How to Keep It Real: Being Genuine in Affiliate Marketing

  • July 31st, 2018

One of the challenges of any sort of marketing is keeping your image trustworthy and authentic in a world of banner ads and self-testimonials. Consumers are savvier than ever with brand-produced marketing, and affiliate marketing is no different. After all, it’s likely clear that the affiliate will be getting a commission, so why should the reader trust them? Turns out there a few ways you can make the consumer feel a little more comfortable clicking that link, let’s check out a few strategies:

Social Proof

Nothing gets people feeling good about your product than seeing what others think, and there’s a lot of ways to do that. Testimonials and links to reviews are ideal ways to give readers a good sense of who has had experience with this brand and what their experience has been like. Even if it’s a different product than they’re considering buying, if you can highlight the brand, it’s a good thing. Having engagement with reviewers is also a plus; responses to comments, either positive or negative, demonstrates quality control and customer experience is at the top of your list. Even a small counter showing how many people have bought this product can be beneficial, and, can be easy to install.

Long Form Content

There’s a ton of ways long form content can help your affiliate program. SEO is a great example; nothing pushes you up the algorithm better than extensive blog posts full of rich keywords. Do your research, and there’s a lot of free tools out there to use to make your content SEO friendly. Next, big blog posts show dedication and utility…you can pack a lot of information in there, including past successes and examples of different consumers that have happily used the products in the past. If the affiliate isn’t able or willing to write their own post, send them a link to an existing post, or write one yourself for them to feature. You don’t want one highlighted link sitting lonely on a crowded page…give it some context and content, and watch it go!

Actually Use It

Unfortunately, in the realm of monetization, there are lots of times where the person advocating for the product never actually tries it. Now, certainly there are instances when this can pass unnoticed, but the chances aren’t good. As a brand, you need to make certain that the affiliate has full access to assets; not just the website copy and generic descriptions, but actual hands-on usage. This will not only prevent inaccurate descriptions, mistakes and embarrassing claims that are just plain wrong, but it can further legitimize the affiliate as a true believer in your brand. Images of the affiliate with product in hand go a long way, too. Also, do your due diligence and quality check all of your links and landing pages. Nothing turns off an excited customer like a faulty link.

What do you look for when you’re looking for a trustworthy affiliate relationship? Let us know in the comments below.

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Affiliate KPI’s You Need to Know To Power Your Strategy

  • July 12th, 2018

So, you’ve set up your affiliate marketing program for success. You’ve vetted your partners, checked all the links, and have a great network in place. Now you just sit back and relax, right? Nope, not even close. If you want all this to work (and keep working) smoothly, you have to crunch some numbers. Key Performance Indicators (or KPI’s) are the certain sets of data that keep you in the know about how your program is succeeding…or coming up short. Here’s a few affiliate-specific indicators to measure how your campaign is doing.

What’s Going Out?

Before you start drooling over your tasty sales numbers, you should take a hard look at what you’re paying out. Typical numbers on any marketing campaign include return on ad spend (ROAS) and the old favorite, return on investment (ROI). These numbers can be a bit nebulous when you have a wide variety of strategies in place, so try to keep the data specific to each campaign. The best KPI to keep straight are the commissions you’re paying out. Smaller commissions might be dragging down the affiliate’s motivation and cramping sales, and giant commissions are likely taking a bite out of your profit margin. Try to find a mean average, and stick to it. Then, take a peek at your cost per acquisition (CPA) and, depending on your end goal (either sales, clicks, or opt-in/sign up form), you should be able to pin down your best (and worst) affiliate performers. Simply divide the total cost spent on this specific campaign by any particular affiliate’s conversion rate, and you’ve got it. Note your best and worst performers.

Who’s On First?

Now, you’ve got some numbers to look over and some decisions to make, because now we’ll check how our individual affiliate partners are doing. Using the above metrics, you can establish a top ten list. Where this really becomes useful is when you track them month-to-month or year-to-year. Have you rewarded your consistently great performers with bigger percentages and praise? Have you tried to coach up your lower half with advice and incentives? And lastly, you may need to make a decisive move if you have a few bottom draggers…give them some time to improve, but don’t let them drag down your bottom line.

