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The Ultimate Guide to B2B Affiliate Marketing
Are you in search of the ultimate guide to B2B affiliate marketing? Learn everything from how it works to how software can help scale your efforts.
Are you in search of the ultimate guide to B2B affiliate marketing? You've come to the right place! Today, we'll be covering all things affiliate marketing - from how this strategy works to how software can help scale your efforts. Let's dive in!
The Ultimate Guide to B2B Affiliate Marketing for Marketers
For companies looking to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing to expand their audience, prospects, and fans, affiliate programs may be the answer. Here are a few common questions we hear from clients looking to develop an affiliate marketing strategy:
How will my business find new customers?
How can we make a community for our existing audience?
What’s the best way to target specific segments of our audience?
What company wouldn't want to increase leads with the help of motivated third-parties, rewarding their enthusiastic and profitable support to encourage more work on your behalf?
How does affiliate marketing work?
Affiliate marketing has become a growing trend for simple, easy-to-launch marketing solutions, but the lasting benefits are much more complex. Affiliate marketing is more than a popularity contest with spammy-looking content. Programs that are strategically planned and managed have the power to inform new customers and direct new revenue to your business.
By definition, affiliate marketing is a transaction between a company and an entity where the business receives customers (or leads) in exchange for a financial incentive.
It’s a highly efficient marketing strategy because brands specify the cost for a specific action being driven. For example, Company X offers affiliates with a 10% incentive on referred sales or Company Y offers affiliates $100 per lead - in both cases, the companies can easily measure ROI on the number of new buyers or prospects brought in by affiliate marketing.
Consumer brands and B2B companies leverage affiliates as part of their overall relationship marketing efforts, but the challenge with affiliate marketing is that brand recognition has a big impact on success. Specifically, B2B affiliate marketing can increase lead generation, as long as your brand and your affiliates are on the same page.
What does that mean?
Well, traditionally, brands that leveraged these partnerships had to join a network to access affiliates. Attracting “affiliates” was an arduous process and, often, brands had to compete for “space” on an affiliate’s blog. This led to many bidding wars and higher commission rates, which at the end of the day, would lower the brand’s margins. Especially if your brand was newer to the market or less known than your competitor (who in turn, typically had deeper pockets).
Now while that process is still very much alive and kicking, it also leads us to how affiliate marketing has changed over the past decade. Today, more and more savvy marketers are taking ownership of affiliate marketing and cutting out the middleman (aka the network), so they are able to develop better working relationships with affiliates. More so, brands using affiliate marketing strategies are focusing on collaboration. It's no surprise that by 2022, the affiliate marketing industry is forecasted to eclipse the $8 billion mark.
While managing your own in-house affiliate network may take more work upfront, the affiliate partnerships created tend to be stronger, better for your business, and more authentic. Even more importantly, by managing an affiliate program in-house, your marketing team has the ability to better track and optimize affiliate marketing efforts.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing: 3 Tips for Success
Whether you’re launching your first affiliate initiative or just curious about which benefits to expect from a successful affiliate marketing program, here are 3 tips to help you keep your affiliate marketing efforts in check.
Tip #1: Don't Overlook Your Customers
At first glance, many people cite big-name bloggers, celebrity co-signs, incentive motivated promoters, and influencer shoutouts as affiliate marketing examples. Believe it or not, there are members of your existing customer base with social followings and well-known platforms that can rival the reach of bloggers that are unfamiliar with your product or service.
From a strategic perspective, customer referrals push affiliate marketing programs along more quickly and organically than hit-or-miss blanket outreach. In fact, 82% of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase.
A successful affiliate marketing program will have a system for incorporating your existing list of customers into an elevated affiliate experience. Tapping into this immediate network avoids the possibility of creating a distant, corporate voice throughout your channels. Your customers want to hear from people that are like them and can really vouch for your brand from a buyer’s perspective.
Tip #2: Provide Affiliates With Marketing Collateral
Recognizable and consistent digital branding materials can differentiate one affiliate program from another in today’s technologically driven world. Having an easy-to-access portal for affiliates empowers you to communicate with your affiliates and provide materials at ease. This means that your latest piece of marketing collateral can be uploaded directly to the portal and distributed to your affiliates to share on their blogs, websites, and mobile-friendly platforms.
