When looking for a review on a product or service, who would you be more likely to trust: a company or your friend? Of course, you’d say your friend. The connection between trustworthiness and excessive online activity may not be readily apparent—leading to difficulties for a company to garner attention for their products. So, how can you overcome that challenge? Affiliate marketing.
WHAT IS AFFILIATE MARKETING?
Affiliate marketing is an advertising model where a company compensates third-party publishers to generate traffic and leads to that company’s products and services. These publishers, known as affiliates, are incentivized to promote the company with a commission fee.
In short, third-parties promote products and services to then earn some additional revenue from it. (Wait, let’s rephrase that.) In short, third-parties promote products and services that they believe in, represent their brand, and align with their audiences’ needs to then earn some additional revenue from it.
Take for example Wirecutter, The New York Times’ e-commerce website. As you can tell, Wirecutter is branded just like The New York Times. Based on Wirecutter’s description, “our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing to save people time, energy and money when making buying decisions.”
Being featured on an affiliate website such as Wirecutter demonstrates that others are also interested in your products or services i.e., you’re not the only one who likes your company. Referencing back to trusting your friend’s opinion, affiliate marketing allows others to speak highly of your brand without feeling over promotional.
HOW TO KNOW YOU’RE READY FOR AFFILIATE MARKETING
You’re probably thinking, “Wow, this all sounds great. Let’s do it!” But let’s take a few steps back before we chase this popular trend and learn if your business is ready.
- You want to grow your online sales and presence: Outside of increasing your sales, you need to determine if you want to expand your digital footprint. For example, a mom-and-pop shop may not look to sell their products online because they want to focus on their niche, local market. Or maybe you want your business to be more accessible but your customers are unable to purchase your products online and must come into your store. We recommend doing a digital audit of your brand online to better understand your customers’ experience when they stumble across your website.
- You are ready to scale up: When your brand becomes more accessible through your affiliates, you’d better be prepared (insert Scar’s go-to tune) to fulfill an increase in orders. Do you have an inventory of your most popular products? Do you have the bandwidth to ship additional orders? How will this impact your employees? Make sure you tie your lose ends before promoting with affiliates.
- You seek to get more people talking: When working with affiliates, they will talk about your brand, guaranteed. With that comes the potential for more customers asking questions, reviewing your website, finding you on social media, etc. The more activity, conversation, and buzz about your brand, the more your business will be exposed to new audiences (and you’ll need to have the infrastructure to support it.)
- You understand your customers’ behaviors: Like all other marketing tactics, it’s important to understand where your customers spend their time. Which publications do they read or find interest in? Which social media platforms do they use? How can you reach them and identify their pain points? Don’t just throw things at the wall and see what sticks. Work strategically with affiliates who reach your customer base.
SHOULD YOUR PR TEAM LAUNCH AFFILIATE MARKETING CAMPAIGNS?
This is where public relations comes into play. Many believe affiliate marketing is all about paid advertising when in reality there’s a strong blend of earned and paid media. Yes, the paid aspect is from the commission The New York Times receives based on product sales. However, the earned media aspect is as important, if not more. Product editors review product and service submissions and deem whether they’re worthy to be featured on their site. Hence, strong media relations is key.
Affiliate marketing is about people and making connections—areas of expertise for public relations teams. They are the pros at engaging with editors and managing media relationships to get people talking favorably about your brand. And when those people are credible, influential, and have high authority sites, your sales will speak for themselves.
We’ll leave you with this lasting tidbit: The most powerful marketing isn’t what you say about yourself—it’s what others say about you. And affiliate marketing is an effective way to influence conversations.