Making Adjustments

Once you’ve optimized your team, try to take a bigger picture look at your strategy. Should you trim down to the absolute best team and run lean? Or is it time to expand and multiply that affiliate power? More links could mean more sales…and could also mean more supervision, and a greater chance that someone new could make some errors in judgement. Steady conversion rates and increased click traffic are good indicators that your program is maturing nicely, and watch the timing for each affiliate. Some put a lot of effort in at first, and then tail off; constant gentle pressure, as Danny Meyer says, is the best way to guide and lead. Don’t let up, but don’t be harsh. When you see steady growth across the board, it may be time to recruit a few more partners.

Now, The Good Stuff

Here we get into the best part: conversions and sales. Now, these numbers are what everyone’s looking for, but don’t neglect some other crucial indicators that should factor into your measurement of success. If your affiliate partners are talented and advocating for your brand, you should be seeing increased clicks, web traffic, and brand awareness…all positives for the campaign. Harder to quantify, but don’t ignore them; even if a consumer clicks on a link, becomes familiar with who you are and what you offer without buying, that’s a good thing. Data in all these forms may be beyond your reach to get hard numbers for, so you may want to enlist the help of an expert affiliate marketing company to help you mine this valuable information. Once you’re on to the conversion rates, there’s lots to check out. Are there lots of new customers, or are people coming back for more? Is the average order value (AOV) low? If it is, you might want to consider adding incentives or deals for customers to put more in their cart. And then, of course, the straight up conversion rate. Look carefully at various landing sites and promotions to see if there’s a way you could tweak it to give the customer a little boost to click the “buy” button. Social proof is always good; by listing how many other people have bought the product or some good reviews; it might give the buyer that added confidence to make the purchase.

What KPI are you looking at? Any important ones we missed? Let us know what you think, and let’s start a conversation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can’t We All Get Along?: Affiliate Marketing and the FTC

  • July 2nd, 2018

There’s been a lot of fuss around the recent Federal Trade Commission guidelines requiring all online personalities who promote or endorse a brand or product to disclose their relationship clearly and explicitly. Granted, there’s a lot to pay attention to, and the consequences are quite dire if you don’t comply. However, once you’re educated and clear about the law, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t follow the rules. In fact, we can make the case that it’s a good thing. Don’t believe it? Well, read on and decide for yourself.

What Are The Rules?

Let’s take a peek at the official rules before we get too far into how we need to interpret and comply. Read this link before anything; there’s a lot there, but it’s all more or less saying the same thing. Basically, you must be clear about your promotion or endorsement of any brand if you are at all compensated, be it payment, free product, family or friend relationships, or any other kind of favorable treatment related to the post.

Do some affiliates post links solely out of the kindness of their heart and a purely personal affinity for the product? It could happen, but it’s not likely.

Wading through all the guidelines, there’s a small, 3-character disclosure that covers all your bases: #ad. This must be clear (no light fonts, miniscule sizes or any other attempts to make it less noticeable), and also at or near the beginning of your earned social media posts.

When content partners produce blog posts, they need a disclosure statement at the beginning of their post. It usually says something to the effect of “I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own.”

These compliancy messages are super important…there’s been more than a few crackdowns on posts that don’t have clear announcements at the top. Gotta scroll down or hit “more…” to see the #ad disclaimer? No good…it has to be right at the top. Trust us on this. Here’s a summary on a lawsuit that the FTC filed on endorsement of a brand without proper disclosure, and who was ultimately responsible. If you don’t click, here’s the summary: the merchant (read: brand who is marketing the product…that’s you!) is wholly responsible for adhering to these rules, and any hired agency or individual affiliates that screw it up are your responsibility. Yeah, that’s a lot of responsibility. But, we’re going to show you how all of this is a good thing, and can actually be a plus. Read on.

Fair Play

Here’s the truth. It used to be a slightly unsavory thing to plug a brand for pay, but things have come a long way. The everyday consumer wants the truth, and the more you give them, the better. Check out this article regarding the way consumers want to be informed…over two-thirds of those surveyed said they want to know the arrangement that their affiliate has with the brand. It’s a much better situation when the reader knows what’s going on.

In this survey, many claimed not to know that the writer was compensated…and a similar number said they didn’t care. Consider that for a minute; wouldn’t you, as a consumer, want to know if your expert was advocating because of true belief or money? Given that this affiliate has likely built their reputation based on their innate knowledge of the products they review, it’s equally as likely that you’d trust their expertise, paid or not. Trust and honesty is their stock in trade; without authentic and trustworthy advice, they’ve got nothing. Recommending a bad product could ruin everything they’ve worked so hard for, and if they’re paying their bills by teaming up with a quality brand, that shouldn’t change their whole ideal.

