Selling Affiliate Marketing Internally: Strategies & Insights

5 minute read
5 minute read

It’s essential for enterprise affiliate marketing team leaders to collaborate with other leadership and product marketing functions in order to educate, evangelize, and inform around the medium.

But how do you demonstrate value from the affiliate channel overall, and what tactics can you implement to ensure that the buy-in occurs, and that you continue to demonstrate value?

The answers to these questions were at the forefront of the latest installment of Phonexa’s Amplify webinar series, as Phonexa CMO Talar Malakian and Jessica Robinson, Founder of Affiliate Marketing Partners, made the case for investing in affiliate marketing when building a program from scratch.

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The informative session thoroughly explored strategies for evaluating opportunities and managing a pay-per-performance budget with a diversified pool of partners based on what makes sense for a buyer’s journey and respective business models.

The Case for Investing in Affiliate Marketing

One of the initial hurdles often faced when establishing an affiliate marketing program from the ground up is securing the necessary investment and buy-in from leadership or new clients. 

Convincing decision-makers to allocate resources to this marketing channel requires a compelling argument highlighting its potential value and returns.

Since affiliate marketing is, at its core, a pay-per-performance channel, Robinson believes that is a compelling opening argument to present to a marketing leader.

“You’re not paying on impression or a click … you’re paying when the action you want happens, so I look at what competitors are paying out in the space to show [marketing leaders] how they’re building their affiliate programs around these payouts,” said Robinson. “I like to Google their top keywords … about 80% of the organic and paid listings on a SERP page are affiliate sites … if they’re not talking about your [products], they’re talking about your competitors.”

Robinsons said another key factor to consider is the diversity of the affiliate set. With regard to publishers, this can range from content influencers to technology partners to email or native ad experts. 

“In terms of partner types, the most undervalued partners that aren’t talked about enough are brand-to-brand partnerships,” said Robinson. “It’s definitely one of the more challenging ones to stand out in the affiliate space, but they can be extremely valuable.”

Check out a recent episode of Amplify: Essential Insights for Achieving Affiliate Success & Building Lasting Partnerships.

Managing Budgets for Diverse Partners

When heading an affiliate program, marketing leaders have to assess which partner types make the most sense to sponsor with an upfront fee. Robinson shared that this decision ultimately comes down to what your goal is and what your preferred partnership set looks like.

“For instance, if you’re a finance brand and you want to show up where your competitors are showing up, oftentimes you need to have a sponsored placement there,” said Robinson. “I wouldn’t go out and do a $50,000 ad buy for a coupon deal or loyalty site. There’s value in that for certain promotions but if you’re trying to gain share of voice on sites that are comparing your competitors, that’s a good example where [an upfront fee] is worth it – especially when it results in an evergreen placement.”

Robinson has encountered brands that manage affiliate channels differently from other paid channels.

“[The affiliate channel] is a relationship-based channel and relationships take time to cultivate,” said Robinson. “[My colleague] phrased it really well, ‘Proof of life at three months; proof of growth at six months.’ Just because you launch an affiliate program doesn’t mean you’re going to start seeing as many convergents as you see through your paid search campaigns right off the bat – having time for launch is a [critical] piece of it.”

Looking to acquire high-intent leads? Our comprehensive guide –“How to Scale ROI Across Publishers & Partners: An Affiliate Network’s Guide” – uncovers the secrets to boosting ROI.

Evaluating Opportunity Size

Controlling outcomes and making them scalable is mission-critical in affiliate marketing. 

Malakian shared that cost stabilization is a big part of that conversation, as cookie deprecation and other factors make it more difficult for marketers to do the type of targeting they might want to conduct.

Robinson provided an example from her tenure at PayPal.

“One of the slides in my pitch internally at PayPal was comparing our costs to other paid channels to showcase the difference in our CPLs depending on the program we were talking about,” said Robinson. “Normally, our return on ad spend was second only to branded paid search.”

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Mistakes can erode confidence among leadership and work against the trust factor in running a channel. Robinson gave an example of a client that committed the cardinal mistake of having their program on auto-approve before migrating to her platform.

“There are many publishers operating in this space, so when we’re talking about building out a program, we’re still evaluating these partners and not everyone can get your affiliate link,” said Robinson. “[Auto-approve] can open you up to all sorts of issues like FCC disclosure violations, fraud, and being on sites you don’t want to be associated with.”

Robinson said a common mistake brands make is not being open to testing their way into a B2B partnership.

“There needs to be an upfront investment either to get on these platforms or get sponsored content to stand out and jumpstart a relationship,” said Robinson. “As soon as you pitch someone on a pay-per-performance channel and you bring up [additional expenses], trying to go back on that can be challenging.”

The balance of employing an optimal tech stack and testing in this phase becomes crucial.

“There are definitely times that it makes sense to have the right tech stack for affiliate marketing, but certainly having four affiliate networks that all had different agency management built-in into it, they were just paying four times the cost,” said Robinson. “Make sure that you’re consolidating your tech stack and that it makes sense for your business.”

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Amplify is Phonexa’s thought leadership platform designed to empower marketing professionals like you. Amplify provides a carefully curated selection of articles, case studies, interviews, and webinars. If you'd like to contribute to Amplify, email
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