The entire field of partner marketing is changing rapidly. From its roots in the affiliate marketing space, we are seeing the industry expand to encompass new sectors – arenas like influencer marketing, strategic brand-to-brand partnerships, channel agreements, and more.
Changing Environments Call For New Thinking
Given these major changes in the space, it makes sense to consider new strategies in order to drive more revenue and brand value from the channel. We’ve seen and heard from our top brands and agencies that they are using custom commissioning strategies, creating strategic partnerships with other advertisers, and pulling deeper insights from their program data to optimize their affiliates and partnerships.
Here are 5 strategies to make sure you’ve set not only your program, but also your marketing team or agency, up for maximum success.
- Make Greater Use of Your Customer Data
- Understand and Leverage the Strengths of Your Leading Partners
- Explore Technological Solutions to Market Opportunities
- Watch Your Competitors. And Amazon.
- Identify and Pursue Top Tier Strategic Brand Partners
The sections that follow explain each of these strategies and how it can help deliver value.
1. Make Greater Use of Your Customer Data
Your first-party customer data is a unique asset that can help you develop better programs and drive better outcomes. By gaining maximum understanding of your customers, you can formulate better programs, fine-tune offers, and customize messages to capitalize on great market opportunities. It can be extremely valuable to consider what you know about your shoppers and buyers at three different stages:
- PRE-CLICK What sorts of offers and information are the best motivators of first actions? How do you message for different stages in the buyer journey?
- POST-CLICK/PRE-PURCHASE What measurable signals do anonymized shoppers provide to us before they buy? Are we collecting the information necessary to leverage buyer behavior for more effective tactics? Think in particular about their product searches, add to carts, and places in the buyer journey that users seem to get off track or lost. Consider also the laws and regulations regarding the collection and use of customer and prospect data in the regions in which you do business. Rules and conventions vary and it is essential you keep those in wind as you formulate your plans.
- POST PURCHASE What insights do we have about our actual buyers versus our shoppers? Do they skew differently? Do there appear to be different buyer segments among our purchasers? To cite an example use case for the travel industry, this could also mean insights from booked versus consumed reservations.
In this process, it’s important to consider both the data you are collecting now and the data you could be collecting. If you currently only measure purchase value, how could passing data about product searches, add to carts, and basket contents power a more effective approach.
Data Makes a Difference
You can analyze data internally to improve programs on an aggregate level. Or you can collaborate with your partners and pass them insights so they can deliver more effective, customized messaging in the future. Data really can make a difference. The key is to identify the bits of information that are most relevant to delivering on key business opportunities.
2. Understand and Leverage the Strengths of Your Leading Partners
Knowing, communicating with, paying on time, and having a direct relationship with your largest partners is foundational for creating win-win strategies that work for you and your partners alike. While this might sound a bit elementary, personal relationships are the currency of the partnership industry. Partners can be rewarded and incentivized in many ways — ways that can be proactively designed to encourage customer acquisition, quicker conversions, lifetime value, trial-to-subscription models, and more.
Personalized Communication Makes a Difference
In fact, personalized outreach can do a long way to boost even lackluster or low performing partners and get them re-engaged with your program. Only by knowing and communicating directly with your partners can you understand their goals and have a mutually beneficial program that can scale quickly for growth.
3. Explore Technological Solutions to Market Opportunities
Integrating with the best new and emerging technologies is becoming more critical in the constantly changing martech industry. Find a time, and a cost-effective way, to stay up to date on technologies that may be relevant to your business. This might mean having your team or agency provide you with periodic POVs, or understand recent third-party tech integrations or internally developed product enhancements on the part of your tracking solution or network.
It can be helpful to think about relevant technological innovation in five categories:
- Program Management: Can a new technology make it easier for us to manage and optimize our partnerships or improve our speed to market? An example here would be an offering that used AI to predict future results and makes forecasting more accurate.
