If you’re looking for growth, affiliate marketing is very enticing to many businesses. Paying any individual or organization for performance is a no brainer for many. In short, you can pay someone for a lead (email or phone call), or for a sale (flat rate or a percentage of sale). If growth is paramount & you’re able to take on some of the risk, you’ll get more volume paying for a lead. If you’re looking to minimize your risk, simply pay for the sale.
Now that we have that out of the way, there are still some major issues by going through an affiliate network. Most of which you’ll never know about til you go through it. Let’s do a deeper dive.
When it comes to hiring an affiliate network, they are providing the technology and tracking. As a result, the pitch you’ll receive is no investment in tech to get an affiliate system in place. A few years ago, I would have bought into that. Nowadays, there’s a handful of tech companies (2 that are really solid), that offer affiliate solutions on a SaaS model. The costs are more than reasonable.
Many of the black hat affiliates use email marketing & sms blasts to earn affiliate money. When done correctly, email marketing & sms are amazing avenues for growth. Thing is, most marketers do NOT do this properly. They will buy email lists that aren’t opt-in, scrape email addresses, gather sms lists to blast, the list continues.
Spam Spam Spam.
While networks will always say “we don’t tolerate this behavior, will have those affiliates removed & won’t charge for those leads” isn’t enough. First your brand gets tarnished when spam is involved. Now, add in compliance. The amount of varying laws throughout the world will open you up to liability. Granted, you can shift the risk of liability to the network in this type of event during the negotiation phase. The problem is, the larger networks won’t open themselves up to that type of risk. The smaller networks might, but don’t have enough traffic to warrant the deal.
Relationships with Affiliates
The one thing affiliate networks have over brands is their relationships with affiliates. Chances are, your depth of affiliates is low. An affiliate network has a volume of affiliates that you will not be able to match. Now, we’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your revenue is coming from 20% of your sources. When it comes affiliates, it’s more like 95/5. You have super affiliates, rock stars in the space. These guys (and gals) outpace the other affiliates by a landslide.
So, what does that tell you? It’s all about forming the proper relationships. If you reach out to large publishers / sites directly, you will naturally be reaching your target super affiliate. You know the space and your ultimate customer. Reach out to these publishers / sites directly and make a hybrid deal. For instance, give them a flat dollar amount to run your offer, then sweeten the pot with an affiliate override. After some time passes, you will both know the types of revenues involved & can renegotiate going forward.
Before you go out and hire multiple affiliate networks, try researching your target sites. Reach out to them with the goal of buying ad spots through hybrid solution – part media buy, part affiliate payout. Most publishers have access inventory, and most love the idea of guaranteed money with a potential for more.