Whether your company still uses the term affiliate, or has broadened its perspective and language to partner marketing, it’s vital that retailers work to satisfy (and even delight) their marketing partners in order to drive maximum sales and growth.

Holly Brim, marketing manager, North America, Performance Horizon

Holly Brim, marketing manager, North America, Performance Horizon

Most retail marketers have a strong understanding of the critical role that affiliate marketing plays in their mix. In fact, BI Intelligence reports that these partner marketing relationships are responsible for an impressive 16 percent of total e-commerce sales.

Further, this world of partner marketing is expanding well beyond the traditional definition of affiliate, given the ways in which the industry’s programs and revenue models have opened up to encompass a greater range of partner types. For example, leading consumer magazines, top social influencers, and specialist bloggers in tech, decorating, fashion and finance have now entered the space as partners for retailers. Whether your company still uses the term affiliate, or has broadened its perspective and language to partner marketing, it’s vital that retailers work to satisfy (and even delight) their marketing partners in order to drive maximum sales and growth from the channel.

Yet, too often, these relationships are neglected, misunderstood, or poorly managed. Here are five key strategies to help keep your partners happy and focused on building your mutual bottom lines.

Have we told our partners what we want and how we will measure success?

1. Align and define.

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Some partner programs launch without clearly communicating advertiser objectives to partners. Sounds crazy, but it is all too common. Clearly explaining success criteria to your partners minimizes misunderstandings that could be catastrophic to a potentially very successful partnership.

For example, I know of an electronics company that created a partner marketing program to sell digital cameras. They had set up a flat percentage of sales commission program; naturally, partners looked at the deal structure and assumed that the advertiser’s objective was maximum gross sales.

In reality, the company wanted partners to concentrate on selling higher-end cameras, but it was willing to pay a commission on any sale. Because the retailer never spoke directly with its partners, those motives were unclear. As a result, partners focused on selling lots of easy-to-move, low-priced cameras. After the first two months, the advertiser was profoundly disappointed.

Before you field a program, ask yourself:

  • What is our true objective for the partner program?
  • Are our true goals reflected in our deal structure?
  • Have we told our partners what we want and how we will measure success

2. Pay well and on time.

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Partners don’t promote your goods because you’re a nice person. They do it for the financial rewards. Savvy advertisers know that they must offer strong financial incentives to spark partner interest. They need to make offers that are at least as lucrative as those from competitors.

Then there’s the timing of payments. The time lag from your payment authorization to the payment received by your partners can vary between systems. To keep your partners happy, understand the payment policies of your network and platform and ensure that your partners get paid in a timely manner.

3. Think of existing and prospective partners as a target audience.

Valuable brand partners choose to work with you because of the benefits to them. While being associated with your brand may place a partner in a very exclusive group, it’s important to remember that partners must decide to put time and effort into your business partnership for it to be valuable for you.

When you develop programs, focus on the unique benefits to each partner. The more tangible you can make the set of benefits you communicate, the more likely that your partners will invest.

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4. Share your first-party data smartly.

Brands are and should be selective about sharing their first-party data. However, insights from data can help partners drive far stronger revenue for you. Many of the largest partner players now have advanced data science capabilities that can leverage your quantitative insights to improve conversions.

By sharing the right data with the right partners, you can often rekindle growth. Share the data that is applicable to the partners who can use it. Collaborate and check in frequently to assess whether the data is making a difference.

5. Treat your best partners individually to deliver the best results.

One-size-fits-all partner marketing programs may have been OK years ago. These days, the best partner marketers create special programs around the individual capabilities of their best partners. Identify your most critical partners, and tailor your programs to them.

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For an example, imagine you are the partner lead for a major department store. One of your partners is a high-end community of women. By creating ads that feature appropriate trending fashions, you can help them better appeal to their customer bases. Similarly, offering a special incentive for sales over $100 might be a great way to increase your revenue from this partner. Try new things to stay top of mind to your mutual audiences.

Happy partners mean you can nail your goals. They also make for happy CFOs! These five strategies strengthen partnerships and, ultimately, the health of the program and your bottom line.

Based in the United Kingdom, Performance Horizon provides a platform for managing partner marketing, also known as affiliiate marketing.

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