Strategies for Working with Different Types of Content Partners

An overview of how to work with different types of partners that can drive upper-funnel content exposure for your affiliate program.

Caitlin Longwood
Associate Account Director

Content partners can be an important part of an affiliate marketing strategy, as they can help brands to reach a wider audience and increase their visibility. These partners can include bloggers, influencers, websites, and other online platforms that have a loyal following or a large audience.

These affiliates can help to create content that is helpful and informative which helps build trust around the brand's offering and highlight the unique value proposition. Content partners can also help to educate and inform potential customers about the products or services being offered. This can help to increase the credibility and trustworthiness of the affiliate program, and can also lead to sales and revenue.

Since these publishers create highly relevant content that is tailored to the interests of their audience, they can be very influential in the customer journey. For this reason, it is imperative to both select the right content partners for your program that can naturally promote the product or service as well as develop an optimization strategy for the various content partner levels based on best practices.

Partnering with Content Publishers is an Upper-Funnel Investment

The marketing funnel is a conceptual model that represents the different stages of a customer's journey from initial awareness of a product or service to making a purchase. In the upper funnel, the focus is on attracting and engaging potential customers through various marketing tactics, such as content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). The goal of upper-funnel marketing is to build awareness and interest in the product or service and to drive traffic to the website or online store.

User journey to purchase

In the marketing funnel, content partners are often the first step in the customer journey and are responsible for introducing potential customers to a brand or product. However, they may not always be the ones to gain the conversion. Coupon and Cashback partners, who work on a last-click basis, are often the ones to ultimately complete the sale. Because content partners often have to put in more effort and resources to create and develop content that they may not see returns on, they may require an up-front flat fee for their services and much higher commission rates than your average partner. After baking in the upfront costs for exposure, brands may see a lower return on ad spend (ROAS) for these types of placements, which may not align with their goals for the total cost per action (CPA).

How to Work with Large Content Publishers

Mass media partners often have high standards for the content they publish, so it is important to provide top-notch content that meets their standards. This can include well-written and informative articles, engaging videos, or other types of content that are relevant and valuable to the partner's audience.

It is important to remember that working with larger publications will likely require more resources from both parties (legal, copywriting review, creative resources, etc.), so be sure to plan accordingly. Once you have established a partnership, it is important to set clear timelines, communication protocols, and a plan of action. Working with large content partners can be a great way to grow your business, but it is important to be prepared and organized throughout the process to keep things on track.

Large content publishers have a very wide reach given their audience size, which can generate a high volume of impressions for a brand. Given this, they will often charge the highest amount of flat fees for guaranteed exposure - ranging upwards of $20k. You should be sure to communicate your expectations and goals to any potential partners while negotiating these flat fees. If the content partner's fee is too high, it may be possible to negotiate a lower fee. This can be done by demonstrating the value that the affiliate will bring to the partnership and the potential benefits for the content partner.

Negotiating fee down

There are a few strategies that brands can use to overcome high flat fees when working with content partners:

Propose a Hybrid Option

Hybrid payment models can offer affiliates more flexibility and can be beneficial in situations where it is difficult to predict the results of an affiliate campaign. This type of fee structure combines a flat fee with a variable one; for example, you could offer a smaller flat fee, then an increased CPA for a limited time during the placement launch. This could help you ensure you're keeping costs down and backing into your target ROAS. Hybrid payment models can also be used to incentivize affiliates to achieve targeted results or to reward them for their efforts. For example, an affiliate may be paid a higher CPA rate if they achieve a certain number of sales within a certain timeframe.

Offer an Exclusive Promotion

Offering exclusive promotions and/or vanity codes is a great way to drive conversions and volume. These types of promotions can create a sense of urgency and loyalty among customers, as they know they’re getting a unique deal with that partner. Using an exclusive to reduce or even waive placement fees can be an effective and efficient way to get the best deal for both parties involved and ensure you can back into a stronger overall return on investment (ROI). Tip: with the use of an affiliate platform, you can ensure that code is only able to be used by that select partner and no other affiliates will earn a commission when that code is used.

Share Costs with Other Channels

One potential way to overcome daunting upfront costs is to share the budget with other marketing channels such as social media teams which are often evaluated purely on impressions and traffic to the site. Additionally, usage rights for digital content such as videos and images can sometimes be negotiated to be repurposed by the brand and distributed across other channels, adding to the brand's content library.

Focus on Building Long-Term Relationships

Building long-term relationships with content partners can help brands to negotiate better terms and fees over time. By consistently delivering high-quality content and results, brands can establish themselves as valuable partners and may be able to negotiate more favorable terms in the future.

