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Matt Bailey wrote earlier this month on the problem that affiliate marketing seems to have in shaking off negative connotations.

His points are entirely valid; affiliate marketers continuously have difficulties in effectively communicating the strengths of our channel.

For those of us working within the industry there is an obvious irony here, given we continuously try to demonstrate how open and accountable we are whilst delivering transparent daily ROI.

Therefore I thought it was about time someone extolled the virtues of our often maligned channel. Allow me to make the case for affiliate marketing:

1. We have ROI cracked. We’re performance marketers and have been for 15 years so the gradual shift by online channels to our reward model gives us a considerable headstart. PPC affiliates for example have always arbitrated between click costs and commissions earned making them leaner and keener to drive sales for advertisers.

Forget about the bad old days of brand bidding. Spell out your PPC terms and conditions and explore the gaps in your own PPC campaigns that affiliates can plug.

2. We might be a fragmented industry but this has crystallised the importance of working collaboratively. Every other month around 50 agency, network and advertiser staff along with a selection of some of the biggest affiliates gathers to discuss the major issues facing us as an industry. The IAB’s Council for the affiliate industry is significantly bigger than the IAB’s other online Councils with issues discussed frankly and openly.

As a consequence we have best practice guidelines for advertisers and affiliates, codes of conduct for publishers using voucher codes and downloadable software and a multi-party working group for multi or value attribution models. We’ve been discussing looking beyond last click as a payment model for two years now and a sophisticated level of debate has generated comment from major industry players on next step and best practice approaches (follow the Council @IAB_AMC).

3. Contrary to popular opinion brand control runs through everything we do. The idea that advertisers lose control of their brands when they launch affiliate marketing campaigns is something that may have been the case five years ago but could an industry that generates £5bn of sales have experienced double digit year on year growth if there weren’t sufficient checks and balances in place to protect advertisers?

Many networks have developed search monitoring tools as well as adware and spyware detection technology aimed at nipping any rogue elements in the bud. Advertisers have the ultimate veto of course in who they choose to work with. Matt Bailey also covered this issue in great depth in a post last week; if you don’t feel you have control over your affiliate campaign you’re not doing it right.

4. Fancy billions of free impressions and acres of free editorial coverage? The one area of affiliate marketing that is always overlooked is all that juicy branding you get for absolutely nothing. If you’re an advertiser your affiliates have so much trust in you to run optimised, well designed, usable sites that don’t have fulfilment issues that they’ll push huge amounts of free branding to you via their links.

Pretty much every major affiliate programme in the UK will be generating millions of impressions as well as thousands of clicks all eulogising why consumers should buy your products at no additional cost to you so why wouldn’t you want to take affiliates up on that offer?

5. Affiliate marketing offers advertisers the privilege of working with some of the most entrepreneurial individuals and highly trafficked sites in the UK. Let’s think of it as affinity marketing and the sites as publishers, some of them have millions of unique users a month and offer marketing plans, newsletter coverage, tenancies, homepage exposure, solus emails and other partnership opportunities. And the resulting performance from such a carefully defined relationship can be significant.

6. And at the end of the day, if that’s not enough we’re an open, honest and above all, sociable bunch. Every couple of months hundreds of us will gather for informal networking drinks just to chat about the burning issues of the day, the lubrication provided by affiliate networks collaborating to foot the bill at the end of the night.

There are probably countless additional things I could have mentioned but in the interests of brevity I stuck to a handful of the most obvious ones.

Affiliate marketing is all online; it’s email, social media, paid search, natural search, mobile, vouchers, cashback and price comparison, all together under a performance roof. Approach with a broad brush and fail to understand its complexity and you will be disappointed. Embrace it and dedicate resource and you’ll appreciate what a powerful sales channel it truly is.

Kevin Edwards

Published 21 July, 2010 by Kevin Edwards

Kevin Edwards is Strategy Director at Affiliate Window, the current Chair of the IAB's Affiliate Marketing Council and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

6 more posts from this author

Comments (2)


Matt Bailey, Business Director at i-level

Great post Kevin. I think that this post perfectly illustrates my point that affiliate marketing is one of the most valuable channels available to you as a marketer if managed correctly.

over 6 years ago

Steven Underwood

Steven Underwood, Head of Client Services at Silverbean

Good post Kevin, great to see consistent positivity about the channel – too often it’s only individual negative experiences that are highlighted and discussed, which I believe ultimately lead to the negative connotations you refer to.  The reality is that an affiliate program should be a profitable element of a company’s online marketing mix, provided the program is managed correctly and key variables such as company margins, overall online objectives (such as new customer acquisition) and brand protection are addressed from the outset.

over 6 years ago

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