Which affiliate network is best to scale your brand?
You’ve overcome the numerous obstacles that inevitably appear during the startup phase, and managed to achieve meaningful stability. Revenue is solid, clients are happy, and you’re ready to deem your launch a success. It’s time to scale — to see just how big your business can get. There’s only one problem: you’re not sure how to approach it.
What method should you use? How can you achieve a huge uplift in interest and sales? One of the most reliable methods is to venture into affiliate marketing (beginners need not be put off). By registering as a merchant through affiliate networks, you can quickly have websites across the world advertising your products and/or services.
Affiliate networks are core parts of the affiliate marketing world — they make promotion easier for brands, bring in the best marketers, and even commit to training them. But there are so many networks out there that it can be tough to choose one for scaling a brand.
You need to make a good choice, because you don’t want to fall victim to a scam. Let’s run through some basics you need to cover, then look at a selection of networks to get you going:
Getting ready to market
If you haven’t used an affiliate network before, there are some things you need to do (and think about) before you give it a try. Firstly, you need to consider which types of publisher you’d like to work with, because that could influence the network (or networks) you want to use. Do you want to be marketed by niche blogs? Big influencers? Review companies? Publishing networks?
If you want to promote a product with a premium presentation, for instance, you might not want to run any affiliate links with low-level blogs, as it could damage the perceived quality of your brand (just as discounting products can).
Are you looking to move away from traditional online marketing methods and use experimental techniques such as proximity marketing or trying to tap into existing communities?
When you’ve thought about this, you need to prepare your product listings to be marketed.
There are two ways to do this:
- Manually: If you have a small product selection (maybe you manufacture the products yourself), then you can pick out specific products to focus on and create large content packs featuring high-quality images and descriptions. The sooner you get that content done, the sooner you can pass it to affiliates and achieve more consistent presentation.
- Automatically: If you have a massive product selection, you may want to submit the entire thing to affiliate networks for even coverage. Depending on your ecommerce CMS, you might be able to export this data natively, or through the use of an app.
When you know how you want to present your products, and the types of publisher you want to work with, and you have your product selection ready to offer, then you can move on to choosing the right network for you.
Let’s look at some options:
Shortened from the original name of Affiliate Window, AWIN was founded in Germany in 2000 and has grown steadily since. Notably, it acquired rival network ShareASale in 2017, and has since continued to pursue mergers and acquisitions. It now stands as one of the most formidable affiliate networks around — and more importantly, it has a lot to offer merchants.
The $5 sign-up fee is of little consequence, and the network pays out twice per month with a minimum value of $20 (which isn’t the best, but is far from the worst). All advertisers are fully vetted (as are merchants, so you won’t be in bad company), and the provided dashboard is powerful and intuitive.
ClickBank is an affiliate network that has a strong focus on digital products: training courses, video games, digital guides, and other items along those lines. It also concentrates on lifestyle items, so products for improving health, making money, being happier, etc. Given this targeting, it might not fit your brand specifically, but it’s worth it if it does.
This is because it has a free sign-up process, approves merchants quickly, and pays out weekly where other networks pay out just monthly. Take a look at the range on offer and think carefully about whether your product or products will fit in there — if so, go for it.
While FlexOffers is reasonably strong in general, there are two things in particular that make it a standout option for growing brands: firstly, it has a superb referral program called FlexRev-$hare that gives you some interesting options for expanding your revenue. Even if you’re serving as an advertiser — the party with the product to promote — you can still refer publishers to promote products through the platform and earn commission on the sales they make.
Secondly, unlike many networks, it features dedicated affiliate managers to help you figure out how best to drive sales along. Couple that with the presence of an extensive FAQ section, and you have a network that’s relatively easy for a new publisher to learn.
Rakuten has a comparatively small network, but it’s of such high quality that the network has repeatedly been voted the top affiliate network by mThink. 150,000 publishers worldwide are carefully vetted to ensure maximum quality, and monitored to gauge compliance.
Through supporting ad rotation and deep linking (giving advertisers some leeway regarding which pages they link to), it makes life easier for publishers, which ultimately benefits you through their work leading to more sales. As noted, Rakuten is selective about the businesses it works with, so if you’re up to the standard, it’s a great option.
Formerly known as VigLink, Sovrn Commerce is an interesting option here, because it doesn’t function as a typical affiliate network. Instead of matching merchants with publishers on a case-by-case basis, it serves as an intermediary: you provide a feed of the products you want promoted, and it runs through the content of its publishers to find opportunities to dynamically create suitable links (similar to what can be done with ads through Google Ads).
This can be extremely useful because it allows you, the merchant, to pay much less attention to what’s going on. Instead of vetting publishers, you can just let the program work, following along with the metrics through the intuitive dashboard. The downside of this approach? It limits your options, and the service is relatively costly — it does more work than a regular affiliate service, and charges more for the privilege.
Founded as Commission Junction back in 1998, CJ Affiliate has a large and reliable network with plenty of publishers to choose from. That’s its main strength, but also its main weakness. If you just want to use one affiliate network for all your affiliate marketing, this can be viable, but its size makes it cumbersome and limits the quality of the customer service.
Of note is the wide range of well-known advertisers and the steady investment in technology. You can be assured that your marketing through CJ Affiliate will be forward-thinking and driven by data, making it attention-grabbing for tech brands in particular.
Each of these affiliate networks has something to offer, so take a close look at their pros and cons and go with whichever one (or selection) best suits your specific needs.
This is a guest post from Rodney Laws
Rodney Laws is an ecommerce platform specialist and online business consultant. He’s worked in the ecommerce industry for nearly two decades, helping brands big and small to achieve their business goals. You can get his advice for free by visiting ecommerceplatforms.io and reading his detailed reviews. For more tips and advice, reach out to Rodney on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.
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