The strongest affiliate models that have persisted within the affiliate marketing channel since its inception are coupon sites and loyalty/cashback sites. While these publisher models are highly productive in driving revenue for advertisers and shouldn’t be ignored in your publisher mix, there's still an opportunity to reach even more consumers and drive sales with an audience who may not interact with these publisher models. There are several other publisher types that, combined with the proper strategy, can round out a diverse publisher set that offers the optimal customer reach for any given advertiser.
Some publishers may be focused on consumers seeking savings or loyalty benefits, others may be tapping into omni-channel behavior; some publishers are lasered in on reaching cross-border consumers, while others are focused on shoppers whose decisions are influenced by content or reviews. Thus, not all publishers reach the same type of customers. That simple fact makes publisher diversification important in any recruitment strategy.
Advertisers must continually be recruiting new, varied and quality publishers into their mix if they want to maximize their reach across a range of consumer revenue opportunities and drive long-term growth. Data from the CJ network found that within a 5-year growth plan, recruited publishers generate 60% of a program’s total revenue AFTER the first year. In other words, while publishers that were in the program in the first year still contributed a meaningful percentage of advertiser program revenue, most program revenue comes directly from newly recruited publisher partnerships.
It’s undeniable that advertisers must grow and diversify their publisher mix. Here are a few ways to go about doing just that:
Align on specific business goals
Profitable sales and customer growth is the ultimate goal for every business but in order to achieve this advertisers must set specific objectives and success metrics to guide their strategy. For many advertisers, this entails increasing average order values (AOVs) or growing new-to-file (NTF) rates. Maybe one way you are looking at growing your NTF rate is to recruiting different publishers to help you reach more cross-border customers in other countries who are shopping in your market. By clarifying this goal, it allows you to properly develop a strategy and identify publishers with a proven track record reaching that audience.
Prioritize by sizing the publisher opportunity
Once you’ve aligned your publisher recruitment goals with your specific business goals, a great way to determine optimal publishers to recruit is to examine the data around who your brand already reaches, who each prospective publisher reaches, and see where there is an overlap or not. If you have access to benchmarking data and insights, do a gap analysis to see how your affiliate marketing is performing with publishers as compared to other advertisers in your vertical. The differential will unveil publishers with untapped potential and help you size the opportunity through which you can meet your goals.
Consider new-and-traditional publisher types
Data has shown that content publishers bring in the highest AOVs and NTF rates of any other publisher model. Content publishers are broken out into a couple different categories: Influencers with a large and engaged following (e.g. Instagram or YouTube stars, mommy or travel bloggers, etc.), and mass media/commerce content sites (e.g. CNN, BuzzFeed and Wirecutter) that publish editorial content around their product/service recommendations.
Focus on scaling content within your publisher mix cannot come at cost of neglecting relationships with tried and true publisher models that are successful at driving incremental revenue. A recent study by Google and ComScore found that coupon customers are two times more likely to convert on a retailer’s site when they reach the site via a paid coupon search. Traditional publisher models may also be dabbling in new and compelling promotional methods like social or mobile apps. The key is focusing on the publisher models that align with your goals.
Thoughtfully engage and educate publishers
Once you determine the publishers you’d like to work with, it’s important to engage them in a way that sets the relationship up for success. How you onboard publishers set the stage for them—and you—to grow effectively. Help them truly understand your brand and how to properly showcase it. Publishers should clearly understand your goals and be incentivized to help you achieve them. Some publishers rarely respond to email, so it may be worth picking up the phone to more thoughtfully explain why your brand matters.
Applying above principles (aligning publisher recruitment with specific business goals, seizing the opportunity and educating publisher about brand and their goals) will provide incremental growth through incremental consumers. It is important, though, that advertisers don’t solely rely on last-click attribution to determine publisher performance, as that may mask other publishers and publisher models that might be driving traffic and/or influence. With that additional insight, advertisers can better align compensation across publishers and their business goals.
Affiliate marketing can’t be a set it and forget it channel. Some publishers fall out of fashion with consumers over time. Some publishers get out-innovated by other publishers. Ongoing focus on recruitment of new publishers and optimization of mid-to-long tail provides insurance against external disruptions that can negatively affect growth. By continually and strategically aligning publisher performance with business goals, both new and existing publishers and their methods to engage with consumers can help advertisers capitalize on current and long-term consumer shopping behaviors—thus contributing to sustained profitable, growth.