When we talk about media or public relations (PR), many businesses tend to track it in traditional ways. Most of the time that means commentary relative to the business and their customers, including: How do online reviews sound? How are people talking about us on social media? Do we know what the common word of mouth is around our brand?
But measuring your PR and media performance doesn’t have to stop there. Honestly, it can be a bit of a deadend for marketers. The word surrounding your business, as seen on social media, review sites, and elsewhere, tells a story, but only so far. While actual clients and customers will be writing messages about you, you never know how earnest some commentary is — for instance, is that one especially brutal review real or is someone trying to troll your company, either as a stranger or a competitor?
A more useful method is using affiliate marketing. Now, this might sound silly, as how can affiliate marketing — something unrelated to your PR department — give you insight into their quarterly and annual performance? It’s actually rather straightforward. Here’s how.
Why use affiliate marketing in the first place?
Affiliate marketing, sometimes referred to as affiliate performance marketing, relies on relationships. Whether it’s a business affiliate, brand ambassador, or influencer, brands utilize affiliates to promote themselves to consumers currently outside of their network.
The partnership between a brand and an affiliate relies on maintaining relationships, where a brand supports their affiliates with proper compensation and content, and affiliates assist brands by feeding them sales conversions.
Now, that’s where the magic happens. Affiliate performance marketing works off of engagement. Influencers, ambassadors, and business affiliates perform thanks to the relationships they have with their own clients, consumers, and followers. The relationship with their own base works, all thanks to authenticity: Consumers trust the person talking to them, and that increases the chances of them purchasing a product or service from them.
This works to a brand’s benefit by extending that authenticity to you. An affiliate will promote your brand, whether during a vlog, in a blog, or in an Instagram photo, and they will try to convince their followers to check out your business. If they are compelled to do so, you’ve now got someone looking at your website. That organic traffic is essential, as it can similarly lead to you receiving conversions.
This is where the true strength of affiliate marketing comes in for your business’s PR and media team. An affiliate marketing platform like Refersion makes it easy to track the performance of your affiliate campaigns. In particular, the platform allows you to check affiliate states in real time. This includes key performance indicators (KPIs) like:
- Site visits
- Click-through traffic
- Email sign-ups
- Online store visits
Conversions are what should matter most to PR and media personnel. Why? Because sales conversions tell us about how your brand is performing in the hands of a consumer. Once they visit your website or click on an affiliate link, a consumer is no longer interacting with the affiliate that introduced them to your brand. It’s great if they make it to your website and sign up for email, but it should be worrisome if they then didn’t make it to the checkout confirmation page.
That singular statistic, looking at your sales conversions, can tell you a lot about your business’s PR, media, UX design, copywriting and more. If we wanted to get technical about it, we should think of it as watching the sales funnel. For example, you notice that a consumer engages with your website, thanks to an affiliate link. They click through your website, looking at numerous pages and products, spending time to see what you have to offer. But, somewhere along the way, they lose interest and leave — before making a purchase.
What is it that caused them to leave your website? Was it the format of a page? The way you asked them a question? The way that the site copy was posed? The answers to these questions can tell you a lot about your brand. They can inform you of the ways that you’re failing consumers once they arrive on your website and begin interacting with content you created. But how do you go about changing it, even once you’ve learned something from it, thanks to notable KPIs?
How can affiliate marketing change public relations?
As mentioned above, affiliate marketing is a way to supplement your PR team. It can’t stand in its place because it serves an entirely separate function. The benefit produced with affiliate marketing is a revenue stream. With affiliate marketing, your business only pays when an action is completed by an affiliate, whether that is a site visit, signing up for email, or completing a sale.
It provides content and context for your PR team. Rather than having to explore the market themselves, they can see how consumers, outside or on the fringes of your niche, are engaging with your brand. If you’re not performing well, then you’ll have to begin asking yourself questions, such as:
- What could we do better for outreach?
- Is there an issue with our tone of voice?
- Could our images and graphics be simpler?
- Are we controversial in a bad way?
- What are our competitors doing better?
- What do our affiliates think we could do better?
That insight is invaluable to your business, as it provides a more transparent look at your website from the perspective of consumers. That view is essential to succeeding as a business, as it allows you to create an experience they want, not what you think is right for them.