- Platforms and Access: Can technology improve the cross-device user experience we deliver, so that we can respond to clients on their terms, in the locations they prefer? An example here would be a technology that can improve measurement on mobile devices.
- User Experience and Purchase Friction: Can a new technology make the process of helping customers finding the right product and purchasing it faster and easier? Can it help address a bottleneck identified in your buyer flow or customer journey? An example here would be a technology that could reduce steps in the transaction process.
- Partner Enablement: Can a technology make it easier for partners to capitalize on our offers and improve revenue? An example would be a technology that helps partners get up and running quickly on your partner program and get paid faster.
- Reporting and ROI: Can a new technology or integration help you measure, visualize, and integrate other marketing channel data? An example of this would be a technology that gathers and pulls insights in real-time that’s easily added to your other marketing data to measure the return on the overall partner program investment.
4. Watch Your Competitors and Amazon
While you need to stay ahead of your competition, it’s also valuable to constantly evaluate the programs and strategies current in use by competitors. To keep up with their initiatives. Very few companies pay enough attention to how competitors are changing their approaches in market. That mistake could cost you, or your brand, significantly. Periodically analyze every aspect of your competitor programs to determine how they measure up to your own.
Partners can offer great insight into “what is working” both within and beyond your category. This is not to say that partners will or should provide you with proprietary competitor insights. In fact, be cautious about partners who expresses a willingness to do so, because they could reveal your plans to competitors. But partners have unique market perspective you need to leverage to get best results.
Be Market – and Amazon – Aware
Ours is a business propelled in part by new ideas, and you need to be aware of how new approaches are faring in the market in order to optimize your own efforts. Further, we strongly believe that any performance marketer should be a regular student of Amazon’s strategies, tactics and testing. They control just under half of total ecommerce sales, and have both the team and resources to deliver a constant set of innovations to the marketplace. And test them exhaustively.
5. Identify and Pursue Top Tier Strategic Brand Partners
More and more brands are working directly with other leading brands to co-market and cross-promote products. A recent alliance between two of our clients, lifestyle apparel leader SurfStitch and Hawaiian Airlines offers a great example of this sort of partnership. We see strategic brand-to-brand partnerships as a massive potential revenue source for the coming years, and encourage all of our clients to explore smart, strategic partnerships with other leading brands.
By leading brands, we mean brands distinct from affiliate publishers. Brands whose primary business is delivering products or services, and which operate in complementary categories or with related consumer bases. The right brands for your business will depend, of course, on your brand and target audience. Many factors need to be aligned and communicated clearly before a successful brand partnership can form. These include:
- Scale: Can a partnership with a brand deliver the revenue and other benefits necessary to justify the investment of time and resources?
- Audience Alignment: A big part of the value of these partnerships is access to another brand’s customer base.
- Shared Values: Shared values can be extremely beneficial, as they afford consumers the opportunity to double down on their support for a cause. Other considerations for values alignment include company reputation, international business practices and attitudes toward technology and innovation.
- Category Relatability: Brands should seek partners in categories that are relatable to their own. The combined value proposition of partnership is greater when the two companies offer related benefits.
- Pricing Strategy Sync: Partnerships often work best when each company’s pricing strategy is similar.
While such partnerships can take time and energy to identify and formulate, the benefits can be tremendous. And the more partners you can make using a common partnership model, the easier each individual collaboration will be to manage.
The partnership industry is incredibly dynamic. Success in this fascinating space ultimately requires both steadfast commitment and flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances.
If your program is already running efficiently and generating revenue, great for you. Clearly your program has a variety of outstanding characteristics. However, the best results in this industry require constant re-examination; they require looking outside what you are doing today to see what else you can do to improve your results tomorrow.
If you would like to explore these approaches more, the Partnerize team would be delighted to speak more with you. We can ask you about your programs, and potentially suggest additional ways that you could enhance revenue and conversions. Visit our website and get in touch for more information.
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