Summing Up

We all do our due diligence when considering a purchase. There are so many resources available to double- and triple-check reviews on any given thing, and consumers are doing more of this than ever. Knowing this, you should feel confident about using your trusted affiliate partners to get your product and messaging out. If there’s any doubt, enlisting an expert agency to vet and oversee these affiliate partners might be the best choice for you. Remember, these affiliates got to their marketable status for good reason…and, if they’re at that point, following the FTC guidelines shouldn’t be of any worry to them. They need to be trusted across the board, and full disclosure ultimately adds to that. Be clear and honest with what you need and expect from them, and the rest will fall into place.

Do you have any experience working with affiliates and ensuring they comply? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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5 Tips to Strengthen Your Next Affiliate Marketing Campaign

  • May 18th, 2018

Affiliate marketing traditionally consists of a business model inwhich brands pay online content creators a commission for the direct sales they bring in via their blog and/or social channels. Content partners are identified based on a contextual fit with a brand and the brand sets up a link or code that content creators share with their audience. When the audience makes a purchase, the content creator gets paid. Pretty straightforward.

Brands sometimes like this approach over the influencer marketing model because with affiliate marketing, content creators or influencers are paid based on performance as opposed to an upfront payment for a post like influencer marketing.

In order to make your affiliate program worthwhile, here are 5 tips to strengthen your strategy:

Make it Worthwhile

Tip: Content creators will start dropping from your campaign like flies if you ask for too much of their time than balances out their reward. Make sure that your “ask” is fair and that reword for said ask is tangible. You may need to adjust the percentage rate you give your influencers and make sure they are stocked with free product from your brand.

Example: Say a fashion brand wants to partner with content creators to show off the durability of a pair of hiking pants. The brands has the great idea of challenging the influencers to wear the pants to different places and photograph the variety of places the pants are worn. This brand would need to realize how much time and effort goes into going different places, taking photos and writing content. They could compensate by offering a set financial compensation rate up front in addition to commission.

Identify the Right Affiliate Partner

Tip: While some marketing strategies are best owned in-house, affiliate marketing can be technical with creating and monitoring links. And let’s not forget that there are FTC guidelines to follow. Having the right agency not only ensures that your legal and technical needs are taken care of, but, they also bring strong relationships to the table as well.

Example: A beauty brand may be ready to hop on the affiliate marketing bandwagon but everyone on their team is spread a little too thin. This brand may want to contact Versa Marketing or do some research to identify an affiliate marketing agency who can develop the creative and maintain the relationships for a strong affiliate marketing strategy with beauty influencers.

Seed Content Creators with the Right Assets

Tip: When your content creators succeed, your brand makes sales. So, make sure that you’re helping them succeed with the right brand information and assets. Here are few examples of assets brands should equip their content creation partners with:

  • Engaging content about the brands
  • New and fresh information about the brand or upcoming releases
  • Easy to trace links so both your brand and the influencer can see how they’re performing
  • High quality images
  • Downloadable resources
  • Give a creative campaign theme or challenge

Example: A software brand may want to consider paying per lead and generate leads with a downloadable piece of content that their brand produced such as an ebook or white paper on a topic that shows thought leadership.

Keep a Pulse

Tip: It’s key to keep a pulse on your relationships with all of your content creators. This will allow your brand to adapt a strategy based on what is working and converting. You need to be able to know who is succeeding and who needs new content and approaches.

Many brands make the mistake of sending out links and implementing a “hands-off” approach to their affiliate marketing. It’s important to remember that these relationships need to be nurtured in order to keep your brand on the brains of content creators so that they’re mentioning your brand multiple times.

Example: A craft brand may keep a spreadsheet of all of their content partners and include a column for their birthdays. On their birthday, the brand could send them a special gift—something simple but highly effective.

Design a Strategy Across Many Platforms

Tip: Of course, blogs are great for their longform content and their potential to convert sales for years to come. But, social media mentions can reach different audiences and create a quick spark for your brand. When you’re giving your content creators a theme and a direction, make sure that this encompasses social media as well.

