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Affiliate Marketing – Part 3: Choosing the Right Affiliate Marketing Partner

In my last post, Affiliate Marketing – Part 2: Why Choose Affiliate Marketing, I looked at how affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that lets you:

  • Drive online sales at a lower risks/costs than impression-based or cost-per-click advertising: and
  • Better target the right users at the right time.

This time around, I’m going to look at some considerations you need to make when choosing an affiliate marketing partner/service-provider.

There are two ways you can approach setting up an affiliate program:

  1. You can join an affiliate network, or
  2. You can white label affiliate marketing software and set it up yourself.

Each of these approaches have their advantages. Before advertising your products on an existing network, however, you need to weigh your brand and range of product offers against that network and its model.

Size and Scope of an Affiliate Network

The first thing you should consider when looking into partnering with an affiliate network is its size and scope.

While some affiliate networks are very broad and feature every kind of product and company, others are narrower in scope and specialize in specific product verticals.

If you set up your affiliate program through a broader network, you will probably get access to many more affiliates and your campaign can get much wider reach. However, it will be more difficult to find the right affiliates with the targeted traffic to promote your product.

On the other hand, setting up your affiliate program through a network that specializes in a specific vertical will make it much easier to find affiliates experienced in that niche. If you have a diverse range of products to promote, however, a specialized network might limit you from offering other products through that same affiliate program down the road.

Affiliate Account Support

Another thing you need to consider when choosing an affiliate network is the community behind the network. Some affiliate networks are more self-serve oriented, others are more relationship-focused. This impacts both the level of support you get as an advertiser as well as the kind of affiliates you get access to.

Relationship-focused affiliate networks will often focus on affiliate recruitment, campaign promotion, and technical support for advertisers as well as account management for affiliates. Niche content publishers value these relationship-based networks; consequently, the affiliates on these networks tend to be more interested in long-tail and niche promotions as well as developing long-term relationships with the merchants they promote.

On more self-serve style networks, you’re more likely to come across affiliates whose content is broader and more general sites. These broader-appeal affiliates tend to be driven by commission structures rather than merchant relationships.
These are often better suited for brands with a very vast array of product offers or regular seasonal promotions.

For instance, a department-store-style merchant might benefit more from a self-serve network. However, a merchant that is advertising focused product offers such as only women’s wear, only sports equipment, or only electronics might benefit from working with a network that focuses on helping affiliates monetizing their niche content.

A final consideration you need to make is technology: what kind of software is powering the network, and how can it help you reach your marketing goals? This last consideration is sufficiently important that we’ll discuss it in its own post next time.