Many brands have been active in the partner and affiliate marketing spaces for some time. These days, the sector drives tens of billions of dollars in revenue for major brands worldwide.
If your brand has been doing performance partnerships for awhile, take a few moments now to walk through this program health questionnaire to see if your program is where it needs to be.
1. How’s your program growing?
Your program’s growth rate is probably the most important assessment you can make. There’s no magic growth percentage that can be used by a company to determine how it stacks up; every company’s partner marketing growth rate is a little different because of its unique business opportunities. But this little rule of thumb may be helpful: For many companies, partner marketing is among the fastest growing business channels. Given that, I tell people to examine their partner growth rate against the overall growth of the business as a whole. If you don’t like what you see, it probably makes sense to reexamine your strategy and business practices.
2. Is your program mobilized?
Mobile now accounts for the vast majority of connected consumer time, but many companies don’t have a true cross-device, cross-channel measurement solution to track and pay commission on purchases made across devices and channels. If you aren’t counting mobile completely, you’re missing out on a lot of sales. Can your tracking solution track sales where the journey goes from app to app or web to app? Can you deliver tracking with deep linking? Many partner programs do not currently track transactions with these journeys, so their marketing teams miss credit for significant numbers of sales. With cross-device measurement, you need to ensure that you are counting sales from customer journeys that involve both web and apps. The app part there is the tricky bit, but it’s critical. After all, the people who have downloaded your app are almost always your most loyal and committed customers. If you aren’t already mobile-equipped, it’s time to get a complete measurement solution in place.
3. Are your compensation models aligned to your objectives?
What are you and your team measured on? Total revenue? Customer acquisition? Share of requirements? Average revenue per user? Are your partner compensation models aligned to how you and your program are ultimately measured? Many partner programs have very simple partner compensation models — often a percentage of sales. There’s nothing wrong with increased revenue, of course, but if you are investing company resources into the affiliate and partner sectors, it makes sense to ensure that your commission structures are pulling in the same direction. We’re seeing more and more brands driving better alignment with more sophisticated commission models like compensating based on customer lifetime value. This kind of sync can make a big difference in your success.
4. Are you using data to customise and personalise messaging for better results?
Fifteen years ago, lots of affiliate programs offered partners only a tiny number of generic creative units. One message fits all. But no longer. Now, the most successful brands are using signals like customer browsing and search data to tailor dynamic messages and grow response rates. This trend got its start in the travel sector, where it was quickly shown that ads that mentioned desired destinations convert much better than general messaging. Now that same concept is powering superior results for retail, finance, subscription services and more. Take a few minutes to consider how it could make a difference for your results.
5. Are your program results and customer insights integrated into your company’s attribution and analytics?
For many companies, partner and affiliate are managed separately from other channels, even while those same businesses have made great strides integrating data from other channels into a single customer view. Part of the reason is that, traditionally, affiliate didn’t capture very many data points. But today, brands have the opportunity to collect rich real-time insights about every step or action taken in the partner-driven customer journey. I know of a number of companies that are now porting partner data into their data lakes, home-grown and purchased attribution toolsets, and business intelligence tools. Not only does this enrich customer understanding, but it also ensures that partnerships are recognised for the enormous business value they drive. Make the commitment to integrating data and insights to ensure partnerships get their rightful seat at the marketing table.
6. Are you preparing for a post-pixel-tracking world?
Most partner and affiliate programs still rely on pixels for tracking and measurement. Over time, most industry experts expect that this tracking method will face new challenges as the browsers and digital giants try to exercise control over the information that brands can collect. A growing number of leading brands are taking steps to move away from pixel tracking and toward direct, API-based measurement. With a small investment of tech resources, you can replace pixels with something that works a lot better, especially in mobile, and simultaneously mitigate any potential future risks at a stroke.
Partner marketing drives such a strong portion of revenue for many companies that it makes sense to reexamine your programs to make sure you are driving maximum revenue. These six questions are a great starting point for a simple program check-up — much like an annual physical. After all, the health of your brand depends on the condition of every system that drives it.