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We’re all excited about the investment in the affiliate channel and recognition of the value it brings to brands. CMOs have traditionally viewed our industry as a niche, often relegating it to second-class status. But in 2022, affiliate is a top focus for many leading brands. No doubt your MBOs reflect this.

This sea change is about more than “just” more money to invest in our programs. Finally, most brands fully understand the affiliate value proposition – pay for performance with no upfront costs – and are tasking us with maximizing scale from this advantageous model.

Your company needs you to make it work even harder for your brand by exploring the full breadth and depth of how you partner and with whom. This Awin mini-series outlines a roadmap. It’s divided into two main sections:

  • Post One: The right way to conduct an efficient partner audit based on brand needs and goals
  • Post Two: Recommendations for new partners that can deliver significant incremental program growth

Putting Brand Interests First

It’s time to ensure we have set aside any vestiges of siloed thinking. To capture value for your brand, you need to align your partnership strategy with brand needs. These four key considerations can help you do this.

1. Margins and Profitability

As we all know, most traditional affiliate marketing is discount-centric. While discounts are a powerful tool for driving revenue, it's more important than ever that we ensure our programs and promotions grow both the top and bottom lines. It may have been enough to maximize the revenue credited to our programs in the past. Now we must identify partners that attract new revenue. By understanding the sales incrementality for each sale, we can devise more profitable agreements with current and new partners.

Awin works with clients to properly manage attribution and understand incrementality. We offer an industry-leading solution called SingleView to precisely attribute credit for a transaction across all channels and partners that helped drive it.

Many of our clients come to us to move from one-size-fits-all commissioning to programs that reflect the level of revenue incrementality in the fee paid to each partner class and publisher. Tools like SingleView help you determine which partners are driving more incremental purchases so that you can rightsize your commissions based on profitability.

In a groundbreaking case study for a leading retailer, our analytics team demonstrated the power of this approach for driving incremental revenue. This retailer found tremendous value in adjusting commission rates for its content partners versus its discount partners, as the former were consistently driving more profitable purchases and revenue. While they continued to work with these deal-centric partners, the lower commission paid better reflected the business value they drove for them.

Margins and profit are also core to smart partner recruitment efforts. To help brands better understand the most noteworthy developments and companies in the space for driving incremental revenue, our Awin Report 2022: Power 100 showcases the 100 partners that every brand needs to know.

2. Targeting

Historically, affiliate leaders often focused programs on the largest possible audiences to maximize scale.In the last several years, we have helped many clients supplement these “mass” efforts with programs that maximize delivery to the audience segments most likely to buy. Many programs benefit when we use targeting goals and insights to define the right mix of traditional affiliate partners.

Your partner mix should align to the audiences best served by your brand, which will help drive more sales and reduce dependence on ever-larger discount offers over the long haul. Success here is about understanding how each partner is leveraging whatever tools they have to help you connect with the target.

Start this step of the process by reviewing your current list of partners in the context of available target insights. Additionally, if your success with certain partners provides new insights into your potential customers, connect with your brand team to help inform other channels with these findings.

There are a variety of ways to achieve more precise targeting. First, identify traditional partners with extensive reach into the most coveted audiences. It’s best to find tools to help you sort through the hundreds of thousands of options more quickly. Awin’s newly-launched Publisher Recommendation tool automates this for our clients to recommend relevant new partners for their programs. Second, many of your largest partners in the cashback and deals arena have highly advanced segmentation tools available to clients willing to share their customer data. For example, many large partners offer geolocation targeting when prospects are most likely to be receptive to an offer. We have found this very powerful for travel and retail brands.

Conduct tests with community partners that reach new audiences you think might be responsive. For example, some at-scale partners focus on age groups, gender groups, lifestyles, and ethnicities. Testing programs with these partners provide a low-risk way of assessing secondary target strategies. Additionally, many of your partners may be able to use their customer and contextual data to help you identify markets you haven’t yet considered.

Awin constantly focuses on ensuring our clients have the best array of traditional affiliate partners to maximize the impact on core targets. We also work with the most sophisticated partners to find new ways to connect with core and noncore target audiences. This requires close collaboration to test new ideas that offer an excellent target fit. Beyond being experts in the North American affiliate landscape, with 17 offices globally, we can help you identify new partners that help reach sizable audiences in your core markets but are headquartered elsewhere.

3. Brand Fit and Values

We’re all in the brand business. Consider brand equity and values as you identify and optimize your partner mix. Dig deeper than a handful of generic measures on audience size to find the best partnerships. For example, our team was a first mover in identifying partners geared to brands passionate about ethical commerce. We dramatically simplified partner review and recruitment for interested clients by offering a pre-vetted array of such publishers.

Our publisher team ensures that our massive ecosystem has partners aligned with a broad range of brand values. Further, our partner categorization helps brands find perfect fit partners more quickly and provides communication tools to simplify recruiting. As new partner classes emerge, work with your network or solution provider to ensure you are an early mover for opportunities well suited to your brand.

Remember to read the fine print when entering data-sharing agreements. Make sure that your new partner isn’t going to use YOUR data to power better results for EVERY OTHER brand in your category. Consider how each major partner is helping you drive loyalty to the brand versus the deal.

4. Aperture/Timing

We’ve discussed the right audiences and environments to derive brand value. Now let’s move to timing. Great affiliate programs deliver messages at times most advantageous to creating brand value. While most affiliate programs are “always-on” and drive sales throughout the calendar year, many brands have distinct seasonality you should reflect in your go-to-market.

Sometimes, timing is about specific times of the year where you want to be more active, like “Cyber Week” or “Dads and Grads.” In other instances, aperture comes from when a customer chooses to search for solutions. That’s just as critical a timing consideration as calendar dates. Such innovations have come at a fast clip in recent years, so it’s essential to find ways to stay up-to-date. We work to ensure our clients are first- or early-movers on transformative tech like geofencing, emerging platforms, and innovative placements. These empower brands to change minds and close sales, not just offer a coupon for a purchase that will happen anyway.

Having a diverse set of partner types that run across the funnel on your program is of tremendous value here. This means you have every angle covered, ensuring your brand is 'always-on' and available from an awareness perspective across the customer journey. This helps ensure that the brand is present regardless of where the customer is in that journey. We've seen massive growth in the diversity of partner types in recent years, and this means that options for reaching customers everywhere are arguably more available than ever before.

Post One Conclusion

All the new brand investment in our industry creates enormous opportunities to grow our businesses and careers. It also means that we must abandon our siloed thinking and ensure our strategies and tactics are aligned to maximize brand value. But by keeping these four key concepts in mind, we can make partner review and evaluation an ongoing process and perfectly synchronize our efforts with the best interests of our brands and companies.

Our second post will outline new partner models and specific companies that can help you unlock additional incremental growth. Additionally, for more information on top innovative partners that can help you drive extraordinary growth in 2022, download your free copy of the Awin Report 2022: Power 100 now.