Example: To elicit visually appealing posts on social, a fitness brand could add a layer to their social strategy by offering influencers a reward such as a gift card for the most creative Instagram post. This incentivizes the influencers to add an extra creative layer to the photos they put out for your brand.

Do you have any affiliate marketing tips? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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New Affiliate Program – Otero Menswear

  • April 18th, 2018

Otero Menswear is working with affiliate program management company Versa Marketing and ShareASale to find Men’s fashion and Men’s Lifestyle sites to partner with. Otero Menswear seeks to make a positive difference in the world by offering apparel that fits the height, size and body type of men 5’4″ – 5’9″. The clothing is fashion forward and professional. Each piece is designed using texture, cut, styling and findings that empowers the wearer’s specific body type through visibly leaning and lengthening techniques.

Otero specializes in providing their customers with the best fitting T-Shirts and Polos on the market. They utilize a 3-D Proportional Sizing methodology to create garments that fit proportionate to your body type and will feel perfectly tailored. Not only will their shirts fit well, but they also come in a variety of colors and designs. Pair an Otero shirt with your favorite pair of jeans or chinos, and you’ve just styled the perfect spring outfit.

Otero knows that no outfit is complete without its fair share of accessories. That is why they offer all sorts of accessories from backpacks and wallets to bracelets and belts. Their commitment to natural, durable, renewable materials also extends to their accessories line, which is made from handcrafted full grain leather that will stand up to years of hard wear, but which will also biodegrade over time. They feature natural stone and metal in their bracelets; it won’t break down, but it will last forever, as long as it’s well cared-for.

We have designed our affiliate program to handsomely reward resourceful entrepreneurs and creative marketers who help new customers discover how Otero Menswear has completely reinvented the concept of clothing sizes. This program offers their affiliates great benefits, including a 10% Commission/Sale , 30-Day Cookie, regularly updated creatives, and an opportunity to work with a company revolutionizing the way men up to 5’9” dress! We look forward to creating new partnerships with men’s fashion and men’s lifestyle Affiliates and look forward to working together! Join the Otero Affiliate Program in ShareASale today. For more information on Versa’s management services, click here: affiliate program management.

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CJ Affiliate Expert

  • October 5th, 2017

We’re happy to announce that our own Patrick Lavin was named a CJ Affiliate Ambassador for his expert knowledge of the network and how to manage affiliate programs. Patrick has almost a decade of experience working with CJ and knows a lot of the intricacies of the platform from both the merchant and publisher side.

“CJ is really a great network to work with. They’ve been one of the big affiliate networks for a long time and have done a great job helping us introduce the affiliate channel to a lot of new pubs”, said Patrick, “I’ve had a lot of fun working with CJ and they are a great partner, so I’m happy to share my knowledge on how to make programs successful.”

 

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HumanCharger Affiliate Program

  • September 19th, 2017

The HumanCharger Affiliate Program is a multi-network program that gives publishers the option to choose the network of their choice for tracking. There are some different benefits available to both merchants and publishers in each of the networks that I’ll outline below, but first a quick recap on what HumanCharger is and what it does.

HumanCharger is a bright light therapy device that was scientifically developed in 2007 by Finnish researchers looking for ways to combat the winter blues. When it is dark constantly during the winter, many people can develop a seasonal depression. Exposure to natural sunlight and special lamps can leave people feeling better and more energetic.

The Valkee company in Finland worked with researchers to develop a portable device that mimics sunshine and delivers uv-free calibrated white light in a micro-dose through the ear canals. Through my ears? Yes, strange, right? By delivering light through the ear canals for 12 minutes, you can stimulates the photosensitive proteins on the surface of your brain, triggering Serotonin and Dopamine to be released.

It turns out that it isn’t just Fins living near the arctic circle that can benefit from increased light exposure. Modern day life leaves most of us sitting inside at an office most days a week. We don’t get enough sunlight in our daily lives and this can lead effect both our energy levels and our mood.

After wide adoption in nordic countries, HumanCharger became popular with people trying to hack their energy levels and with elite athletes looking for a natural edge. The device is now available through major retailers and direct from their website online.

