How To Group Your Affiliates for Success

Affiliate Marketign Groups & TypesThis week the question, “What are the different affiliates types or groups you use to be successful in your programs?” was asked of me. Great question.

Although there is no “standard” answer since many businesses have their own definition and breakdown of affiliates, here are my personal 17 key affiliate types and groups that help us remain successful in our affiliate program management.

 

1. Search Affiliates (PPC)

These are affiliates who use use pay per click efforts to drive the bulk of their sites. They may have their own landing pages which include affiliate links or perhaps direct link to the merchant site using their affiliate link as a redirect. Regardless, they pay for traffic to go where they need it to.

 

2. Content Affiliates (strictly SEO)

Content affiliates create original content on static sites, such as About.com or Top10Review type sites, then use their SEO experience to drive traffic through natural search results. These can be extremely useful for article type exposure, niche sites, review sites and second and third tier search engines, not to mention international search engine rankings.

 

3. Bloggers (community, personal opinions)

Affiliate program managers work extremely hard to find and build relationships with influential bloggers because of their ability to suede buying behavior with their large communities and loyal fan base. They have dynamic opinion pieces that fall into just about any vertical or niche, rank highly in search results, often have double opt in followers and are extremely social savvy. Bloggers will continue to thrive and grow as affiliate marketers for years to come.

 

4. Social Affiliates (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc)

I’ve separated social affiliates from bloggers because some affiliates don’t blog but do use Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (as examples) to promote affiliate links and drive traffic to merchant sites. In these cases, as an affiliate manager, I may group someone as “social” and “blogger”, for example, if they do both.

 

5. Emailers

Email marketing affiliates are generally stronger in the CPA / Lead Gen arena, but not always. Coupon and loyalty sites, for example, often have opt in mailing lists of several hundred thousand subscribers who are waiting on that next big deal. Anyone who uses email marketing to drive targeted traffic to the merchant site using their affiliate link would go in this category.

 

6. Coupon / Daily Deal Sites

Sites like BradsDeals.com and Savings.com are examples of coupon and daily deal site. They often have large followings, millions of visitors per month and turn over millions of products for merchants regularly. These are the sites that feature coupon codes for free shipping, $10 off and high discount products.

 

7. Loyalty Sites

Loyalty sites are similar to coupon sites yet they subscribe “members” who earn points, cash back or are able to select a charity to donate some of the affiliate commission to during their checkout. Although there are some good loyalty sites, affiliate managers must be very cautious in working with those with toolbars and other technologies that drive traffic away from the merchant site yet still earn commission on completed sales.

 

8. Offline (TV, print, radio, etc)

This is an often overlooked category of affiliates, yet extremely powerful when the right partners are found. TV, print, radio, and even word of mouth opportunities can be extremely lucrative for affiliate programs when exclusive landing page tracking, coupon codes and phone number are used to reward sales.

 

9. Podcasters

An area that’s been growing over the last year are affiliates who are using Podcasting to drive sales through their podcast series (offline approach) or through their show landing pages which feature affiliate links. I believe this is an area that will continue to grow, especially with the introduction of PodCasting tools like Spreaker.com.

 

10. Merchant / JV

Another overlooked affiliate group are the merchants and join venture partners themselves. This works when a merchant offers affiliate links on their confirmation page or in emails to their consumers, or when affiliate program managers offer to promote non-competing yet complimentary products within their network.

 

11. Video (YouTubers)

Yes, YouTube does allow affiliate links to be displayed in the descriptions of videos, though they look a little bulky when posted. Alternatively YouTubers will use redirects or landing pages with their affiliate links and create the video to drive traffic to those pages. It’s difficult these days to make money as a YouTuber strictly, but when combined with affiliate marketing opportunities can become extremely profitable.

 

12. Datafeed Affiliates

This group of affiliates uses product datafeeds to create content on their sites. Some affiliates will manipulate the core datafeed files themselves, and others will use tools such as Popshops or Datafeedr to help. The reason these are listed separately from Shopping Comparison Engines is because some affiliates will not use datafeeds for price comparisons but rather niche product listings while others have content sites or blogs they support purchasing behavior with using product feeds.

 

13. SCE (Shopping Comparison Engines)

TheFind.com is probably one of the most well known SCE affiliates out here, though Google is now dabbling with the idea as well. Some “invitation only” merchants have been able to stay listed on a performance model within Google’s Shopping Engine (also known as Froogle.com). These types of affiliates are exactly how they sound – shopping comparison engines with every product you could possibly imagine.

