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5 Reasons Brands Often Miss The Mark With Affiliate Marketing Campaigns

In the fast-paced world of digital marketing, affiliate programs have become a staple for brands seeking to expand their reach and boost sales. However, despite their potential, many brands find themselves facing disappointment when their affiliate marketing initiatives fail to meet expectations. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the five common reasons why brands’ affiliate programs tend to underperform, without resorting to corporate jargon or convoluted strategies. By the end of this article, you’ll not only understand these pitfalls but also have a roadmap to supercharge your affiliate marketing efforts.

1. Affiliates Want to Make Money

First and foremost, affiliates are driven by the desire to make money. Whether it’s arbitraging traffic costs or providing relevant value to their audience, their bottom line is profitability. They are not charitable organizations coming to your rescue; they are businesses seeking to maximize their returns. Your 10% cart value ain’t gonna make them rich, period.

a. Affiliates Aren't There to Fix Your Crappy Marketing

First and foremost, affiliates are driven by the desire to make money. Whether it’s arbitraging traffic costs or providing relevant value to their audience, their bottom line is profitability. They are not charitable organizations coming to your rescue; they are businesses seeking to maximize their returns. Your 10% cart value ain’t gonna make them rich, period.

b. It's Too Competitive to Fix Your Stuff

The digital landscape is hyper-competitive. Affiliates simply can’t afford to waste their precious time and resources fixing your marketing campaigns. They have their own businesses to run and competing offers vying for their traffic to pick from. Expecting them to remedy your marketing woes is unrealistic.

c. A Loudspeaker for Your Existing Campaigns

Instead of viewing affiliates as saviors, think of them as amplifiers for your existing campaigns. They can help you reach a wider audience, but it’s essential to provide them with the right tools and resources to do so effectively.

d. Metrics, KPIs, and Assets Matter Most

In the early stages of the affiliate relationship, affiliates are primarily concerned with your metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and the assets you provide to ensure their success. They’re not fixated on the intricacies of your product or service features. To engage them effectively, focus on what matters most to them.

2. Brands Often Have the Wrong Mindset

To succeed in affiliate marketing, brands must adopt the right mindset and strategy. Unfortunately, many brands approach it with the wrong perspective. “10% of cart value”, or coupon code requirements are some of the fastest ways we see brands fail to catch the attention of the most desirable affiliates to work with.

a. Not To Sound Redundant, But It's About Making Affiliates Money

Affiliate marketing isn’t solely about brands making money; it’s equally, if not more, about making affiliates money. A profitable affiliate program hinges on the success of your affiliates. By helping them achieve their goals, you pave the way for your own success.

b. Think Beyond Cost-Per-Acquisition

Rethink your approach to affiliate marketing metrics. Instead of fixating solely on Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA), view it as a data acquisition strategy. Your responsibility as a brand is to maximize the return on investment (ROI) of this data. Consider factors like lifetime customer value, refer-a-friend promos and the potential for converting customers that your affiliates couldn’t close the deal with as viable ways to turn decent profit into remarkable outcomes for your brand.

c. Brands That Convert The Most, Win

There is some old adage that goes like, “brands that can afford to pay the most for a new customer, win,” but we think of it differently, in that truly, the brands that convert the best, don’t have to pay the most to win. Ultimately, it comes down to a simple calculation, and a very important metric affiliates focus on:

Earnings Per Click = (Conversion Rate %) x ($ Cost Per Acquisition)

Sure, you can pay the most, and that will help, but converting the best makes a world of difference and dramatically increases profitability of both your brand and your affiliate partners.

3. More Affiliates "Does Not Equal" More Sales

It’s a common misconception that having a multitude of affiliates automatically translates to higher sales. In reality, quality trumps quantity in the world of affiliate marketing, and having too many can be a really bad thing.

a. Quality Over Quantity

Finding a few exceptional affiliates can make or break an entire affiliate campaign. Reporting to management that you’ve recruited hundreds of affiliates, only to discover that none are generating sales, is a significant waste of time and resources. Focus on quality, not quantity. Not to mention, having too many affiliates or being on too many networks, can dilute the results your strongest affiliates are capable of generating or scaling to.

b. Vet and Onboard Affiliates Effectively

Invest in the vetting and onboarding process for affiliates. Your aim should be their success within the first 500 clicks they send your way. Remember the Pareto Principle, which states that roughly 20% of your affiliates will likely drive 80% of your sales. Nurture those high-performing relationships, and quickly handle the ones doing harm.

c. Spoil the Ones Who Deliver

Identify and reward your top-performing affiliates. They are your most valuable assets in the affiliate marketing world. Recognize their contributions and offer incentives to keep them motivated and engaged. These could be access to new optimized creatives, custom/exclusive offers, increased payouts, testing budgets, or more, get creative if need be!

4. Your Offer Must Be Optimized for Affiliate Traffic

Affiliate marketers often operate with a quick money mentality, at least early on in the partnership. After all, they are the ones risking their time and money to make you sales, so they want a fast return. Therefore, they prioritize immediate conversions over lengthy customer journeys or multiple touch points. To align with this mindset and maximize affiliate success, your offer must be affiliate-friendly, for whatever traffic source they specialize in.

a. "Sleep on the First Date" Mentality

Affiliates typically function as “sleep on the first date” advertisers. They aim to secure a sale the very first time someone encounters your offer. This approach aligns with the principles of Direct Response marketing, where conversion rate is king.

b. Direct Response Marketing

Direct Response marketing focuses on eliciting an immediate response from the audience, such as making a purchase. To support your affiliates effectively, provide offers embedded with sales psychology that make them irresistible. Your offer should compel customers to buy on the spot, rather than relying on multiple interactions.

c. Tracking And Attribution

If your technology stack, or at bare minimum your affiliate network of choice doesn’t offer you the ability to track sales back to an affiliate, sub-affiliate and click_id, you are already in the wrong place. To work with high volume affiliates, tracking and attribution is required to be automated, easy to work with, and ready to go from day -1. Seek out alternatives, partner with one or invest in a solution if you are still only tracking sales via coupon codes.

5. Keep Optimizing Your Offer

The world of affiliate marketing is dynamic and ever-evolving. To ensure sustained success, brands must continuously optimize their offers, assets, and strategies.

a. Embrace Continuous Improvement

Don’t treat affiliate marketing as a “set it and forget it” endeavor. Regularly optimize your offer by tweaking elements such as conversion rates, ad creatives, personas, angles, and product positioning. This ongoing commitment to improvement is crucial for long-term success.

b. Launch New Offers

Keep the momentum going by introducing fresh offers. Whether it’s calendar-based sales events, holiday promotions, or exclusive deals, provide your affiliates with a constant stream of appealing content to promote.

c. Treat Affiliates as Partners

Finally, don’t hoard your best-performing creative assets. Treat your affiliates as partners, not just intermediaries. Share your top-performing creatives, insights, and strategies with them. The more you empower your affiliates for success, the more successful your affiliate program will become.

Closing Remarks

In conclusion, affiliate marketing can be a powerhouse strategy for brands, but it requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to quality and collaboration. Recognize that affiliates are motivated by their own bottom line, prioritize their success, vet and nurture relationships wisely, optimize your offers for quick conversions, and continuously fine-tune your approach. By treating your affiliates as partners and aligning your goals with theirs, you can unlock the full potential of your affiliate marketing program and achieve remarkable results.

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