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Affiliate Marketing Management: Building Your Brand Army

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Affiliates are your people, in more ways than one. They are closely related to your brand through a variety of avenues, networks, and associations. These can be influencers, brand advocates, affiliate marketers, even your grandma! It’s anyone who believes in your brand and is willing to speak on and/or sell what you have to offer.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

This is a type of performance-based marketing in which an organization rewards affiliate partners for each pre-established goal that is met. The end game can be anything from a click to a site visit or sale. Those are your rules; set out when hiring the affiliate.

The structure of high-quality affiliate marketing is simple. Here are your players:

  • The customer (the person on the other end of your marketing efforts)
  • The publisher (a.k.a. affiliate, blogger, brand advocate, influencer)
  • The network (offers from affiliate to choose from and payment center)
  • The merchant (the advertiser, retailer, company, brand, etc.)

As this industry of management services scales, it is growing in complexity. This has resulted in the emergence of second-tier players like affiliate program management agencies, specialized third-party vendors, and “super-affiliates.”

Affiliate marketing tends to overlap with other types of internet marketing. It is a similar process (and integrates with) strategies like:

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
  • Email Marketing
  • Online Presence Management (OPM) 
  • Online Reputation Management (ORM)
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 

Affiliates can use any method necessary to increase conversion rates and drive sales. The ultimate goal is to gain new customers and build your audience. The best marketing teams always have an affiliate program running in the background with several types of strategies in place.

What is Affiliate Marketing Management & How Does It Work?

While affiliate marketing focuses on just the affiliates, affiliate management focuses on the merchant’s affiliate channel as a whole. The goal of affiliate management is to make sure the program is running smoothly and on track for business growth. Merchants can hire an outside firm or run in-house processes for affiliate marketing management.

The larger the affiliate network, the harder it will be to manage. It’s a digital marketing process whereby you build and grow a channel of brand advocates to drive traffic and sales to your brand. 

The idea is to work towards establishing a concrete affiliate program that helps create autonomy within the business. The best affiliates will give your marketers more time to focus on brand growth over meeting simple metrics.

For each affiliate channel, you need someone to track online marketing, customer acquisition, affiliate sales, and social media strategy (to name a few things). This person is typically called an affiliate manager. They wrangle the affiliates in your program and make sure all performance marketing is meeting up to its name (i.e. people are performing). 

This supervisor should also be aware of the tools and affiliate marketing management software being employed. Ultimately, they are responsible for tracking metrics, watching analytics, recruiting new affiliates, and ensuring compliance. They have the know-how to nail down your gains from a channel.

Affiliate Management vs. Affiliate Marketing

As is with most modern marketing strategies, these two methods sound very similar, but they serve two different functions.  

Digital affiliate marketing is a channel where partners promote a new product, store, offer, etc. on a revenue-sharing basis. They are paid through affiliate commissions after the reports are run. It is just one of many affiliate sites that people can use to promote your brand.

Affiliate management is the whole enchilada. This is the act of overseeing several marketing channels and running reports on a 360-degree view. Proper management is what establishes a robust affiliate marketing program. While an affiliate manager can assist with supervising channels, a program manager handles the whole process. 

Different Types of Affiliates

When it comes to affiliate marketing management, the key is knowing where each advocate stands. There are three main types of affiliate marketers based on the customer journey:

Top-of-the-Funnel (TOF)

These high-value affiliates are your top tier. TOF people/programs have their own traffic and audience that is independent of your brand or efforts. They have been building a separate network and are ready to share your message with it. 

Affiliates of this nature should receive exclusive commissions and custom promotions. They are the people you really want to keep around. Without them, you’ll need another way to reach potential customers in their network.

Middle-of-the-Funnel (MOF)

These are good affiliates that can assist customers in the decision-making process. Sure, Google is your friend, but having an advocate break it down for prospects is much more effective. Just like word-of-mouth marketing, “normal” people bolstering your brand speaks volumes. 

These people/programs can also help to close a sale, monitor bad reviews, or keep prospects from abandoning shopping carts. If their job entails some TOF work, a business should also reward MOF affiliates with custom commissions (if you want to keep them, that is). 

Bottom-of-the-Funnel (BOF)

A lot of these affiliates come through authentically and have little responsibility. Low and no-value partners do not have their own traffic. What they DO have is a passion for your brand. If they are running a program, the affiliate will rely on your organization to supply the traffic they can intercept and set a cookie on. This can include tools like:

  • Browser extensions
  • Adware
  • Coupon sites
  • Apps activated on-site
  • Traffic monetization 

Most affiliate networks tend to recommend BOF marketers the most. They are the highest converting (because of volume) and many networks get paid on affiliate conversions. 

However, if you don’t have your own traffic, hiring a BOF affiliate could be a critical mistake. Many of these people are simply intercepting traffic to earn commissions. If you are a smaller business, TOF affiliates (think influencers, bloggers, podcasts, etc.) that create the most value for consumers are your best bet.

The heart of your brand army should be people that authentically believe in the business. Everyone has purchased an item or service they loved and told others about. 

This is the ultimate goal of affiliate marketing. To get people so excited about what you have to offer, it spurs them to immediate action. That’s when you know you’ve put together the right affiliate program for continued success.

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