 

14. Sub Networks

Sub networks are affiliates that have other affiliates that work under them. The merchant doesn’t know who the sub network’s affiliates are or how they are driving sales because all credit goes to the sub network who pays out however way they please. Examples of sub networks are skimlinks and viglink.

 

15. Mobile

The mobile affiliate segment is continuing to grow (good news) though it’s still not as strong as other channels yet.  A company called JunoWallet for example was one of the first pioneering mobile affiliates in the space (who have now changed their payment model). However when they first started doing this, they created an app where people could sign up for “free gift cards” which they could download and redeem in store or online. The gift cards worked similarly to a coupon code, however instead of a code, it would actually say “$10 Gift Card” and JunoWallet would use their own tracking platform to report on downloads and redemption. This is just an example of how affiliates could use mobile apps, or PPC or storefronts to drive traffic and be rewarded on a performance base.

 

16. Technology

Some people will categories this as “other” and that’s OK too. But the idea is these affiliates use technologies and service offerings they create and rather than charging for it upfront, they bill based on completed actions. An example of this is a company called VEInteractive. These guys provide shopping cart abandonment solutions on a performance base. For example, if a customer is half way through the checkout and does not compete their sale, VEInteractive will re-target that “dropout” to drive them back to complete the order. Then once they do, VEInteractive would earn commission on the sale. “But, wouldn’t this get expensive after a while and be worth investing in your own shopping card abandonment options?”. Yes. But for some companies who lack the short term development budget, the expertise, the time or a flexible shopping cart platform, this might be a good solution.

 

17. International

I usually group these separately because it’s important to know who I can reach out to when targeting Canadian buyers, French buyers, UK buyers, Australian buyers and so on. When it comes to international affiliates (which I define by reaching targeted traffic outside of the main target geographic region) I generally tag them as “International” and whatever marketing method they use listed above.

Ultimately there are many different types of affiliates out there and more are being introduced each day, but by grouping your affiliates into appropriate types, groups or “tags” you will be able to communicate more accurate information and marketing tips relevant to their needs, which will produce higher affiliate satisfaction, more active affiliates and increased sales.

Affiliate Home Parties Create New Opportunities for Merchants

blurb affiliate program innovative ideasOver the weekend an affiliate friend of mine decided to try something new with some friends. One of my top performing affiliates over the past 8 years, Leanne, decided to combine the Arbone / Mary Kay “Home Party” model to one of our clients, Blurb.

She invited several of her friends who are veteran scrapbookers and photo-albumists to try out Blurb’s self book publishing platform. She prepared by becoming initimately familiar with their online book building tools and asked our affiliate manager for exclusive codes for each of her guests. Brilliant.

Although this was a trial run with friends to see the response rate and get feedback from attendees to tweak her approach and learn how people would respond to her strategy, the response by those who came was incredible. Everyone who attended brought their laptop and sat building their books on the spot, asking questions that Leanne could answer because of her familiarity with the platform, and at no cost to the attendees due to the exclusive coupons offered by Blurb.

As an affiliate, she can monetize this by charging future attendees for her “Book Building Workshops” while also earning affiliate commission through completed books. Further she gets to create original content for her related blog, which potentially triples her income.

This is an example of how innovative affiliates can bring great value to merchants while finding creative ways to increase revenues. I take my hat off to you, Leanne, as always, for trying something new that will absolutely pay itself off. Well done.

Essential “Need to Knows” for Affiliate Coupon Management

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to listen to Todd Crawford speak about coupon affiliate management at the Online Marketing Summit. He made some really great points. Here are my immediate takeaways:

 

A Few Top Coupon / Loyalty Affiliates:

  • Offers.com
  • Shopathome.com
  • Cheapsally.com
  • Bradsdeals.com
  • Clickdeals.com
  • Dealtaker.com
  • Couponsurfer.com
  • Mrrebates.com
  • Deals.com
  • Savings.com
  • CouponCabin.com
  • Amazing-Bargains.com
  • RetailMeNot.com

 

Two Types of Buyers on Coupon Sites:

  1. “Penny Pinchers” – can only afford to buy if they get a discount
  2. “Deal Seekers” – will buy (and up their order volume) only if there is a deal on

 

Challenges with Working with Coupon / Deal Sites:

  1. Margin Erosion
  2. Increased media cost (pay for affiliate plus ppc)
  3. Brand dilution
  4. Poor customer satisfaction (the coupon doesn’t work)
  5. Loss of control (once you let it loose where do you go? It gets out of control)
  6. Inaccurate analytics
    1. – how do you measure the effectiveness of one particular coupon on one particular site when it gets let loose and picked up everywhere?

