Affiliate Marketing Is a Hungry Beast
With businesses in the United States on track to spend over $8 billion on affiliate marketing by 2022, affiliate marketing is one of the fastest growing industries in the country right now. That’s more than triple what it was only 10 years ago, and the explosive growth isn’t expected to slow down any time soon.
The upside is impossible to ignore. Affiliate marketing doesn’t require a huge investment, and the performance-based model means advertisers only pay for what they get. Better yet, a well-crafted program can boost revenue by an astounding 30%.
But make no mistake: Despite its impressive track record, affiliate marketing success is not a sure thing–or easy to come by. There’s a lot of room for error and, without the right resources, hitting a few potholes along the way is pretty much inevitable.
Pothole #1: Choosing the Wrong Partners
There is no shortage of publishers in the affiliate marketing space–but that’s good and bad. Yes, to maintain a successful program, you need to build an ever-growing roster of publishers, but you have to be extremely selective.
Repeat after me: Not all affiliates are created equal. First of all, not every publisher will align with your brand’s values. Some won’t have a proven track record or established credibility. Others won’t think twice about ignoring your program’s terms and conditions. Those are all red flags. Steer clear.
The truth is, there is no such thing as over-vetting a potential publisher and to do that, you really need a team that has the right connections. Pro tip: Who you know makes a big difference and odds are, an agency’s breadth of relationships will far surpass that of an in-house team. In affiliate marketing, it always pays to get an inside edge on the best contacts through tenured experts who know the industry inside and out.
Pothole #2: Turning on Auto-Pilot
No matter what you may have heard, affiliate marketing is in no way a set-it-and-forget-it solution. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Really. In fact, in the world of digital marketing, the one and only constant is change. Trends, tactics, tools, and strategies must be regularly monitored and optimized accordingly–and probably, more frequently than you think.
Technology updates happen all the time, too. And don’t forget about competition. One thing you can always count on? Your competitors are not sitting still.
Another thing? At first glance, affiliate marketing may just look like a numbers game, but don’t be fooled: High traffic doesn’t always equal big profits. The reality is, a lucrative affiliate program has to be constantly recruiting and nurturing the right partners, with the right audiences, to drive the right traffic in a way that results in new customers and actual sales for your brand. That calls for constant attention and a rock-solid strategy, one that is grounded in experience and sound enough to work week over week, month over month–and, by the way, also flexible enough to pivot when the market dictates.
Pothole #3: Trying to DIY a Large Scale Program
There’s a pretty widespread misconception that affiliate marketing is simple to implement, which explains why it may be tempting to hire someone with limited experience or tap someone in-house to manage your affiliate marketing. But, in doing so, you might be setting yourself up to fail.
Reality check: Affiliate has a lot of moving parts. For starters, one in-house person will never have the wealth of industry knowledge and the relationships needed to navigate the nuances and recruitment needs of building a successful affiliate program. Also, there is also an incredible amount of data to analyze, affiliates to vet and have access to, as well as access to the types of special rates that an agency can secure.
All of that takes a whole lot of expertise–and a whole lot of time. At PartnerCentric, we take a “pod” approach to managing a brand’s affiliate program. That means you’ll have the specialized support of anywhere from six to eight departments on your account every single day.
Affiliate can be very much a scalable engine of growth for your business but only if you commit the necessary resources and manpower towards your program. Affiliate is not, and will never be, a part-time gig. Period.
Pothole #4: Letting Your Guard Down
Affiliate marketing may be a low-risk way to build brand awareness and revenue, but that doesn't mean it’s risk-free. Every year, an estimated 2% of all transactions are attributed to affiliate fraud, which at first glance might not seem that bad. But that adds up to well over $200 million in lost revenue each year, which is about a 22% reduction in return on your ad spend. Ouch.
That’s a lot of wasted marketing dollars. Not to mention, a real risk to the integrity of your brand.
One of the best ways to stay ahead of fraudsters is to be extremely proactive, as in constantly-on-the-lookout-for-anomalies-in-your-data kind of proactive. That’s how you catch
things like high click counts without the conversions to match, cookie stuffing, or bot traffic—and stop it in its tracks.
Here’s the thing, though. Fraudster tools will continue to become more sophisticated so new forms of fraud are always in the works. You can’t take your eyes off your data for a second.
Pothole #5: Accepting Less than Total Control
Regardless, affiliate marketing is here to stay and it’s constantly evolving. If you’re not leveraging it to the fullest, you might be seriously holding your business back.
But that means you have to be an active participant in your brand’s success, which is impossible to do without actively recruiting, vetting, and carefully managing a roster of quality publishers that are right for your brand. Fair warning, through. Doing so manually isn’t sustainable.
At PartnerCentric, we’ve taken a long, hard look at the very real issues, like ad fraud and compliance headaches, that have plagued the industry in the past and found real, quantifiable solutions. The reality is, to completely protect your brand’s reputation and see the best results, you need around-the-clock content monitoring and program optimization. That’s exactly what you get with our proprietary software tools that we call Control Suite.