In today’s volatile and competitive economic landscape, marketing departments face a complex challenge. While business budgets are tightening, consumer behavior is shifting, leading customers to rethink purchases and increasingly shop around to find the best price. According to Deloitte, 45% of consumers are concerned about their levels of saving and delaying large purchases.
In a down economy, brands must become more flexible and strategic to ensure that the marketing budget stretches as far as possible. Thankfully, these are precisely the conditions where affiliate or partnership marketing shines.
By allowing businesses to work with a broad range of partners on performance-based models—such as cost-per-acquisition (CPA) or cost-per-lead (CPL), —partnership marketing is outcomes-based, low risk and measurable in uncertain economic times.
Getting the most out of partnership marketing requires brands to strategically choose partners best suited for their organization. In this article, we’ll examine the types of partnerships to focus on, and explore what it takes to deliver a successful partnership marketing strategy.
Choosing the Right Partnerships
Flexibility is Key
Brands have access to a wide range of potential partners, each offering unique collaboration opportunities. At the same time, brands have the flexibility to implement diverse commission structures for these partnerships, which can be valuable marketing and financial assets when effectively utilized.
Instead of confining themselves to a specific set of partner types and uniform commissioning practices, brands should adopt an open and adaptable mindset, embracing all available partnership activities.
By collaborating with partners who drive traffic across different stages of the customer journey, brands can strategically establish varying commission structures that align with each partner’s value.
For example, content partners may receive higher commission rates, while voucher or deal partners could be compensated at relatively lower rates. It is crucial to emphasize the inclusion of all partner types in this approach, ensuring that no potential collaborators are excluded. When all partner types work together harmoniously, brands can maximize their marketing efforts and reap the associated benefits.
One such example is working with voucher partners, which offer a convenient and high-quality approach to the growing consumer demand for deals. This partnership type often yields rapid conversions, as 39% of consumers expedite their path to purchase when vouchers are available.
On the other hand, collaborating with a content partner may require more time and effort to establish. Still, it has the potential to boost brand awareness and foster more profound engagement with prospective customers.
Ultimately, brands should recognize the value of embracing various partner types and implementing appropriate commission structures. This open-mindedness fosters a diverse and dynamic partnership ecosystem, leading to increased brand exposure, enhanced customer engagement, and overall success in marketing efforts.
Influencers on the Rise
Influencer partnerships are another appealing option, and one that continues to gain momentum in today’s digital landscape. Traditionally seen as separate disciplines, we’re now witnessing an ever-increasing convergence of influencer and partnership marketing.
With the influencer marketing industry worth $15B in 2022, brands are clearly keen on taking advantage of influencers’ deep relationships with their audiences—but they also want to be able to treat them like traditional partners with performance-led campaigns.
With an impressive 55% of online sales generated via smartphones on Cyber Monday last year, the merging of the two disciplines is also fueled by the mobile visibility that influencer partners provide. The caveat is that mobile partnership performance can be hard to track.
Brands must make sure they prioritize and invest in the technical integrations necessary to effectively measure the performance of their mobile-based partnerships.
Unlocking Partner-Brand Synergies
The Importance of Communication
In a performance-based model, success is largely about measuring and analyzing campaigns to understand what works and adjusting accordingly. On a basic level, brands need to know where affiliate partners are driving traffic to ensure customers are headed to the right landing pages.
But when it comes to evaluating impact, each partner should be treated individually. Emphasizing the need for collaboration, it is necessary for brands and partners to engage in effective communication. This communication allows both parties to understand each other’s incentives and priorities.
Regular exchanges of information, such as updates on new product lines or market expansions, enable strategies to be continuously refined and tailored for optimal conversions. By maintaining fluid communication, brands and partners can adapt their approaches to the evolving market landscape and ensure a mutually beneficial partnership.
Success may look different for each brand, with potential metrics including ROI or earned revenue, Cost Per Acquisition (CPA), or even lifetime value of acquired customers. More advanced is the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), which covers the total spend to acquire each customer, including things like marketing and agency costs, as well as network costs.
In other instances, brands can identify and reverse fraudulent charges. This is one of the elements that sets this marketing method apart from others and is a huge advantage for brands.
Keeping track of such data is vital to unlocking one of the most significant benefits of partner marketing versus other channels—the fact that brands have the option to reverse any suspicious or fraudulent transactions.
Fraud monitoring and prevention is a critical means by which partnership marketing can help brands protect their spend and budget. This secure model reinforces the reputation of affiliate marketing as one of the safest investments to generate leads or sales, even in economic hardship.
When transaction reversals are used in combination with flexible payment structures partnership marketing becomes a powerful means of simultaneously protecting net spend and allowing room to scale.
Maximizing Partnership Marketing Effectiveness
While partnership marketing is undoubtedly powerful, not every brand will be able to ramp up an affiliate program at the same pace—with one of the main differentiators being the strength of a brand narrative.
Organizations lacking existing brand awareness will find it takes more time to build a narrative and an affiliate program that delivers on revenue goals—though that’s not to say they won’t be able to get there with time—while more well-known brands can fall back on a naturally higher level of recognition.
In both cases, to truly get the most out of partnership marketing, brands must be willing to take risks and constantly evolve with the market and landscape. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than with some of the emerging technologies now available to enhance promotion.
Affiliate partners present an excellent opportunity to test the impact of technologies like QR codes or AI technologies such as ChatGPT for driving growth and improving marketing spend ROI.
These technologies are already having an impact in the real world. For instance, an Acceleration Partners client partnered with voucher partner Valpak in a project using QR codes which led to a 45% conversion rate on all leads generated
Igniting Your Partnership Marketing Journey
For marketing departments with increasingly squeezed budgets, the flexibility of affiliate marketing allows businesses to scale efforts through innovative partnerships and technologies, all while protecting spend with transaction reversal and performance-based models.
But for organizations to fully leverage partnership marketing and propel their brand forward, it’s important to keep in mind that a mutually beneficial partner-brand relationship requires both sides to remain open, flexible, and communicative.
Moreover, achieving a synergistic relationship leaves brands in a strong position to weather changing consumer behavior in an uncertain economy, ensuring they can stretch their marketing dollars as far as possible.