Case Study: How Should Brands Think About Affiliate Program Recruitment?

A quick case study on how to think about doing effective recruitment for affiliate and partner programs

Ameed Hasiba
Associate Account Director

What criteria should brands consider when recruiting affiliates for their program?

When considering a partnership with an affiliate, brands should take into account the following criteria:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Based on the desired KPIs, brands can determine the most suitable partnership. For achieving volume and rapid program growth, loyalty partners such as coupon and cashback partners are effective as they drive conversions through last-click attribution. However, it's important to note that they may cannibalize orders and revenue from other channels or partners. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work with these partners in your program, but instead, should find the right commissions that allow you to achieve the return on ad spend you’re looking for for this cohort of partners. When working with low funnel partners, you’re able to achieve revenue growth quickly and protect yourself from losing sales to competitors. On the other hand, if the brand aims to focus on incrementality and driving new customer sales, partnering with higher funnel partners such as content partners can be beneficial. This approach leads to assisted conversions, with content partners typically positioned at the beginning of the customer journey, while orders and revenue may be attributed to other channels like direct, programmatic, or paid social due to retargeting or loyalty partner interactions through browser extensions and or coupon websites. Overall, brands should work with sophisticated teams that understand the nuances and strategies that work for different groups of affiliates that exist in the space. There’s value in working with each type of partner, you just need to ensure it aligns with your acquisition needs and KPIs.
  • Relatable Partners: It is crucial to ensure that the affiliate partner aligns with the brand's product, targeting the right audience. This alignment not only helps generate sales but also safeguards the brand's reputation. Affiliates are essentially partners who help promote your brand, so you need to be sure that you’re working with the right partners that allow you to position your brand properly to their loyal audiences.

Which types of affiliates typically perform the best in affiliate programs?

This question has multiple answers as it depends on the brand's goals and KPIs. If we solely focus on last-click performance, the "best performing" affiliate is likely to be a browser extension or coupon partner, but that may also have an impact on incrementality and your return on ad spend goals overall.. Looking at the customer journey, these partners are typically found at the end and are considered the closers. Conversely, brands focused on incrementality and acquiring new customers may find that content partners or influencers drive the best results, but these types of partners require more effort to scale a program effectively. For brands selling higher-cost products, partnering with buy now, pay later providers can be beneficial as it allows customers to make immediate purchases without full payment upfront. If growth supersedes tracking , and the goal is to drive volume with specific targeting requirements, card link partners can be considered. They showcase products with a direct call-to-action as credit card offers. In general, a mix of different partners following a full-funnel approach tends to work best. The best partners is heavily dependent on the brand, their product, and a company’s acquisition goals and timeline at any given point in time.

  • Upper Funnel Partners include entities such as blogs, influencers, online articles, and social media accounts, which primarily drive awareness and interest.
  • Mid-Funnel Partners, on the other hand, typically provide more detailed information and content about the product or service. Examples of these include review websites and email marketing partners.
  • Lower Funnel Partners, sometimes also referred to as bottom funnel partners, focus on the final stages of the customer journey or sales funnel. Examples of such partners include 'buy now, pay later' platforms, discount or coupon websites, cashback partners, and shopping comparison sites

How many affiliates does a brand need to drive a positive return on investment?

Again, this question has multiple answers. A program can drive a positive Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) with just one partner or with hundreds. The key is to carefully onboard partners after making informed decisions. If a partner requires a flat fee (media buy), it is crucial to consider their expected performance. Utilizing historical data from the brand or the partner can help create projections and make informed decisions about investing in the partner. Testing and learning at the early stages of an affiliate program is important. This helps determine which partners and placements work best for the brand, allowing for growth with new relevant partners. The overall goal for any program should be diversification.

What are the various methods that brands can employ to successfully recruit affiliates?

Successful recruitment of affiliates can be achieved through the following methods:

  • Communication: Regular calls with affiliate partners to understand their working methods, KPIs, and business models are essential.
  • Audience Alignment: Ensure that the partner's audience aligns with the brand's target market. Requesting demographic data from potential partners is a best practice when considering new recruits.
  • Competitive Analysis: Monitor the offerings of competitors to better understand the competitive landscape. Make sure the partner understands the brand's unique selling propositions (USPs) to differentiate from competitors, such as higher average order value (AOV) or better customer offerings.
  • Competitive Commission: Providing partners with a competitive commission structure is crucial. Affiliates are more likely to join and actively promote a brand's products or services if they feel they are receiving fair compensation for their efforts. Offering attractive commission rates can incentivize partners to choose your brand over others.