 

 Alternatives to Giving a Discount Coupon

  1. Free shipping
  2. Minimum purchase amount
  3. Product, Brand or Category Specific
  4. Deal of the Day
  5. Limited Quantity
  6. Bundling
  7. Gift with Purchase
  8. Clearance
  9. Seasonal Sales

 

Marketing Goals of Working with Coupons (and you should be measuring these):

  1. Increased AOV
  2. Acquire new customers
  3. Re-engaging existing customers
  4. Limit Exposure
  5. Control media costs
  6. Extend Brand

 

How to Manage your Coupons Properly:

  1. Test with select groups of partners – try a coupon with only one or two affiliates first and see how they work.
  2. Use exclusives / vanity code
  3. Negotiate for premium placement
  4. Limit use to channel or partners
  5. Determine the right metrics to measure before you start

Skimlinks an Affiliate or Affiliate Network?

Recent Update (several months after original post) : there are several merchants and outsourced program managers who are complaining about Skimlinks being a sub-network and the types of affiliates they are allowing into their network. The original post which made it sound like a positive solution and one to accept into your programs may no longer be accurate. The bottom line is Skimlinks IS in fact a sub-network and there are pros and cons to this. I encourage you to do your own research and make a decision for yourself as to whether you will allow sub-networks into your program or not. There are many who are for it and many who are against it. It will ultimately be up to you.

— ORIGINAL POST —

There have been a few questions lately about what Skimlinks is and how it fits into the affiliate marketing world. Some question whether it is an affiliate, a network or something in between.

Skimlinks is actually a great affiliate tool that allows an affiliate to easily and seamlessly earn money from text links on their site (perfect for bloggers!) where as Skimlinks puts in an affiliate link to a related product or service for you. Then if a sale is made, both Skimlinks and the affiliate earn money from the sale (25%/75% split respectively).

I signed up to see what it was about myself and here are the instructions I got emailed to me once approved:

“To install Skimlinks on your site, you first need to login to your account using your username (which is the email address you registered with: sarah (at) allinclusivemarketing.com) and set your password here:

http://skimlinks.me/uNPdWJ

Once logged in, you’ll be guided through the process of installing Skimlinks on your site. Installation is really straightforward: copy and paste the Skimlinks Javascript into your site’s footer. If you are using one of the following platforms, we have a dedicated installation guide which can be found under the Installation tab in your Account Interface: WordPress, vBulletin, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr and Glam. If you don’t want to add the code yourself, we’ll show you how to send all the relevant details to your tech team.

Your Skimlinks account also allows you to:

  • Monetize content keywords with our SkimWords product
  • Run detailed revenue and activity reports
  • Check your balance
  • Search for suitable merchants
  • Apply to use Skimlinks on additional sites
  • Add new users to your Account
  • Access our extensive suite of publisher tools, specifically designed to help you get the most out of your content

To get most out of our service, we recommend adding product links and references to any content that is relevant. SkimLinks will turn these merchant links into their equivalent affiliate link, and SkimWords will turn product references into unobtrusive shopping links. Both services are automatically enabled on your site when you add our code. You can downgrade or deactivate any feature at anytime on the Installation page of the Publisher Interface.

If you have questions on any of the above, please visit the Support pages once you’ve logged into your account.

Thank you for choosing Skimlinks to help you earn more money from your content!”

Here’s what it looks like live:

Note to Merchants: Skimlinks gets to approve the affiliates, which means you don’t. However they have very strict rules about who is eligible and you can stop using their service at any time as well as request particular affiliates be removed from their service (though it’s up to them whether they remove them or not).

Skimlinks was nominated in 2010 as affiliate tool of the year in 2010 on AbestWeb by Wade Tonkin, Affiliate Manager of Footfall Fanatics. It is also used by many reputable affiliates including some of the founders of Affiliate Summit.

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