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The "two-track" model that guarantees affiliate marketing success

Creating a successful affiliate marketing strategy isn't easy. However, you can increase your chances of success with this simple two-track model.
The "two-track" model that guarantees affiliate marketing success

After recently taking part in several affiliate marketing campaigns, I’ve seen that there are 2 sides to this.

On one side you’ve got the owners and CMOs who hand over little more than a link and some well wishes to their affiliates.

On the other, affiliate marketers get access to a dashboard and person or team to help them succeed along every step of the journey.

No prizes for guessing which of these two approaches got the best results…

Here’s the thing though.

The second (obviously superior) approach to affiliate marketing didn’t get better results simply because they had people to help me out.

Those launches succeeded because they took time to implement a well-devised persuasion model.

We’re going to break down that model so you can copy it for your business.

I’m going to be approaching this from the standpoint of the product owner (not the affiliate) so…

  • Owners know what they need to create
  • Affiliate marketers can easily recognise a well devised program

Before you jump in, I want to go over the basics I’ve seen make a difference.

Before implementing an affiliate marketing strategy

There are generally 3 ways you can go about implementing your affiliate strategy.

  1. Using a public affiliate marketing platform (like Impact) and turning off the need for approval so any Tom, Dick, or Harry can promote your brand
  2. Being super selective and working on an invite-only system for new affiliates
  3. Doing something in between. Use a public affiliate platform but approving only the relevant applicants

I would highly recommend 2 or 3.

Your affiliates are ambassadors for your brand. With zero checks in place, it’s easy to have someone create content that reflects negatively on your brand.

The chance is slim (and should be reduced with decent terms and conditions for affiliates), but the risk is there.

And when you’re looking for affiliates you want to find someone who…

  1. Has a reasonable audience
  2. That audience is engaged with the affiliate
  3. The affiliate is known and trusted for an overlapping or related discipline to your offer

The reason here is simple.

The whole affiliate marketing model is built on borrowed authority.

You are relying on the kind words and recommendations of your affiliate to persuade people to trust you.  If the affiliate themselves isn’t known and trusted, it’s a wasted effort.

That being said, don’t only go for the A-players in your industry.

There are plenty of up-and-coming people who don’t yet have huge audiences that should be considered.

Getting in with them today will not only be easier for you, but it could be the start of a long-term relationship that continues to generate positive returns over years.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the two primary goals of a good affiliate marketing strategy.

Affiliate marketing goals

After working through some great affiliate campaigns and some… not so great ones, there’s one key difference I noted.

The poor strategies focus only on sales.

Obviously, the primary goal of your affiliate campaign is to drive sales, right?

You want the affiliate to say “check out [BRAND], they’re great”.

I get that.

But you have to consider where the user is in their knowledge, understanding, and trust of you and your brand.

Yes, a recommendation from a trusted source will help remove some of the anxiety.

But if you’re selling a high-ticket offer you’re gonna need more than a simple “this thing is good” from an authority.

Which is why your affiliate program should also focus on generating leads for your business.

That way, the people who don’t convert immediately can be marketed to over time.

You can spend weeks or months building up that trust so that, one day in the not-too-distant future, they become a customer.

Some brands pay their affiliates for leads.

Usually a small amount like 50c per lead.

You can do this, or you can put something like 30-day attribution tracking into place. That way, if a lead supplied by Affiliate A converts within 30 days, Affiliate A gets the credit and the commission.

However you choose to do it isn’t important.

What is important is you also focus on building your list through your affiliate strategy.

This is what will benefit you in the long run and it will also increase your chances of getting the sale.

With those 2 pre-requisites out of the way, let’s look at how NOT to organise your affiliate program.

The wrong way to run an affiliate marketing program

This is, unfortunately, the affiliate marketing model I see most often.

Brands who use this offer their affiliates one thing.

They’ll give you a tracking link that will head to their primary sales page.

And…

… Well, that’s it.

It’s then on you to do the rest.

You have to…

  • Come up with the copy
  • Devise a great campaign that will make people want to buy
  • Hope the vendor’s sales page is optimised for you to get some sales from it

It’s a two-step process for the customer.

  1. They click on your link
  2. Make a binary decision on whether or not they want to buy based on the strength of the sales page

And as I mentioned above, if you’re selling high-ticket offers, this is a huge ask.

You’re hoping that the strength of the affiliate’s reputation and recommendation is enough to make someone pay $1000+ to a brand they don’t really know.

This model can work, but it tends to work best with offers that are…

  • Low cost
  • Mass market
  • From well-known brands

The trust your affiliate has built up only goes so far.

If you’re selling a $20 product, a simple “this is great” from a trusted authority could work.

But for a $1000+ program or product, a simple recommendation isn’t going to be enough.

There’s not enough trust built up in that recommendation to remove all the user’s fears.

You need to build trust over time to ensure that a $1000+ purchase is something the user knows they’ll get a positive ROI from.

You need to build more trust and help the user get from “who is this?” to “I need what they’re selling”.

That’s hard to do in a single mention or recommendation.

You need to offer more. Here’s how to do that, with a few real-world examples.

The right way to run an affiliate marketing campaign

Over the last few months of analysis and taking part in several affiliate campaigns, I’ve found the best affiliate marketing strategies all do one key thing.

They focus on building trust instead of getting the sale.

They know that if trust is built, hitting someone with the sale is going to be so much more effective.

I’m going to be using Leadpages and their affiliate marketing resources they host within Impact for an explanation here.

However, I’m also going to be recommending a way they could use the resources they’ve created in a more effective way based on what I’ve seen work with other brands.

The first thing I want to address though is what you’ll need to make this work.

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