Episode 1: Navigating the Affiliate Marketing Channel with Craig McGlynn

Over the coming weeks, Perform[cb] VP of Agency Sales, Craig McGlynn, is going to be sharing snack sized articles to help answer some of the most frequently asked questions he’s gotten through the thousands of conversations he’s had over the past decade regarding Affiliate Marketing, the Affiliate Channel, Partnership Marketing, Influencer Marketing and other adjacent issues. We hope some or all of these snippets help those of you considering investment, as well as those currently investing, in the channel. Each post is specifically written to take just a few minutes to read. We hope you find them informative and enjoyable!

This article is the first in an ongoing informative series written by Craig McGlynn, the VP of Agency Sales at leading Affiliate Management Agency Perform[cb]. The series will cover topics of interest to people in the Affiliate Industry, considering launching an affiliate program, or needing help scaling an existing affiliate program.

Let’s begin by deconstructing the most common concern/demand we get these days:

I only want to work with content sites in my affiliate program.

The basic ask is that, for one reason or another, the brand simply assumes no value in working with deal, coupon and loyalty sites. Over the years, the rationale behind this assumption usually falls into one or more of the following categories:

  • Deals and promotions cut into margins
  • Bad history of working with deal sites (fraud, ™ bidding, expired coupon codes)
  • Poor brand alignment (i.e. I have a luxury brand, we don’t belong on a coupon site)
  • I don’t want to be a promotional brand
  • It’s not incremental

For the sake of this short post, let’s assume that the above are true, or true enough that it validates this assumption. The question then becomes, is running an affiliate program that is Content-only an effective strategy?

The answer is generally no.

Most successful affiliate programs run a full funnel approach, meaning that they have a unique strategy for and representation at every level of the funnel, from top-funnel inspiration and initial interest (generally content sites), to mid-funnel consideration (product reviews), to bottom-funnel (deal and loyalty). Having those bottom-funnel sites is important because it keeps our brands in the conversation, allows us to better control the messaging and representation on those sites, and by being strategic with commissions, multi-touch attribution and other levers, allows us to cast a wider net that captures more new-to-file customers. To punctuate this point, we have all seen statistics like the following:

60% of worldwide online shoppers look for coupons and discounts before buying (Statista.com)

Choosing to run a content-only program is certain to come with a few nasty wake-up-calls such as:

  • Poor to no conversion – content is for inspiration, and inspiration is too early in the buyer’s journey to convert, and that can be a nasty surprise for someone with nothing but content affiliates, yet measuring against conversion KPIs. 
  • Paid placements – yes, a nasty surprise awaits those who only want to do business with content sites and influencers, the dreaded fixed fee placement. While a good agency can get you CPA-based placements, Content websites are a pay-to-play landscape, and becoming more so every day. 
  • Longer Runway to Productivity – It just takes longer, and requires more work on the brand side, to get Content partners up, running and producing quality content.

In all cases above, a good agency can help you navigate these decisions, including the decision to run full-funnel or to focus only on content sites, all the while ensuring that your brand integrity, costs and relationship-building stay on the right path.

For more objective information on this topic, I also chair the (PMA) Performance Marketing Association’s Deal and Coupon Council, where we compile great information about the value of deal and coupon usage for brands in performance marketing. 

Stay tuned for our next installment and if you missed them, check out the other articles in this series: 

Want to learn more about how the affiliate channel can work for you? Book a no-hassle, no-strings meeting with Craig and his team to, in his words, “nerd-out on the channel.”