Founder of Affiliate Insider , an award winning Affiliate + Performance Marketing Agency and Affiliate Management Performance Program (AMPP)
Affiliate marketing has grown significantly as a channel over the past number of years and has become a key part of a huge number of brands’ marketing strategies around the world. The affiliate marketing industry is set to experience further growth, estimated to reach over $12 billion in the coming years, especially with advancements in technology and the introduction of tools that simplify influencer management and partner discovery.
It’s safe to say that the future of affiliate marketing is bright because intelligent partner discovery is now easier to learn than it ever was before. The industry has shown no sign of slowing, with an estimated 10% growth year-over-year despite Covid restrictions being in place.
On-the-Job Training for Sales and Relationship Management
As the world of affiliate marketing evolves, affiliate managers must make sure that they are prepared for changes that will occur. Therefore, they must be fully educated on the industry and its inner workings across channels and geographical locations.
The advent of social selling — where the death of cold calling has moved to active conversations and affiliate engagement — is the start of these small changes. Affiliate managers are more than just customer support agents; they are skilled salespeople and adept digital marketers who must keep up with constant digital change. The need for further education and training via on-the-job skills development and coaching has been apparent in the past year or so as traditional networking events have been limited for relationship building.
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CMOs have recognized affiliate marketing as a digital skill. Affiliate managers are becoming invested in self-led learning to keep ahead of these changes, too, because the days of affiliate programs working in silos no longer apply, as affiliate marketing has moved into mainstream digital marketing strategies alongside SEO and paid media.
Partner Discovery and Management Will Become More Complex
The affiliate marketing industry is continuously changing and partner discovery is becoming more diverse. Anyone can now be a publisher and have the ability to monetize their social channels or communities with performance-based campaigns. The lines between influencer, social advertiser, SEO or PPC affiliate partner are blurring fast. Everyone (including your customers) can be a potential referrer. Affiliate managers are, therefore, being tasked with relationship building across multiple channels and traffic sources, which require a different set of needs and services each time. This makes the art of an affiliate manager’s role — to manage the commercial budget to maintain ROI — incredibly complex.
In order to find, recruit and optimize new sources of traffic, partner discovery is becoming a full-time job. Affiliate managers must search and maintain new relationships while using AI and time-saving tools to help drive data-driven recommendations for their business. Publishers are now so diverse that even brand-to-brand partnerships should be considered as part of the affiliate outreach remit. This means tools and reporting suites will need to adapt to better manage the diversity of partnerships that could sit in your program.
The Rise of SaaS and How It Will Adapt Management Processes
As well as programs’ partner discovery, the marketing automation and management of large partner databases will need to be kept in mind. Brands are considering managing programs in-house and there is a plethora of tracking platforms to choose from. The need to adapt marketing and support to accommodate multi-traffic sources and partner types will mean SaaS providers have to scale up their services to provide more features and functions to simplify affiliate management processes.
A few of the requirements that tracking solutions should consider offering include segmentation of portfolios, communication management and life cycle automation that allows affiliate managers to find, recruit and optimize the affiliates that their brands work with. Efficiency in program management and resource costs is another key element that SaaS software and networks need to consider as part of their offering.
Affiliate managers will seek to utilize programs and software that save time and allow better efficiencies for database management in the future. This will help to keep their affiliate marketing programs to remain successful and continuously drive new customers via a diverse range of partners.
Building More Effective Partnerships in the Performance Model
The truth is that a majority of partnerships fail at present due to a number of factors — from lack of trust (especially around data transparency) to poor account management. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
Improving your communication and marketing automation for your affiliates can help keep relationships active for longer and avoid neglect because of the incredible marketing automation and management tools we now have at our disposal.
In the future, we are expecting some of the key players to make fundamental changes to tracking and attribution, and implement faster payment terms in order to make their partnerships work more efficiently.
Affiliate managers must be willing to throw out the rule book and try new things to keep their programs growing. Communication and relationship building is key to preserving a long-term relationship with affiliates. In addition to that, improved SaaS products and partner discovery tools can help to build a better future for the affiliate marketing industry.
The industry has already grown vastly, and we expect this to continue as experts carry on innovating the channel. But ongoing education and skills development will be the only key to continued affiliate marketing success.