The Revenue and Demand Gen Channel Most Entrepreneurs Miss

Stephanie Harris, CEO PartnerCentric provides tips on the Revenue and Demand Gen Channel Most Entrepreneurs Miss.

Entrepreneurs and their startups are on an endless hunt for demand gen and revenue, not simply just to make sales, but to expand their market footprint, meet investor expectations, live up to performance targets, and support employee growth. There’s no time (or budget!) to waste with unproven methods. While entrepreneurs deploy traditional sales methods ranging from direct sales to social media, from raising funds through crowdfunding to series funding rounds, many are not aware of a proven revenue channel from the marketing world playbook that delivers a silver lining: performance (affiliate) marketing, where you only have to pay your partners on performance.

So what is affiliate marketing? At its core, affiliate marketing is all about partnerships. Brands work with relevant affiliates or sites promoting their offers to reach new audiences and meet goals.

With affiliate marketing, you are able to set and meet key performance indicators (KPIs) while only paying out for performance. This means that you will only pay those affiliates that are driving the actions you desire. Let’s break it down a bit more. Here are the key players in affiliate marketing:

The Brand

This is you and you want to reach new customers, make more sales, increase revenue, get more leads, etc.

The Affiliate

Also known as publishers. These are, in essence, websites and influencers that help you reach your goals. These affiliates can include Coupon and Loyalty (Ex. Looking for a coupon on RetailMeNot before you make a purchase), content (Ex. Buzzfeed “best of” lists), Influencers (Ex. That latest clothing try-on haul you saw on Instagram) and Review (Ex. credit card reviews on NerdWallet).

The Customer

You’re trying to reach these guys. They make a purchase, fill out a form or complete your brand’s desired action after interacting with an affiliate. 

The Affiliate Networks and Platforms

How do these partnerships work? They have to be tracked, reported on, and then paid. Networks have unique tracking links for each brand so they can keep tabs on who was responsible for a sale. 

The Agencies

Think strategy, expertise and execution. Agencies fully manage the affiliate program for you and ensure your goals are being met and exceeded.

So how can entrepreneurs get started and benefit from this high-ROI driving affiliate channel?

Once you have your brand established and you need fast growth and more sales, here are the initial steps to take:

  1. Identify an affiliate network – There are a plethora out there, so take some time to review them and ensure the network is a fit for your focus, budget and brand offering.  As part of this research, it may be beneficial to decide if you’d like to tap the expertise of agency strategic support to help you navigate what can be a very relationship-driven industry.
  1. Begin publisher recruitment – This is an area of daily management and direct recruitment, but the effort pays off in securing quality relationships
  2. Monitor, manage and scale – With your network selection in place and affiliate partners hard at work, the ongoing “next step” is continued management and relationship-building to scale your program and continue to grow both sales and KPI targets.

With affiliate marketing, the beauty is that any vertical can benefit. At my agency we have managed programs for verticals spanning retail to water filters to legal and financial services. With thousands of affiliates, there is always an engaged audience to be found for what you’re selling. Additionally, affiliate marketing is no longer the Wild West of the early 2000s and is a legitimate and ever-evolving space. New technologies have been created to provide brands with unprecedented competitive insights, safeguards from fraudulent traffic and increased compliance measures to maintain brand integrity across hundreds, even thousands, of affiliates. The size of the program is up to you. 

Finally, with the uncertainty of Covid-19 and how this year has gone, the positive attributes of affiliate marketing have never been more appealing — pay-per-performance, transparency, relationships at scale. The brands that have doubled down on their investment in the channel or have entered it for the first time (or the first time in a long time), are able to take advantage of technologies and partnerships that have previously not been as capable of maximizing these value propositions of the channel.