Before starting Ambassador in 2009, I founded a company in the affiliate marketing space. I quickly discovered companies were generating millions and millions of dollars through their affiliate channels. It was eye-opening, and since then, I’ve known that affiliate marketing is a must-have for every business.
Since then, affiliate marketing has both evolved, yet remained the same. 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 still 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.
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.
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.
Affiliate Tracking 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.
What to look for in an affiliate tracking solution
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.
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.