Versa team developed a multi-network affiliate program anchored on LinkConnector’s tracking platform and also available in CJ and ShareASale. First, LinkConnector provided a robust tracking setup for attribution across multiple affiliate networks so that duplicate commissions wouldn’t be an issue. The second benefit of LinkConnector, which ShareASale also provides, is coupon code tracking for affiliate tracking without a click. Because we work with many podcasters and influencers that are talking about HumanCharger, independent of a website, email or blog, we were generating traffic without the traditional click tracking model in place. It was important to attribute sales using a unique tracking code that influencers could share.

We also new that there was a larger traditional set of content publishers in CJ that had a similar health and wellness audience, so layering in CJ made sense. CJ and LinkConnector both developed technology to track customers across multiple devices. We are sometimes seeing 20% of customers research from their mobile phone or tablet, but then move to their desktop to complete their purchase.

While most affiliate network copmanies (CJ, LinkConnector, ShareASale) have larger overlap of affiliate publishers, it’s nice to give affiliates that option to cater to their network of choice when that’s possible.

You can join the HumanCharger affiliate program in any of the mentioned networks to gain access to special affiliate commissions and consumer promotions.

And meet the team and try a 12 minute session at the Bulletproof Biohacking Conference this October in Pasadena.

 

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How to Develop Affiliate Influencers

  • August 30th, 2017

Stop! It’s Nurture Time!

A How-To Guide For Growing Your Affiliate and Influencer Relationships

In this ever-changing world with brands using digital marketing to improve conversion, production and efficiency rates–constant goals are on every brand’s mind. And performance-based marketing is the ideal tool to reach those marks. Performance based marketing works with the strongest aspects of both affiliate and influencer marketing and rewards a brand’s marketing partners for tangible action instead of paying for posts.

Affiliate marketing is arguably the most efficient and cost-effective method available to brands anywhere. And now more than ever, affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are best friends when you run these marketing strategies together since the strategies overlap and feed off of each other. All this success makes it easy to forget that your marketing relationships are the ones who pump out creative content and knock out sales. It’s easy to forget that these people are real live humans who thrives on feedback, praise and genuine connections.

Yeah, they’re getting paid well if they’re great at what they do. However, if you want your relationship with your brand’s content creators are to grow and last, you need to nurture them just like any effective client relationship. So, we’ve compiled a list of ways to keep your hard-working team happy, loyal and motivated.

Agency or In-House Approach?

Understanding the important aspects of affiliate and influencer relationships helps brands decide if they should run their programs in house or if they should partner with an agency. When the budget allows it, brands often prefer working with an established company on this type of marketing because they have the relationships, technology and strategies in place to scale affiliate and influencer marketing. Regardless of your approach, the following components when it comes to nurturing marketing relationships are important to know so that you can oversee the right strategy with your brand and/or choose an agency who emphasizes nurturing strategies for their clients.

The Courtship

First, let’s assume you are just getting started with finding affiliates to work with or maybe just need a few more quality people to join your team. Their social network is their virtual office so start by following interesting prospects on Twitter, Facebook, or any other network. Like their posts, share their content, and work in a few complimentary comments in their feeds.

Familiarizing yourself with the content of your potential marketing partners is crucial for two reasons. First you need to know if their topics and voice is a fit with your brand while second it’s good to reference their content later when you reach out to partner. Learn what they like, read and respect. Don’t jump in with any official introductions or offers quite yet…it’s best to just listen and learn at first. You’ll establish a much more genuine connection by showing interest and doing research on your end, and this sets the table for an interactive relationship from the outset.

 

Popping the Question

Once you’ve started the nurturing process and have gotten yourself on the radar, it’s time to engage. As you can likely imagine, popular content creators get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails a day, so personalizing and being concise is key. When reaching out to a new influencer with email, take the time to customize with some basics –  name and specific details and assets in a brief yet informative manner.

First impressions, as we all know, are crucial. Mentioning a prior relevant blog post from the affiliate is a great touch; this shows you’ve done your homework, and a bit of flattery is always solid strategy. Be sure to bring up their readers, and how they will benefit from your brand. And be certain to wind up the email with a question, like asking their opinion on the campaign or what specific assets might help them. You’re a lot more likely to get a positive response this way. Granted, this initial process can be time-consuming, but it’s sure to pay dividends down the line.

