A guest post from Silverbean. From time to time, our partners and clients submit posts to our site for publication. We are pleased to publish a range of these opinions, which reflect the POVs of the author(s).
The partnerships channel has seen explosive growth in the last few years. What was previously a small, and sometimes forgotten channel within a digital marketers mix, is now driving upwards of 20% of online revenue. With such rapid growth, it’s more important than ever for marketers to focus on and optimize their partner marketing program and move away from the very common a set-and-forget approach.
This blog post will look at the partnership opportunity, and the ways marketers can avoid program stagnation, so they can unlock the full sales potential of the partner marketing channel.
Why Does ‘Set and Forget’ happen?
Every marketing campaign goes through different growth phases. Whether they are experiencing spikes in retail for holiday shopping periods, or seeing an increase due to a new product launch, they all have times where growth is at the forefront of their programs. Yet outside of these core growth periods, they can sometimes lose focus on their affiliate program as a whole, which is when performance stagnation can occur. This challenge is common across all digital marketing disciplines, and over time, strategies must become more complex to drive similar levels of growth.
The Challenge with Program Stagnation
Partner marketing is an incredibly powerful channel, and research has consistently found it delivers one of the strongest ROI’s of all channels, from $10 - $16 revenue to $1 invested. A properly executed launch strategy will deliver considerable impact to brands in a relatively short space of time, taking them either to, or near this benchmark. And this is where programs can often sit. A victim of its’ own success, advertisers are often satisfied with their program because it’s “low-touch” and generates great performance – if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.
The other challenge in managing stagnation within partnerships is the complex ecosystem within which it operates. Everyone “gets” Google Ads, Facebook Ads, email campaigns – these all exist within a rigid structure; they’re easy to find with very clear rules of engagement. But partnerships cover a broad spectrum of providers – from traditional affiliates to new partner types such as influencers and tech solutions. With a myriad of options within the partnership dynamic, sometimes partnership gets slotted into the “too hard” basket.
Understanding Your Current State of Play
In order to demystify the path to progression within partnerships, Silverbean has created a technique we refer to as “maturity modelling”. A partnership program has many different facets, and our maturity model is a breakdown of these core components, with each mapped out from infancy to maturity, relevant to an individual advertisers’ requirements with estimated impact and resource requirements. This maturity model then provides a clear structure on how to continuously move a program forward and can help you identify areas to evolve you from a’ set-and-forget’ to high performance.
How To Evolve & Grow
While a maturity model is bespoke to an individual advertiser’s objectives and challenges, there are three core areas you can evaluate to help move your campaigns forward:
1. Customer Journey
Partnerships began with traditional affiliate marketing, which was widely considered to have a predominantly bottom-of-the-sales-funnel focus. Today, programs have evolved to incorporate a range of different partnership types, which each target the customer at different stages of their purchase journey. There are a range of tools you can incorporate into your strategy, with everything from partner automation technologies, to AI-driven personalization platforms, right through to influencer networks. It’s best to evaluate your target customers’ purchase journeys and assess what their key touchpoints are. You can then look at your current partner mix and work out if you’re engaging customers at all of these stages. The benefit here is that you’ll create a more mature partnership strategy that has multiple touchpoints throughout the customer purchase journey; therefore helping to raise brand awareness, telling a consistent brand story and ensuring your brand remains front-of-mind at the crucial conversion touchpoint.2. Technology
Platform technologies have significantly evolved, to enable tracking of customers throughout the sales funnel and across different devices, allowing you to offer incentives that reflect the level of value a partner is driving. This advancement in itself has revolutionized how partnerships can be leveraged, as marketers are increasingly able to use it as a highly targeted and accountable means to drive brand awareness and new customer acquisition. It’s always a good idea to regularly evaluate your partner management tool/platform to ensure you have full capacity and that it’s allowing you to meet your objectives and goals. The benefit of identifying a technology that aligns with your strategy is that you’ll be able to deliver the most brand value and have the ability to continuously keep your program moving forward.3. Strategic Integrations
Another commonality across partnerships is the wider integration across other channel activity. Digital channels can no longer exist in isolation and it’s important that your partnerships strategy is executed alongside wider business and marketing goals. An example of how partnerships can work alongside other channels is through a strategy we refer to as SERPS results. Within this, partners work alongside an advertiser’s SEO strategy to create brand dominance in search results for key search terms, pushing competitor results further down the page. The benefits of integrating your channels with an overarching strategic focus are that ultimately, you’re likely to see stronger results.
Where To Next?
A great first step is to really do an evaluation of your current program. That way you can easily identify areas where you can progress and drive growth, enabling you to move forward from a set-and-forget approach. Maturity models are a tool we have been using at Silverbean for years to great effect with our clients. Our long-standing clients still enjoy significant channel growth, and in some instances as much as double-channel contribution YoY. The maturity model is custom to reflect each individual brand, providing a very clear framework for identifying opportunities and creating a roadmap. These adjustments to your strategy will help avoid campaign plateau and ensure your activity is continuously moving in an upward trajectory.
Partnerships is a continuously evolving space. Like the channel, your program should never stand still.