Overall, it is important for brands to carefully consider the costs and benefits of working with large-scale content partners, and to choose partners that align with their marketing goals and budget.

How to Work with Bloggers

When working with partners who have a smaller audience size, it is essential to prioritize quality over quantity. Seek out smaller bloggers who are already passionate about the brand or have an audience that is perfectly suited to the product or service. Although the audience size may be smaller, they are likely to be more engaged and have a higher propensity to convert, as they have a more focused and niche demographic.

Here are some best practices for working with small bloggers in affiliate marketing:

Be Patient and Consistent

Building relationships with small bloggers takes time, but can be a great way to reach new audiences and gain valuable insights. Research and select bloggers who align with your brand and target audience. This can help to ensure that the partnership is authentic and resonates with the blogger's followers.

Provide Value to the Blogger

This could include providing helpful resources, offering exclusive discounts or promotions, or providing support and guidance. Offer them free samples or discounts to promote your product or service. Small bloggers are often looking for ways to monetize their blog and this could be a great way to get them onboard and avoid a request for a flat fee commitment.

Be Transparent

Set clear expectations about the terms of the partnership and the expectations for the blogger. This can help to build trust and ensure that the partnership is successful.

Be Responsive and Helpful

These partners will be less familiar with affiliate marketing and how it works, so they will need more 1:1 communication and support. This can help to build a positive relationship and ensure that the partnership runs smoothly.

Keep Their Goals in Mind

It is important to respect the blogger's audience and not push products or services that are not relevant or beneficial to them. This can help to maintain the credibility and trust of the blogger and their followers.

Overall, it is important to approach partnerships with small bloggers with professionalism, respect, and a focus on providing value. By following these best practices, brands can build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with small bloggers.

How to Work with Subnetworks

Many content partners find it more convenient to work with a subnetwork like Skimlinks, rather than signing up for multiple individual affiliate programs. This offers them the advantage of consolidating their reporting and payments, and they may even be given an Account Manager at the network to represent them in conversations and negotiations with partners. For brands, this can create additional barriers in partnering with content partners since there is not a direct relationship, and visibility is often limited for which partners are driving performance.

When choosing to work with subnetworks, the ability to hand-select which partners in the network you want to work with is important. Customize optimization strategies at the partner level as much as possible, rather than program-wide. For example, you may want to hand-select all content partners and set them on a more competitive CPA to encourage content creation, while keeping coupon partners within the network at a baseline rate.

It is important to maintain a close relationship with the subnetwork and have frequent conversations in order to gain visibility into individual partner performance. Tip: some subnetworks will have their own affiliate marketing dashboard that you may be able to gain access to upon request.

How to Work with Influencer Networks

Influencers can help brands to reach a younger audience demographic and can be highly incremental for program growth. There is also a huge opportunity for highly-compelling digital and video content to be created and pushed on social media platforms, which is increasingly important in today’s digital landscape.

Influencer marketing is multi-faceted

Similar to subnetworks, there are influencer networks like LTK and MagicLinks that help brands connect with and work with influencers more efficiently and effectively. Brands can access a large pool of influencers in a single place, making it easier to find influencers who align with their brand and target audience. Influencer networks can be particularly useful for brands that are new to working with influencers or who do not have the time or resources to manage influencer relationships individually. By working with an influencer network, brands can leverage the expertise and resources of the network to build successful partnerships.

While you may be able to see some organic exposure by partnering with influencer networks, they typically require brands to run a casted campaign to partner with their influencers with costs ranging from $30-$50k. These types of campaigns can be harder to track results and should be viewed as highly upper funnel and more of a branding play.

The Benefits of Collaborating with Content Partners: Key Insights and Takeaways

Working with content partners in your affiliate program can be a great way to extend your reach, expand your audience, and increase your brand recognition. Here are some key insights and takeaways to consider when partnering with content partners:

  • Although these partnerships are upper funnel in nature, offering an exclusive incentive could help garnish more conversions.
  • It is essential to identify pertinent publishers who have a compatible audience to ensure a strong brand fit and maximize conversion rates.
  • Creating quality content takes time and effort. When planning your content strategy, be sure to include a lead time for production and review to ensure that you can meet your deadlines.
  • Content partner placements typically involve a flat fee, but it can be possible to negotiate this fee down. With the right approach and negotiation, you can ensure that your content strategy is cost-effective and successful.

By following these key insights and takeaways, you can create a valuable partnership that will benefit both parties.

Thanks to Owen for reviewing this article.