By Alex Brown, an 8-figure e-commerce entrepreneur & growth accelerator. Co-founder of The Beard Club.
If you’re building an e-commerce brand then you know first-hand how expensive it has become to acquire new customers.
Not only that, but being dependent on any single channel or platform (Facebook, TikTok, etc.) is a huge risk to your business (such as if your account gets flagged). Channel diversification is absolutely crucial for scaling your brand, and one of the most neglected channels might be your new best friend: affiliate marketing (partnerships).
Here are 10 fundamentals that guided our eight-figure e-commerce brand to an additional $1M in seven months through affiliate marketing—and how you can do it, too.
1. Play the long game. Aim to create relationships that will last a lifetime, because the stronger they are, the more business they can bring you from them and their peers.
2. Have great products and a great brand. It sounds simple, but the biggest partners in your space won’t promote something they don’t believe in.
3. Have great offers. Offering your affiliate’s audience 10% off their first purchase is a recipe for mediocrity. Get creative with offers, and consider what you might be able to offer for “free with purchase” for that partner’s audience, for example. It can convert 50-200% higher than a percentage discount, in my experience.
4. Pay well. Most people only want to pay an affiliate 10% of a $100 sale but will give social media platforms $50 for that same sale. That just doesn’t make sense!
5. Pay on time. The faster you can pay, the quicker they will likely promote again.
6. Build high-conversion landing pages. You should continually test and optimize direct-response sales funnels for affiliates, not just send traffic to your website.
7. Customize. The bigger the affiliate, the more you should be willing to create a customized funnel and customer journey (having their face, logo, name, etc.).
8. Know your audience. Create assets, landing pages and email copy that is specific to the kind of traffic they will be sending. For example, speak to the concerns of a health and fitness audience differently than you would a new mom audience.
9. Reciprocate. Wherever possible, find ways to send traffic to their website in return—whether through social channels or your own email list. Just be careful that you’re doing it according to your ESP’s guidelines and in a way that doesn’t look like a cheesy list swap.
10. Make the most of every buyer. Do everything you can to build a relationship with customers and leads, increase your average order values and, most importantly, increase your lifetime value. This means remarketing to your list continually so that you can afford to pay your partners even more.
Bonus: Retarget. Combining search and social ads with affiliate marketing can create a “halo effect.” Typically, the more channels you have running, the better all of those channels will perform. You may be able to pay more than you think for affiliate traffic. Often, when a partner promotes, it can drive down the cost of search and social ads considerably. The more affiliates promote, the more profitably you can spend on other channels—just keep an eye on your overall company return on ad spend, or ROAS, week over week to be sure.
As I alluded to in number 10, customers rarely see your product and buy on the spot. Today’s customers need to know, like and trust you to give you a try—which means multiple touch points using multiple channels. Diversifying your traffic sources can make all of your various traffic sources perform better.
The caveats with diversification are that you will need solid attribution software and really strong fundamentals (like good products, compelling offers and high-conversion sales copy)—otherwise, you are just spending more money in more places.
As some closing words of encouragement, whether your brand is doing eight figures or you are just starting out, the most essential thing is to just get started. Most of what we try as marketers doesn’t work, but as you weed through what doesn’t, you can find what does!