What industries best benefit from affiliate marketing?
The industries that benefit most from affiliate marketing tend to be ones that are product-centric. These include:
- Health & beauty
- Diet & exercise
- Dating & relationships
- Organic & natural foods
- Financial advice
- Personal growth
These industries are best described as evergreen. Evergreen companies never go out of style, and will always have a market to work with. In general, they are related to tackling everyday challenges that people want assistance with. Affiliate marketing provides sincere assistance to the above industries because it targets those exact consumers looking for help: e.g., People want help losing weight, and an affiliate marketer can effectively promote the right brand right to them.
How to implement an affiliate marketing strategy
Implementing an affiliate marketing strategy is all about getting started off on the right foot. The first place to start is hiring existing customers as affiliates. Existing customers are your best bet when starting off, as they guarantee you’re using affiliates who are familiar with your brand. That brand familiarity is essential, as your affiliates will know what your copy and PR sounds like, as well as how your brand operates. But, beyond that, it’s a matter of tracking the performance of your affiliate program. Here’s how.
How to Track Your Media Performance
Tracking your affiliate stats can be achieved with ease on the Refersion platform. But you’ll need to know what KPIs you’ll be tracking in the first place. Here are some notable KPIs you should keep a close eye on.
Click-through traffic is one of the first ones, as it will provide you with insight on both how well affiliate links are performing and what consumers are doing once they land on your website. If they hit your website but stop on your landing page, you know there’s trouble there. But if they transition to your digital store but leave on the checkout page, you might have to rethink the site layout, the calls to action (CTAs) on the page, and how you’re speaking to potential customers.
As well as tracking the performance of affiliate links, you’ll need to further think how that performance relates to your affiliates themselves. There are a number of different reasons why consumers aren’t clicking on your affiliate links, which can include:
- Your business is not being aligned well with the affiliate’s niche.
- The affiliate is not promoting your brand clearly enough.
- The affiliate is not personalizing their promotional content.
One of the best ways to optimize performance, thus improving the appearance of your brand, is to let them create content as they see fit. While it’s smart to provide them with some guidance to start, they should be allowed to make content that fits their voice and style, most of all. Doing so is essential to developing credibility between your brand and consumers — all while maintaining an affiliate’s reputation with their followers.
Number of conversions
As mentioned above, you’ll need to consider the number of conversions you’re getting once consumers land on your website. What happens to consumers once they hit your sales funnel? Do they make it to the end or do they get lost along the way? If they do manage to spin out of the funnel, what caused it to happen and where did they leave? It’s essential that you understand pain points across the website; otherwise, consumers will continue struggling with the same issues and your brand will continue to perform poorly.
New customer data
Every time you get a conversion, you should be looking into who your customers are. What’s their demographic? What did they buy? How did they end up on your website?
Now, some of this information can be determined by evaluating their checkout information, but you can take it a step further. For every conversion you get, thanks to an affiliate, you should provide a new customer survey that can be completed.
By asking some leading, open-ended questions, you can receive insight that tells you about what’s working, what could use assistance, and how you can improve the customer’s experience. Want to incentivize them to complete the survey at a higher percentage? Tell them they’ll receive a unique discount for their next purchase if they sign up for email and complete the new customer survey.
Another important KPI, along with demographic information, is related to what customers bought. What is it that they purchased on your site, once arriving? It’s important you look at sales directly, as it will give you an idea of:
- What consumers wanted to purchase
- How much they spent
The latter is important, especially if a consumer used an affiliate discount to make a purchase. Did they purchase just over the amount required to receive the discount or get free shipping? Or did they purchase a number of items to make use of the discount and receive numerous products? If they only purchase what they have to, you might have to rethink what affiliate discounts you’re offering. Otherwise, you’ll have to find new ways to promote affiliate codes, potentially providing special discounts on hot-selling items.
Develop a Strategy
There’s no perfect way to implement an affiliate marketing campaign, as every business is different. But you can develop a strategy that works for you. By thinking ahead and regularly reviewing your affiliate stats, you can garner a better understanding for how consumers engage with your business. Evaluate what works and what doesn’t and make changes as needed. Most of all, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Put your affiliates to work, letting them promote your business while you make adjustments to your public and media relations.