Affiliates: more than selling

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Coming from the public sector, I had little experience in the digital marketing world and was keen to develop and learn new skills as well as challenge myself in a new field of marketing. Affiliate marketing was a whole different ball game, an area I knew very little about and I was keen to sink my teeth into something new and exciting.

Initial Impression

Before joining Equator, I had a somewhat basic idea of what affiliate marketing involved or at least, what I thought it would involve.To expand my knowledge, I undertook some research. I read blogs, marketing publications and spoke to others about what they knew about this form of marketing. I asked friends and family what their interpretation of affiliate marketing was; some had absolutely no idea, some were way off and others gave me examples of bloggers on Instagram promoting a teeth whitening products. Collating the information and knowledge I had gathered, I came to the very basic conclusion that the affiliate marketing process involved: A selling products to B on behalf of C, with a commission being paid to A…how hard could it be?

I was told that affiliate marketing is all about relationships – at the time I didn’t realise how important these relationships would prove to be. Initially, I thought this meant the relationship between three parties; the advertiser, the publisher and the consumer. However, during my first three months in this role I found out that these important relationships hugely involve the affiliate network and the agency, us at Equator. I very quickly learnt how vital those relationships and good communication skills would prove to be. I soon discovered that there is a lot more involved in affiliate marketing than I previously thought and that my role would involve communication and negotiation with a lot of different stakeholders.

Generating Big Numbers

Cyber weekend is regarded as one of the biggest shopping periods of the year and initially I was struggling to see how our client, Village Hotels, would benefit from this with Black Friday mainly being associated with retail - I couldn’t have been more wrong. This sale was my first taste of how affiliate marketing could performed on a big scale and how successful securing the right coverage with the right affiliates can be.

During the Black Friday sale, affiliates contributed 987 bookings and nearly £97K in revenue with a return on investment of £10.58. The success of Cyber weekend contributed to a 97% YoY revenue uplift. By securing good affiliate deals, booking a 5 exposure package with one of our top affiliates and agreeing 0% commission, we managed to keep our expenditure down and revenue up.

The success of Black Friday whet my appetite for the January Sale, which was forecasted to be even more successful. With a budget agreed to secure coverage with affiliates, it was essential to find the right ones to work with. During my first few months at Equator and from my experience in the run up to Cyber weekend, I had started to build solid relationships with a range of affiliates. Using this, I began negotiations with affiliates I thought would be able to deliver on this promotion. Weeks before the sale launch communication with affiliates were taking place to see who could offer the best exposure and at the most reasonable price.

It was at this point that I began to realise why affiliate marketing was all about relationships. With so many stakeholders involved it is very easy for the message to get lost or misunderstood, especially when an offer can change so quickly according to the client’s preference. It is up to us, the agency, to ensure that every party is kept in the loop and fully aware of date extensions or offer and price changes. These negotiations highlighted the importance of good communication and building strong relationships. As the agency, we are the middle man between the client and affiliates and it is key that we convey the right message on behalf of the client.

Due to the strong and clear offer of 100,000 rooms for £25 and exposure we had secured, we were sure that the sale was going to be a success, I just didn’t realise how successful. The first day of the January sale saw affiliates contributing 2,593 bookings with a revenue of £125,276 and despite a huge amount of traffic to the site (27k clicks) conversion rate remained at 9.67%. The first day of the sale performed better than last year’s January and Black Friday Sale combined, resulting in the best performing day since the launch of the affiliate programme for Village Hotels. Concluding the January sale, affiliates generated 11,467 bookings, contributing £588,575 in revenue with an ROI of £17.

A Future in Affiliate Marketing

Over the last three months, I have had first-hand insight into how affiliate marketing works on both an everyday basis and on a large scale during sale and promotional periods. Cashback and voucher sites usually attract the most attention as they are the big money generators, however one of the main areas I am keen to focus on in the future is content affiliates. This is also an area that some of our clients have asked us to assist with by recruiting decent, reputable content affiliates. This is due to the fact that an affiliate with reliable, high quality content is one of the most effective ways for clients to project their product and brand message to consumers. There is a relationship that is formed between the affiliate and the brand, where there is a mutual understanding and benefit. It’s a match made in heaven. The content affiliate is using first-hand experience and knowledge of the brand to influence consumers and in return they receive access to the product and commission.

Content affiliates usually have their own following through either social channels or websites. They have the power to target niche markets where most other affiliate types and larger affiliates will aim to target the masses. This form of influence marketing, similar to first-hand customer reviews or word of mouth advice and feedback, produces high quality content and links back to the brands website for the customer to continue their journey. They use their influencing powers and knowledge of the brand to convey the brands message to consumers. Although this type of marketing may not drive the most sales or generate the highest income, it can be argued that the quality of customer is higher due to their understanding and relationship with of the brand and is usually less expensive than other types of affiliates, which in turn could secure a returning customer who is not purely purchasing the product due to price.

I now know that affiliate marketing is a whole lot more than A selling to B on behalf of C – it is about being able to effectively communicate and negotiate the best deals to promote a product or a brand, to the right audience through securing effective and mutually beneficial relationships with a number of different stakeholders. I look forward to my continuing my career in affiliate marketing and I am excited for what opportunities the future may bring.