March 30, 2021

Affiliate Marketing: It’s Not as Easy as It Looks

With over 80% of brands using affiliate programs, performance-based marketing has proven itself to be a powerful tool for building brand awareness and driving sales. Worth an estimated $12 billion worldwide, the affiliate marketing sector has grown 52% since 2015–and it’s not slowing down.  

The upside is obvious. 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 despite its impressive track record, that doesn’t mean affiliate marketing success is a sure thing–or easy to come by. The truth is, affiliate marketing is incredibly complex. There’s a lot of room for error–and unfortunately, fraud, too–which means wasted time and, even worse, wasted money. 

Before you to attempt to DIY your affiliate program, here are five things you need to know:

1. There is no such thing as auto-pilot 

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. Affiliate marketing requires constant attention and flexibility. And it is most certainly not a part-time gig.  

2. Fraudsters can be Relentless 

Affiliate marketing is a low-risk way to build brand awareness and revenue, but it isn’t 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. In more personal terms, that’s about a 22% reduction in return on your ad spend. And the more you invest in affiliate marketing, the more you increase your chances of falling victim to fraud if you don’t protect yourself. Luckily, there are fraud-prevention tools that can block bad traffic before it ever hits your site. However, you still need to watch your data like a hawk to stop small problems from becoming a huge, costly headache. 

3. Strategy is Everything 

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 recruits and nurtures the right affiliate marketing partners, with the right audiences, to drive the right traffic in a way that results in new customers and actual sales for your brand. Easy, right? Wrong. To maximize the return on your spend, you need 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. Remember, the performance marketing space is extremely crowded and getting traction doesn’t happen by accident.

4. Affiliate is a Relationships Business

There is no shortage of publishers in the affiliate marketing space–but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Yes, to maintain a successful program, you need to build an ever-growing roster of publishers, but you have to be extremely selective. Unfortunately, not every publisher will align with your brand’s values or even abide by your program’s terms and conditions. Bottom line? There is no such thing as over-vetting a potential publisher and you need a team that has all of those connections. Established credibility goes a long way in protecting your brand’s integrity and reputation–and your ROI. One more thing to consider: Who you know makes a big difference. In affiliate marketing, getting an inside edge on the best contacts through tenured experts who know the industry inside and out is always a smart move.

5. There are a lot of Moving Parts 

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. For starters, not everybody has the breadth of industry knowledge and, most importantly, the relationships needed to navigate the nuances and regulations of affiliate marketing. 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 rates that an agency can secure. All of that takes not only expertise but also a whole lot of time. 

At PartnerCentric, we’ve secured the relationships, perfected the workflows, and streamlined the processes needed to roll out quality programs with ease–and in record time. So while your in-house team may be slogging through endless red tape that they may not be equipped to handle, we can complete the same amount of work in far less time. And you know what that means: A much faster return on your investment. 

Check out our quick Horror Stories from an Affiliate Marketing Insider” video. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this short 10-minute video about things like:

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