Developing an effective affiliate marketing strategy consists of several elements and assets. Chief among these is a deeper understanding of your target customer. You also need to know the journey a customer takes before reaching your product or service. This audience-focused approach means weighing the importance of an affiliate channel when it comes to a customer reaching you.
An affiliate marketing strategy is a popular way to increase website traffic, but it’s often treated the same as any other traffic generating stream. Affiliate marketing is different in nature.
The traffic it generates comes from a third party, so converting that traffic requires a more nuanced and detailed approach. If you want to improve your affiliate marketing performance using the customer journey, you need to think beyond the value brought by top-of-the-funnel publishers.
The good news is that there are ways to make the most of this indirect traffic and turn it into real revenue. It’s not easy, but you can use your customer journey insights to prepare you to do just that.
Understanding the affiliate funnel
The affiliate marketing sales funnel is the path a customer takes before purchasing a product or service. It consists of the different steps that potential customers must take so that they can easily move forward on the path to purchase the core product and thus make your sales.
The affiliate funnel is divided into four sections. Ideally, you would use a combination of affiliates in each for the best results.
Awareness: This stage often needs great content as consumers can meet your brand for the first time.
Discovery: This is where consumers start getting to know you better. Whether they’re referred via an article, read a third-party review, or get notified on social media, there are multiple affiliates you can take advantage of.
Action: The customer is ready to pay. They will now look for a discount code or look for a cashback opportunity.
reactivation: This targets customers who haven’t completed their purchase. At this point, your main tech affiliates will step in by targeting customers with abandoned carts with a comeback offer. This is usually some kind of discount or promotion.
Being aware of each of the four phases means knowing which affiliates and when to partner with to optimize the content and overall strengths of each.
Matching partners to every stage of the journey
By having a deeper understanding of your customer journey, you can better decide who to partner with to promote your brand based on each step. For example, using a content partner is most beneficial for potential customers in the awareness and discovery phase.
At the earliest stage of the customer journey, it’s good content that works best. By promoting yourself through popular blogs or using an influencer, you either catch your eye for the first time or reaffirm your identity in a consumer’s mind.
Social media platforms are best suited for the discovery phase. Individuals at this point in the customer journey regularly scroll through the social platforms they are a part of in search of new brands or offers.
Cashback and loyalty sites play a role in both the discovery and action part of the affiliate funnel. This is for customers who are close to buying but want to shop for the best price before they buy. Coupon code websites can be your biggest ally here.
Understand the cross channel
In the past, it was difficult to create a siloless marketing approach. However, using a cross-channel view is growing in popularity as brands begin to realize the value of looking further afield. The cross-channel view allows brands to track the performance of affiliate marketing compared to other marketing channels.
It also reveals which channels you should combine to deliver a consistent message throughout the customer journey. If you can identify which channels have the most significant impact on each other, this will allow you to test the improved impact of a multi-channel campaign.
This allows you to create a campaign that provides consistent messaging at every stage of the journey and an overall better customer experience. This will hopefully result in more conversions and results you’ll notice when calculating your profit margin.
Track which publishers are driving the most traffic
Affiliate marketers want to work with publishers that attract relevant users and deliver high value. Identifying these publishers is only possible if you have access to site performance data that shows customers’ behavior regardless of channel.
Having the aforementioned cross-channel view lets you know which affiliate activity effectively attracts loyal customers compared to your other marketing channels. Additionally, having the ability to dig deeper into the data to show publisher type and individual publisher level allows you to plan your affiliate activity more strategically.
If some types of affiliates convert faster than others, this gives you an idea of the moment some affiliates enter your customer’s journey. It also reveals details on how they affect purchasing considerations. If you notice an example where the click-to-convert time is ridiculously fast, maybe even as little as a few seconds, this could indicate fraud and should be investigated.
Provide a good user experience
Using customer journey insights to improve your affiliate marketing strategy is one thing, but when a prospect lands on your page, only half the battle is won.
The pages where your affiliate traffic is likely to come from are the best places to start in terms of refreshing your affiliate marketing strategy. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!
First of all, be transparent, getting your message or brand across from your affiliate sites helps reduce confusion. It also lets visitors know they are in the right place. If I’m in the market for a VoIP phone service and the next page I visit is talking about printers, I’ve already given up and clicked back.
Make sure your images are eye-catching and brand-appropriate and designed to focus the user’s eye where you want them to be.
Finally, market yourself based on where the user is coming from, tweak and tweak things to see if your intended message is consistent throughout.
Find a coworker to start a journey you’ve mapped while sharing a screen. Watch the mouse scroll through the page, making sure you are consistent but not offensive.
Define the time between clicking on a conversion from an affiliate
How long does it take to convert a click into a conversion when coming through an affiliate link? A few minutes, the same day or the next week?
You should examine the average click-to-conversion time at the program level and, if possible, on an affiliate basis. Such insights can be found in the network’s transaction-level reports through your insight provider. However, the terminology can vary and could be called anything like ‘click-to-action time’ or even ‘return days’.
Then make sure your program’s cookie duration is set to the currently set time. For example, if your current cookie length is 48 hours, but metrics show that it takes a week for most customers to convert after their first affiliate link click, adjust your cookie length. You want it to be between a week and ten days to keep the lead warm.
Collect clear visitor data
Whether or not their affiliate traffic is further down the funnel than a first-time visitor, it’s still a reality that most prospects won’t convert. However, this does not mean that ‘unconverted’ traffic should go to waste.
Making sure you have a smart lead capture system means you can collect affiliate marketing visitor data and continue marketing them via email after they leave. For that traffic, target your forms based on the source they come from. If they visit your audio installation site after doing some research on audio conferencing, tailor your approach accordingly.
This type of personalized approach is a great way to align between a customer’s first contact with an affiliate and their interaction with your brand. You should always consider the ad or email that brought them to your site, along with its source; mobile, PC or otherwise.
While it’s not always the easiest thing to do, it can be hugely rewarding to gain useful insights through customer data and use that information to improve your affiliate marketing strategy.
All the data and tools you need are ready and using them is getting easier day by day. Even budget-conscious SMBs who often only limit themselves to essential startup resources and processes should consider affiliate marketing.
There is no need for any revolutionary approach; it’s about making the best possible use of what you have. Every customer journey can be mapped, so it’s all about making the most of this information across your team to deliver ultimate value to customers. An affiliate marketing strategy that does this has every chance of success.