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Executive Tips for Running a Successful Affiliate and Influencer Marketing Program

By: Cristy Garcia, VP Marketing, 

Over the past 19+ months, industries around the world have accelerated strategies to make sure that they remain competitive in a global economy that is rife with change. As consumers adjusted to a variety of changes, and brands pivoted to keep pace, it quickly became clear that marketers needed to up their game in order to compete. The retail vertical was no different as traditional advertising tactics became stale, the cookie crumbled, and consumers turned away from “creepy” personalized targeting.

Brands and retailers have adapted to the ever-changing consumer behaviors and regulations that have completely shifted the shopping dynamic. eCommerce spending in 2020 jumped 25.7% in 2020, accounting for $4.2 trillion in sales, sending retailers into a true digital-first world, regardless of if they were ready for it or not. As many looked for new ways to target, track and appeal to their audiences, affiliate and influencer marketing quickly claimed a top spot in marketers’ toolkits. Unboxing videos, product reviews and comparisons, advice and recommendations quickly flooded consumers’ social feeds, which helped push consumers through the shopper journey.

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Affiliate and influencer marketing has successfully helped retailers offer new and exciting content for target audiences. At the same time, these marketing efforts are daunting to those who have not yet navigated the partnership waters. While there’s no silver bullet to running a successful affiliate or influencer program, there are a few things to keep in mind that can lead to a smooth start and long term success.  

Understand the imperatives to a successful program

These partnerships are rooted in reciprocal authenticity—consumers seek authentic relationships with brands. In fact, according to the Consumer Content Report from Stackla, 57% of consumers think that less than half of the brands they interact with come off as authentic. So brands face a huge imperative when it comes to looking for the same genuine relationships with the partners they choose. 

While there are multiple avenues in helping them find their right match, diversity is a crucial lens through which brands can vet possible partnerships. We often over-index on single partnership types—most popular are traditional affiliate rewards, cashback, and coupons—and while these methods work, they are overused. With the right direct relationship and partnership management platform, publishers should embrace new business models and ensure they are getting paid what they deserve on incremental sales. 

Here’s what it looks like when a content creator and a brand join forces and do it right. 

Chloe Wen, a beauty blogger, and Glossier, a beauty website built off of customers’ reviews, put their heads together to create a partnership dream. The key to their success was sharing a similar storyline, the same type of consumer as intended audience and passion points, in turn, creating a real relationship that resonates with their audience. Chloe Wen and Glossier developed a symbiotic relationship where the company would send Chloe free products and she would use them in her YouTube blogs and provide discount codes for her audience, a win-win. These partners had the same goal in mind; better engage their audience and expand their reach. As they boosted their platforms, they also boosted their revenue. Chloe’s monthly earnings have grown 5x in under a year by just partnering with a notable name like Glossier. 

Challenge the status quo

Often, the biggest roadblock companies face in mastering an affiliate and influencer marketing program is the fear of challenging the status quo. Unfortunately, what has driven success for many businesses to date will not follow the same road to success in the future. Businesses that get trapped in the same marketing routine tend to not see the full funnel to ensure all their partners are rewarded fairly. In a mature partnership program, businesses have partners that touch all points in the funnel including awareness drivers like influencers; commerce content publishers and creators, educators and validators, like comparisons and reviews; and closers, like loyalty and deal sites. 

By prioritizing rewarding the full-funnel, a company’s partnership ecosystem is likely to be more successful, especially as marketing technology continues to be a central point for success in the years to come. The right technology can be extremely beneficial when it provides insights around the partnership’s incremental value, and offers the capability to compensate each partner uniquely, all the way down to commissioning on each transaction.  

But tactical efforts are not the only benefit. Manually analyzing various data points and inputs is bound to cause marketers’ eyes to glaze over. Instead, by using machine learning to look at how programs are performing, marketers’ time is better spent taking a look at where they can optimize spend and resources to ensure that the affiliate and influencer programs are driving ROI. Budgets will continue to run tight across every vertical, so tightening up efforts now will help in the years to come. 

Get c-suite buy-in

According to eMarketer, 67.9% of US marketers will leverage influencer marketing in 2021. However, not all of those marketers sit in the c-suite, and sometimes fight an uphill battle for executive buy-in on influencers and affiliates. So, it is important to involve them in the process so that they have a vested interest in the success of the program.

Giving the executives a tighter grip on the program increases the likelihood of partnerships to flourish and further develop. The more involved c-level executives are in this process, the more they will recognize that the partnership channel not only provides touch points throughout the entire buyer’s funnel but also provides superior, more trustworthy touch points throughout that buyer’s journey compared to traditional marketing and sales channels. 

Marketers are still grappling with the ongoing challenges of the new advertising landscape. In order to seamlessly take the next steps, they need to be comfortable straying from tradition and integrate these new tools to enhance their old strategies. Marketers aren’t entering this next phase alone, they need to start growing their partnership economy now. 

With 15+ years in B2B digital marketing, Cristy is the Vice President of Marketing at, the leading Partnership Management Platform. Prior to her role with, Cristy was VP of Global Marketing at Rakuten Advertising and other high growth companies and has scaled their revenues through customer acquisition, leveraging organic and paid marketing channels. She has a passion for brand building through public relations, thought leadership and creative execution, and was recently recognized by Business Insider as one of the Most Important Marketing-Tech Executives of 2021.

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