Keeping It Going

Now that your affiliate or influencer partner is on board, you can let up on the nurturing, right? Quite the contrary, because now’s the time to really let them know how much you value them. Make sure their onboarding and technical logistics are running smoothly, and offer support throughout. Present them with high quality images and brand-specific messaging, and suggest some links that may be relevant. However, it is important to not go too far with the suggestions; writers are creative beings, after all, and giving them the freedom to craft the story is crucial. In fact, referencing what you like about their earlier work is a great way to encourage and empower them to create.

If your brand’s website has a blog in place, that could be a perfect spot to link a  marketing partner’s prior work back to them and don’t forget that social shares are always a positive thing. Random check-ins or even a scheduled phone call helps to personify your brand, and even making sure you have a photo or avatar near your signature can strengthen that connection. Lastly, introducing incentives at various stages throughout the campaign can do wonders. Offer them a sneak peek at the product or website, or exclusive discounts for friends and family before anyone else in the general public can. A gift card near the end of the campaign might give them a boost, also. Regardless of the specifics, staying engaged and actively communicating your feedback and encouragement is always welcome.

 

Ending On A High Note

Showing your appreciation for a job well done is always welcome. Thank you notes and reports with numbers and feedback helps your affiliate understand how much their efforts mean to you, both personally and professionally. If you plan to use them again, make sure you tell them that. Or, even better, consider keeping them on throughout; content-driven marketing can continue to extend sales and improve customer experience even after the final click.  Whip up at least one more social blast highlighting the great work your affiliate did…it will be shared and retweeted over and over, extending your brand recognition on its own. Whatever you do, keep it personal. Your extra efforts are sure to be recognized and reciprocated, and likely will lead to many more successful partnerships.

A little reminder for you, however: all of this takes a lot of time, planning and expertise. Many CMO’s might end up hiring the best “man” for the job, and turn to an expert affiliate program manager to handle the entire process. Either way, making sure you’ve nurtured your affiliate throughout the process is your best path to a meaningful (and profitable) relationship.

Do you prefer to run affiliate and influencer marketing campaigns in house or work with an agency? Please let us know and tell us why in the comments!

 

 

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Geckos Affiliate Program in CJ

  • August 14th, 2017

It’s important to get out and see the world, embrace different cultures, and learn new things along the way, all while making new friends. Geckos Adventures has created amazing trips for young adults, ages 18-29, that are affordable and inspiring.  Travelers can book a trip to over 80 world destinations. Travel affiliates can participate in the Geckos Affiliate Program found in the CJ network.

For every booking, Geckos donates a portion to their social enterprise partner, Friends International.  This leading social enterprise saves lives and builds futures for marginalized kids and young people across the world by empowering them with skills that will set them up for employment.  Giving back to the regions they visit is an integral part of Geckos Adventures’ mission.  They instill the importance of reducing their carbon footprint while designing an unforgettable grassroots adventure.

Experience local life, use local transportation & accommodations, with an occasional homestay, treehouse, or houseboat. Making life-long connections with a small group of like-minded and same aged travelers is encouraged and learning about the destination from a local group leader who lives in that region gets the visitor emersed in the cultre.  Leaders speak the language, are full of connections, and can share all the secret wonders of a destination.

Geckos Adventures has made it easy and safe for young people to get out and explore, make new friends, and bring home a new look on life.   Being educated about different walks of life around the world on one of these uniquely designed trips is second to none.

Geckos Adventures also has a great affiliate program in Commission Junction.   Professional travel publishers or recent travelers can share their experiences with friends and followers online after joining the program and start earning commissions. Commission Junction makes it easy to sign up as an affiliate and start advertising travel.  4% of total trip cost is paid out in commission to the affiliate marketing companies or travel bloggers promoting Geckos. The Versa affiliate management team is available to assist in any way possible!  If you are reading this and have passed the age cut-off there is still an opportunity to check out trips with Geckos Adventures sister company, Intrepid Travel.  Cheers and happy trails!

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Affiluencer: How A Marketing Hybrid Can Transform Your Bottom Line

  • July 29th, 2017

Every industry needs diversity. Diversity can be interpreted in several different ways: an age/race/gender-diversified workforce can certainly encourage innovation and several different viewpoints on the same challenges, for example. And just as importantly, expanding your brand’s menu of services or products offered can increase revenue, reach and brand awareness all at once.

Diversity in digital marketing is especially crucial as the ever-changing landscape of multiple channels, methods and verticals can quickly leave old fashioned marketing styles in the dust. The rise of two powerful digital methods: affiliate marketing companies and influencer marketing highlight this point perfectly.