Creating and disseminating branded materials that maintain your company’s look and feel gives your affiliates the freedom (and confidence) to spread the word in a brand-approved way.
Tip #3: Automate Manual Processes In Your Affiliate Program
The time, money, and resources required to wrangle your affiliates into a streamlined program, becomes much more manageable when you can perform tasks with the click of a button. If your current system requires spreadsheets and business cards then, chances are, you aren’t experiencing the full benefits of an automated affiliate marketing program.
Automated affiliate programs provide each affiliate with analytical reports on their progress and allow companies to link affiliates to specific campaigns. This approach transforms your email list from a static checklist of names to a dynamic group of brand voices. The analytical capabilities of automated affiliate programs are a major draw for companies that want to promote transparency between the brand and its affiliates.
Perhaps the most important automated process for affiliates (and companies) is the reward payout system. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Ambassador, 88% of Americans say they would like some sort of incentive (money, product or service, loyalty points, early access, swag) for sharing a product via social media or email. Additionally, 77% of Americans say they prefer money. The most successful affiliate marketing programs have seamless, automated cash payout systems and incentivizing rewards.
Affiliate marketing software: Scaling with technology
In an age where marketing is increasingly driven by technology, most marketing leaders know that one of their most important responsibilities is evaluating, buying, and implementing the right marketing technologies and then building strategies around them.
And that rings true when it comes to scaling your affiliate marketing efforts.
For affiliate marketing to consistently deliver truly exceptional results, it should be treated like any other high-value customer acquisition channel — investing in process and technology, and incorporating it into your overall marketing strategy.
The problem is that choosing the “right” affiliate tracking solution is easier said than done. With dozens of marketing channels and thousands of technologies to choose from, it’s increasingly difficult to decide where to allocate your time and budget.
And, if you’re not careful, you can waste weeks evaluating vendors that may not be able to meet your needs. Worse yet, you might find yourself stuck in a contract with one of those vendors, which depletes precious resources without adding any business value. At the end of the day, marketers that look for automation need to find a solution that is intuitive and equipped to manage their specific challenges, while providing ROI.
What should you look for when evaluating affiliate marketing software?
Let’s break down the “must-haves” when it comes to finding the perfect fit for your affiliate marketing needs:
The ability to own, brand, and customize the recruitment and registration experience for the affiliates you want and need while keeping true to your brand. Control who receives access, when they do, and to what aspects of your program.
Affiliate Portal + Unique Share Links
This feature is extremely important in order to proactively provide your affiliates with the assets, insights, and reporting they need to optimize engagement. This will also eliminate constant requests and streamline processes.
Enterprise Security & Fraud Detection
In today’s cyber world, you can never be too precautious. The platform you invest in should be able to provide complete control over terms and conditions while flagging any suspicious activity, and even ban affiliates. Especially for international brands that require GDPR compliance, your provider should be well-versed in rules and regulations.
Automated Cash Payouts
The ability to deliver real-time, or scheduled, automated cash payouts to your affiliates is a feature your partners will appreciate - no more manual checks, excel files, or logging into multiple accounts or systems.
Want to pay out differently based on number of sales, revenue thresholds, or specific purchases? That shouldn’t be a problem if your affiliate tracking solution can structure different payout models based on affiliate type, sales generated, or special promotions.
In order to scale, you’ll need the ability to tailor specific programs, and commissions, or revenue shares for each affiliate campaign or affiliate segment, while ensuring the lead, sale, and commission are continuing to be tracked.
Setting Your Affiliate Program Up For Success
Like most effective marketing tactics, affiliate marketing isn’t a “set it and forget it” strategy. To achieve the biggest results, you need to be able to track affiliate activity, dive into the analytics, look at the reporting, make decisions based on intelligent information, and optimize based on that. If you’re investing in an affiliate tracking platform that can’t provide that, you’re missing out on a huge piece of the puzzle.