It’s long been known that many affiliate programmes are overly reliant on a handful of affiliates. To alleviate risk, find new audiences and see programme growth, brands are looking to diversify their partners outside of traditional affiliates including, B2B, Podcasts, Referral programmes.
In response to demand from brands wanting to expand outside of traditional affiliate partnerships, we’ve created a new team here in the UK, a Partner Development Team. Their role is different to a traditional Publisher Development Team (whose purpose is to develop existing affiliates and find those marginal gains). The Partner Development Team get under the skin of the brand, understands their target audience, products, unique selling propositions, speaking to various departments within the business. Their task is to find new, unique and creative ways to discover and onboard valuable new partnerships.
Learn best practice of have to recruit new and non-traditional partners to your affiliate programme in my guide below.
Tip 1 – Clearly define your targets
The first step in this whole process is understanding who you eventually want to target and who can help you to get there. In this post, we’re not necessarily talking about traditional ‘plug and play’ affiliates, we’re talking about finding strategic partners, who have a quality and engaged audience that make sense to your business. Think about brand fit and which potential partners share your values.
By having a clear understanding of this, as well as your key target demographic, you’ll be able to build a pipeline of potential partners who have a similar audience. You’re not going to be looking at partnering with a competitor, however, you’ll be able to find suitable partners in many other industries and verticals.
What products or services would complement yours? Think about the customer journey and what the customer might do before or after they come to you. It’s about finding a partnership where working together will add more value to the customer. If you find this, you’ll have the basis for a successful, win-win partnership.
Tip 2 – Strategically approach your potential partners
Spend some time understanding these companies before approaching them. As the saying goes, you have one chance to make a first impression, so do your homework and show that a partnership makes sense from the outset. You shouldn’t be approaching these partnerships with the goal of activating a few quick wins. This whole process needs to have a sustainable approach, allowing you to build long term and successful partnerships.
Be aware that you may be coming in an extra step behind traditional affiliates. When speaking with traditional affiliates there is already an understanding of the performance model, the tracking options available, what is needed to get the partnership set up, etc. Your approach with non-traditional partners needs to be different in this respect, so be prepared from the outset.
You will need to have open and strategic discussions with potential partners, so make sure you have the right person for the job. Understand what you need from the partner and vice versa. What have you got to offer them that will benefit their business? Is this something you would want to do if you were in their position? For long term and sustainable success, this will also need to work your partner, not just for you. So, put yourself in their shoes and understand what value they would get from this partnership.
Highlight all the possible benefits of a potential partnership. Not all businesses are only interested in sales.
Tip 3 – How and when to activate the partnership
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket to start with. Test the waters with partners and their audiences. Start small and once you have found something that works, scale up from there. This approach should allow you to test with a higher number of partners, as well as reducing risk.
In terms of when to activate these partnerships, think of seasonality, events, etc. that could aid the partnership. Build a plan to activate at this specific time, giving you and your partner the best possible chance of success.
From an internal point of view, it’s important to manage your company’s and your partner’s expectations. We’ve mentioned we’re looking at sustainable and successful partnerships and this approach takes time. Even after launch, there will be a lot of optimisation, to make sure both partners are getting the most out of the relationship. Activation is certainly not the last step on the road to success.
Despite this subject being discussed more and more frequently in the industry and with many brands now showing a real interest in finding partners outside of traditional affiliates, this activity should be seen as an extension of your affiliate marketing programme. These actions are not meant to replace your current affiliate efforts and it’s worth noting that maintaining a diverse portfolio of partners and partner types will always be key to running a healthy programme.
These tips should help guide you when looking for new and different opportunities. Running these partnerships through the performance channel should allow you to build successful and long-term partnerships, with the required level of transparency needed to validate the partnership, something that has often been lacking in the past.
If you’d like to find out more about the future of partner marketing download our latest eBook.