So in this post let’s dive into some important differences between the two and more importantly, how they can work together towards the same goals!

First, The Affiliates…

Affiliate marketing has come a long way in the last decade. Once considered a “black hat” style, it has become one of the most dominant and successful ways to sell. According to this eMarketer, affiliate spending will top $5.3 billion by the end of 2017. Seems it’s become quite trustworthy…but why?

In one word, it’s measurable. Using performance-based marketing enables brands to assign a precise amount per click.  Whether the end result is increased website traffic, a newsletter sign up, a sale, a conversion,etc. This gives peace of mind to both the CMO who approves the budget and the publisher who puts in the work to earn that click.

Confidence in the process and proven ROI should lead to growth and innovation and everyone who is embracing this process is thriving. Perfect, right? Well, not always… Some brands have issues with the quality of the affiliate sites, or the tone that the publisher uses. A socially conscious brand that bases its identity on beneficial human interaction, for example, might find some affiliates lacking warmth or empathy, despite their brisk conversion rate or impressive reach.

This is where third party affiliate program management could possibly assist, as vetting and quality control processes can be overwhelming for a brand to do on its own. A qualified program manager has the connections and filters to ensure quality in affiliate marketing.

Next, The Influencers…

Influencer marketing has had a similar rise, but for a few different reasons. One estimate had Instagram influencer revenues at over half a billion dollars last year…and that’s not including other giants like YouTube, Facebook and the thousands of influencer blogs on every topic imaginable. And, according to this Linqia’s survey, 71% of marketers plan to keep or increase their 2017 influencer budget.

Why is it growing so fast? As above, in one word, it’s authentic. Building trust and loyalty is an influencer’s stock in trade, and having several thousand viewers following your every word is powerful indeed. Many studies have shown that faith in traditional brand-produced advertising is declining, and in this age of ad blockers, trusted content and reviews have reduced the reliance on banner ada. Honest and organic endorsements (even when payment for the review has been disclosed) are incredibly valuable for brand awareness. Increased traffic and eventual conversions, and retaining influencers throughout the sales and customer experience cycle has been shown to have massive potential.

All good news…but what’s the downside? It can be notoriously tricky to measure ROI with influencers, at least in traditional marketing terms, and this can possibly make justifying budgets for influencer campaigns far more difficult. Fortunately, there are rapidly developing methods, like pixel trackers and coupon codes, that can deliver various measurables to the marketing department. Also, it would be remiss to not mention the other benefits of an influencer campaign, such as evergreen content, social amplification and heightened brand recognition are valuable assets that may not be visible on a spread sheet, but are nevertheless beneficial to the brand.

And Introducing The Hybrid…

If you haven’t noticed, both of the perceived downsides to these marketing strategies match up nicely to the other’s strength. Affiliates are measurable and performance-based but brands worry about authenticity in their posts while influencers base their work on being authentic and trustworthy but often need advanced metrics to justify the investment to the brand. It seems natural to want to combine the two somehow, so let’s explore how that might work.

The first logical step would be to employ both: influencers create awareness, trust and buzz for the brand, and the affiliates operate by convincing and reassuring the buyer while making the sale easy. This sounds ideal, but care must be taken to assure consistent messaging and tone with both. Maybe, then, the better solution would involve training and enabling one affiliate/influencer to do both incrementally.

A talented blogger or social media star should, with tact and talent, be able to navigate through both phases by creating quality content while organically including links to buy or shop for the product. Many Instagram and YouTube stars already have hybridized their roles with “shop now” links popping up throughout their posts. Keeping authenticity and commerce that close can certainly be a challenge, but considering the value of a performer like that, there’s a potential for an efficient and powerful role that most marketing teams would love to have in their pocket.

Many influencers are so transparent and loved by their audiences that they even explain that yes they are including an affiliate link and go on to explain that their affiliate partnerships allow them to keep their blog afloat. Audiences seem to understand and respect this sort of authenticity and when kept in the loop, are happy to make sure the influencers they love are compensated for their amazing work.

To introduce this hybrid relationship into your marketing plan, again, a trusted agency like us has the relationships, vetting processes and managers to power your brand to the top of your industry.

Let us know if you have questions or comments below. We are a friendly group and love to have a good conversation about affiliate and influencer marketing!

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