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Marketing strategies to adopt for the next normal

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Lee-Ann Johnstone reflects on how affiliate marketing has changed during Covid-19

The Covid-19 crisis has affected businesses across the world, including those involved in affiliate marketing. As we move to the ‘next normal‘, affiliate program managers need to start thinking about how this is going to affect them and their business practices.

Let’s take a look at how you can best navigate the next normal as we move into it.

What is the next normal?

A phrase that has been thrown around a lot in the past few months has been centered around finding our new normal.

Problem is we are still trying to figure out what the ‘next normal‘ is going to be. Next normal is the present. It’s this time between coming out of stringent lockdown to figure out what to do next as we move through the changes this pandemic continues to throw at us.

While we have all come to realise that going back to how things were, might not be an option for months to come, we need to look at how we adapt our processes and strategies to cope with the here and now. While we need to continue to promote and sell our products and businesses, there are still many things governments are doing to help get the population ready for what may emerge as the new normal in months to come. So, what can you do today – as an affiliate manager to prepare your own program and extend your affiliate relationships for this new time?

Dynamic commissioning and open dialogue

The first area that you need to address will be dynamic commissioning. Now is the time to keep an open dialogue with partners and set clear KPIs for delivery. You need to make sure that you have the right tracking, insights and management tools and that your software stacks up to your individual needs. Now is not the time to shrink back and conserve on brand promotion, but rather innovate and spend where you can supplement your acquisition and target quality customers in niche areas online using your affiliate partners to do this. Brands that actively promote and spend wisely are going to remain more visible to their publishers and being visible means making the most of ad hoc opportunities as they arise. If you feel like you don’t have the clearest picture of what is happening with your affiliates, you may need to take a look at finding a new software that can help you see more detail to make better budget choices.

How are customers converting to your brand? Which customers are most profitable, how can you reach them while reducing your surplus margins and program costs.

These are all important questions that you need to answer in order to know whether your dynamic commissioning is doing all that it should. If you cannot answer these questions, you might not be maximising your affiliate marketing budget optimally against other digital channels.

Secure your brand protection

As you make changes in this uncertain period, you also need to make sure that your brand is well-protected. You will have no doubt made many changes to it thus far to help protect the integrity of your business as you go through lockdown and continue to engage your customers online. This means that you may have started to investigate some digital channels you may never have used before, or looked into other opportunities for your brand. Influencers on social channels and brand ambassadors or loyalty partners might not have been top of your affiliate hit list in the past, but now could play a pivotal role in helping your program expand its reach. You need to ensure that there are open lines of communication here between your affiliates or content publishers and your brand. Ensure that they are following your terms and conditions to the letter, and always make sure that they are not infringing on your brand in a way that damages you on these crucial social and visual digital channels

Accurate reporting and data insights

Comprehensive reporting is another important consideration for navigating through the next normal. If you are planning on changing suppliers or taking your program in-house, you need to ensure that you have the right tools to manage your budgets more effectively. Remember there is a cost to performing a program audit and migration and a lot of moving factors that can influence your profit margins during this time.

It’s imperative your technology stack supports the initiatives you want to push and helps you manage your budget and partner remunerations too. One size fits all approaches to your program strategy are not going to be effective any longer. Your affiliate technology needs to work in conjunction with other digital channels that you have. Reporting is key so don’t forget to spend some time on this.

Pricing and publisher remuneration changes

If there ever was a time for you to take another look at your pricing structures, it should be now. This is an excellent time to potentially introduce a flexible pricing system that your affiliates will be able to adapt to whether they are new converts or they have been with you for years. The rule book on affiliate commissions is about to be rewritten. Media and traffic sources and trends are going to dictate how programs remunerate their partners. We’ve already seen big programs like Amazon slash commissions in an attempt to maintain business margins and costs during this time. This impacts your partners immediately, and the repercussions pf price cuts vs alternative remunerations needs to be considered for the long term of your relationship management and program promotions. Introducing changes to your incentives might be a good idea for revenue reasons, but the way in which you negotiate with partners needs to be considered too. Timing is going to be imperative and empathy and caution advisable. While now is definitely the perfect time to try to reduce your margins where you can, take a look at some of the areas where you can reduce costs and try to implement them soon without sacrificing your standards and output.

What will affiliate marketing look like in future?

As with many other aspects of daily life, it is clear that we may not be returning to our normal lives pre-Covid-19 anytime soon. Many of us need to find new ways to adapt our current lives and businesses to ensure optimal success. With the help of comprehensive reporting and the right strategies, affiliate managers should be able to make the moves and changes they need to carry their brands forward. What will the next normal look like for you? Only time will tell.

Lee-Ann Johnstone, chief executive officer at Lee-Ann Johnstone

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