Performance Marketing vs. Affiliate Marketing

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What is performance marketing? What is what we refer to as “Affiliate Marketing”? To me, Performance Marketing is just that: Performance. What is performance? By definition it’s the execution or accomplishment of work, acts, feats, etc. That means that just being “associated” or “affiliated” with someone does not equal true performance or true value. By signing up for every known brand then trademark bidding on brand terms to convert easy sales with coupon codes is not performance marketing. It’s “affiliated marketing”. By definition, you have to do something to earn something back.

Therefore performance marketing is more than just “affiliate marketing”. It’s creating and cultivating value where value did not exist before. Affiliate marketing has had a bad name for a while now and I wonder if the term is bringing unpleasant thought and feelings to an industry that’s actually different than it’s perceived value. To many, “affiliate marketing” is rampant with fraud, scams, spam, crimes and many other unpleasantries. However “performance marketing” shines innovation, teamwork, dedication, passion, value and incremental sales.

Is it time we started changing our terminology about who we are and what we do? The Performance Marketing Association doesn’t call themselves “The Affiliate Marketing Association”. Doing so would bring in a completely different group of people and values to the table.

ShareASale, one of my favorite affiliate networks because of their people, values and the way they bring value to their partners as best they can (both from a merchants and publishers) uses the tag line “True Performance Marketing”.

What are we offering to each other as performance marketers? What am I offering you as an outsourced program manager or consultant that makes you want to do business with me? What is a merchant offering to their customer to make them chose to buy through them over someone else? What role do affiliate partnerships have in driving new sales, improving the exposure and goodwill of a brand?

How do you create value? By doing what others are not willing to do. By putting in that little extra effort. By writing about a great new product or company that you’ve found and love so others can enjoy it too – and sharing it through every channel you can – in your newsletter, on your blog, in your tweets, in a video – with a link to the product and a picture of the product and some widgets to other related items that others might enjoy.

Sure I can give you a coupon code to help me drive some sales – but that on it’s own is not going to create the value that our merchant partners are looking for: brand awareness, product awareness, goodwill through consumer engagements and solid communications of features, benefits and positive experiences. These things lead to new sales.

A long time ago when I first got into the industry I read a book that said an affiliate’s job is to “presell”. PRE-sell. Not post sell. Not capture a sale when the customer is halfway through the checkout. Pre-sell them. Doing that takes work. It requires performance through time and effort.

In an industry where true value is essential to our survival, performance wins over affiliation any day.