consistent message.
In the affiliate channel, this smart approach helps us turbo charge our recruitment team by elevating the brand beyond product features to include consumer-relevant content to expand reach. Leveraging customer needs in content helps expand both reach and publisher diversity.
Leveraging Affiliate Along the Buyer Journey
Brand growth is the ultimate measure of marketing success. As we know, customers begin their buying journey at different points in the purchase cycle. Content has a different role, depending on the growth strategy that drives spend.
One client may look to the affiliate channel for increased awareness and category penetration and another may be in a market share battle with a respected competitor. Content can be used differently to serve these separate strategies.
For a client who needed an awareness boost, we leveraged their differentiated content via influencers who could expand reach through their networks. A brand that has high awareness but is subject to a market share strategy, we would take the same content and re-craft it to high-volume publishers with large audiences to compete more effectively.
The Right KPIs for Content Marketing
The right KPIs for content marketing may differ from KPIs for performance-based strategies. Distinguishing between these two outcomes is key to affiliate success.
For a large retail brand, it was essential to separate the KPIs – and the budget – to evaluate the success of their affiliate program. For example, while their performance pillar was based on conversions and sales, the goal for content marketing was reach and awareness.
Budgets were carved out to serve each strategic pillar, and content KPIs were adjusted to measure site visits and reach, rather than actual sales. This allowed for more dynamic testing of brand content, and budget adjustments to support the pillar that was performing best against each specific KPI.
When 1+1=3 with Content Marketing
Just as KPIs need to differ between performance and awareness strategies, so does the right publisher base. Brands open to different publisher types and understand the importance of diversification see greater efficiency in their affiliate program results.
Carving out a role for content – as a partner strategy along with loyalty and coupons sites – helps use content marketing as an influencing factor in coupon and loyalty, and can be tested and measured in aggregate. Content serves to remind and inspire about a brand, that may drive more reach and improve conversions
Think of Content Affiliates as Brand Ambassadors
Positioned right at the top of your sales funnel, content affiliates’ purpose is to promote your brand to their well-established audience through high-quality, relevant content that appears in outlets like mass media, blogs, or social media channels.
The content also works to establish trust with your potential customer and can be extremely influential in their decision to ultimately make a purchase. Considering that this is often the first contact that your target has with your brand, success at this stage of the customer journey is measured by an increase in brand awareness and engagement, not sales.
Content marketing publishers reach your customers in the “awareness” stage of the affiliate funnel, which is typically two steps away from where a purchase is actually made. To get them from “awareness” to “action,” customers first need to make their way through the “exploration” stage.
Building brand awareness and customer engagement is great–and a critical part of the customer journey–but that isn’t enough to pay the bills. To achieve your growth goals–with the revenue to match–you need different types of affiliates on board to keep people moving through your sales funnel.
Types of Affiliates that Can Help During the Exploration Phase
In the vast sphere of affiliate marketing, various partners play distinct roles in guiding potential customers through their buying journey. During the crucial exploration phase, when consumers are first delving into a brand or product, certain types of affiliates stand out as especially effective.
These affiliates are adept at introducing, educating, and igniting initial interest. Here are some specific types of affiliates that can be instrumental during this exploration phase, facilitating a smooth transition for consumers from mere curiosity to genuine interest.
A hybrid of a coupon and content affiliate, deal affiliates can generate valuable traffic to your brand’s website through curated content featuring deeply discounted products or other incentives to make a purchase.
Brands look to coupon sites to feature hard-to-resist deals or promotions that drive traffic to their website and increase on-site conversions.
Cashback + Loyalty Affiliates
Loyalty sites offer its members cash back or points back–or sometimes a combination of both–for their purchases. Some loyalty sites even donate a percentage of a purchase to a charitable cause of the customer’s choice.
Affinity Group Rewards Affiliates
Also known as benefits affiliates, affinity group rewards affiliates operate through a closed network (i.e. behind a registration wall) to deliver exclusive promotions to a niche audience.
Conversion Optimization Affiliates
Conversion Optimization affiliates retarget customers on-site, as well as those who have abandoned their carts, to keep them engaged and incentivize them to convert.
In Affiliate Marketing, Strategic Brand Personalization Is Everything
Within the affiliate marketing landscape, the uniqueness of each brand becomes inherently evident. Each brand carries its own identity, customer base, value proposition, and positioning in the market. The strategies and tactics that work wonders for one may not necessarily be the golden ticket for another.
This necessitates a tailored and often diversified approach to affiliate marketing programs, factoring in the brand’s individual objectives, initial reach, target audience, and product offerings. On the flip side, affiliate partners also come with their own set of strengths, audience demographics, and promotional methodologies.