ADOTAS – For companies that are accelerating marketing efforts to make the most of the upcoming holiday season, it’s still not too late to initiate a performance marketing strategy. With the ability to literally add thousands of additional marketing staff to support your online presence practically overnight, affiliate programs can prove to be cost effective and revenue generating for advertisers and publishers alike.
For David’s Cookies, affiliates are key to boosting our company’s sales. Like many consumer-oriented businesses, the holiday season can represent the lion’s share of the company’s annual profits and David’s Cookies is no exception. In fact, in recent years we’ve seen our sales increase almost 700 percent in the last six weeks of the year. To sustain continued growth and expand our buying audience of individual consumers as well as corporate gift sales, we invested in a performance marketing program.
Through our affiliate program, David’s Cookies is able to quickly scale our team of online marketers to support the holiday season without requiring the traditional training, management or overhead associated with seasonal employees. Through the added army of online marketers, we can more easily be front-and-center delivering targeted offers at the right time to buyers. With the flexibility to test out marketing campaigns and evaluate program success in near real-time, we can also make adjustments immediately, which is especially important when every minute counts during the holiday shopping season.
What’s amazing? Affiliate programs are based on a pay-per-performance model. As a result, the profits are more immediately realized by the publishers which further incentivizes them to drive more traffic to our website. An additional benefit of our performance marketing program is the ease of building partnerships that are mutually beneficial to all parties in the network.
While there are many benefits to a performance marketing program, it’s not as simple as joining a network and waiting for the profits to roll in.
One of the first and most important decisions is to determine which performance marketing program, or programs, to join. While there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of options, determining the best program that most closely aligns with your business goals can be challenging. Since advertisers and publishers typically join between two to three different performance marketing networks, here are three questions you should ask yourself to assess which performance marketing network and program options are best for your business needs.
- What evaluation criteria does the performance marketing network use to determine who can join the network — when it comes to both advertisers and publishers?
- What is the cost to join the network? It’s true that you get what you pay for yet don’t let cost be your sole determining factor. A recent blog post on Affiliate Tip further underscores this point and outlines the dangers of low cost of entry/low return programs.
- What’s the process for getting new publishers and retailers up and running with a performance marketing program? While many organizations wisely steer away from introducing new marketing approaches during the busy holiday season the team at LinkShare promises that advertisers and publishers can be fully up and running with their performance marketing program within two weeks.
Once the performance marketing network has been selected, the advertiser, publisher and performance marketing provider equally share the responsibilities to manage and ensure the success of the program. From retailers, here are some tips for proactively addressing and avoiding three of the most common challenges that face new entrants when they join a performance marketing network.
1. Motivating publishers. Many publishers participate in several affiliate networks so how do you make sure that you remain top of mind? One way to do this is to carefully assess the costs associated with your company hiring additional holiday marketing staff through a traditional model versus the cost of temporarily increasing the revenue structure for publishers in a performance marketing network. Depending on the percentage of cost savings gained through a performance marketing program, an advertiser can redirect a portion of those costs to their affiliate publishers.
For David’s Cookies, by increasing the revenue share for publishers by a few percentage points for six weeks, we have seen sales increase by as much as 300 percent. Along with boosting revenue share, an online merchant can also consider providing additional bonuses as well as free quality merchandise. We’ve also found that generating special offers for strategic partners helps to strengthen the relationship, increase traffic and boost sales.
2. Ensuring quality content. It’s no secret that many people read online content and blogs because they provide information and insight that is consistently current, accurate and engaging. When there are hundreds or thousands of publishers promoting your company’s offerings, you want to be able to maintain some control over how and where your company appears online. This is yet another reason why it’s worthwhile to join a higher quality performance marketing network because they carefully evaluate publishers before they are accepted into the program and consistently evaluate their progress and activities.
3. Successfully executing a performance marketing strategy. Since nobody knows your business better than you do, the most successful performance marketing programs can’t happen without commitment from the advertiser. While the infrastructure may be in place to succeed in terms of joining a quality performance marketing network and having a widespread team of publishers promoting your products, without dedication from the advertiser, the program will not yield the highest possible results.
To make the most of your investment in a performance marketing program, it’s important to build a relationship with the account manager at the performance marketing network. Since the account managers are equally dedicated to your company’s success, they’re an important ally and resource. Going beyond providing an in-depth analysis of the program status, they can also generate ideas, help with market testing, provide strategy and make recommendations for tactical execution of plans to further cultivate your online presence and avoid potential missteps.
While end-of-year activities can be all encompassing, prioritize the relationship with your performance marketing account manager to make the most of the holiday season.
For David’s Cookies, participating in a performance marketing network has proven to be a valuable investment that helps drive revenue and brand awareness for our company. Since we joined the LinkShare network eight years ago, we have been able to grow our direct to consumer sales by double-digit percent increases each year.
Harris Beber is vice president of e-commerce for David’s Cookies.