A few months ago I was consulting with a client who told me that they were giving their influencers individualized links to track their performance and then were paying the top performers. I said, “oh so you’re implementing affiliate marketing?” The client said, “no that is spammy this isn’t spammy.”
That was kind of a key moment for me. I went back through the archives in my brain of all of the hundreds of influencer marketing strategy calls and training webinars that I’ve done. I realized that affiliate marketing is a branch of influencer marketing and almost everyone is doing it. For some reason, many marketers refuse to call it affiliate marketing or embrace that it works. A trendier way to put it that seems to be getting traction is substituting the word affiliate out for “performance based marketing”. Suddenly marketers get more comfortable with this type of marketing.
Taking all of that into consideration made me wonder why the term affiliate marketing has a bad rep. The actual practice of what it entails, when done ethically, is an amazing part of a digital marketing strategy.
Based on research, influencers want to be compensated for the value their word of mouth recommendations bring to brands. Brands have the budget to put toward influencer marketing. But thry often falter at figuring out how to pay influencers and score authentic mentions. Affiliate or performance based marketing is a very logical solution for all members on the influencer marketing spectrum.
So let’s dive in and see how it’s done well and done poorly, shall we?
Not So Great Affiliate Marketing
First, let’s acknowledge some of the reasons that affiliate marketing has some bad connotations based on certain affiliate strategies. Strategies that I don’t advocate for just FYI:
- Lazy banner ads
- Blasted out coupon codes
- “one and done” campaigns
- Cluttered sites with too many insincere affiliate offers
- Lack communication between brand and affiliates
The site below takes affiliate marketing a little too far and has cluttered it’s digital storefront with coupon codes:
Great Affiliate Marketing
When done well, affiliate marketing is a great component or best friend of influencer marketing.
Check out this Instagram post that has an affiliate link in it but it flows organically with the entire post and isn’t confusing for viewers.
Aside from clutter and cheap looking content, another differentiating factor in good and bad affiliate marketing is actual relationship building. Names and stories are a more powerful ways to approach any type of marketing than unique code numbers and one-off emails. If you have the right person in-house or hire the right agency for your affiliate program management, that person will be an expert at keeping strong relationships with affiliate connections.
Since great affiliate marketing happens as an ongoing partnership, it’s important for brands to always supply their partners with updated verbiage, high-quality images, seasonal promotions and easy to share and use content. Constantly update links and images so affiliates can use them across their social channels from their blog posts to pins!
When the right people are managing an affiliate program, links are assured to be “no follow” in their coding so that they are not causing damage to the brand’s reputation. FTC guidelines must be strictly adhered to so the brand doesn’t risk permanent damage.
Why I want a T-Shirt that Says “I love Affiliate Marketing”
To hang in my closet next to my t-shirt that says “I love Colorado beer” I want a t-shirt that says “I love affiliate marketing” which is saying a lot.
I love that affiliate marketing appeals to a lot of marketers or CMOs who love hard metrics. While a lot of social media strategies and influencer marketing tactics work—the data gathered from those tactics can be vague. Affiliate marketing provides a lot of hard metrics. It can trace efforts to actual sales not only for a campaign but for a per partner basis as well. It’s an easy strategy to analyze with data and to continually refine based off of said data.
I’ve always advocated that influencers be paid for the value they bring to brands as long as it’s done ethically and legally. When done strategically and creatively I think affiliate marketing solves the conundrum of how to fairly and legally compensate influencers for their hard work making both sides happy.
Lastly, compensation is based on performance so these types of strategies encourage influencers to share a product or brand across all of their social channels and take ownership in the success of the brand. There is nothing more valuable than an influencer who takes ownership in your brand.
What is your opinion of affiliate marketing? Would love to get a good discussion going about this in the comments below!