Marketing and web design agencies who offer comprehensive packages for eCommerce brands usually offer the standard things: SEO, SEM, social media, email, etc. However, some agencies drag their feet when it comes to offering an affiliate marketing solution as part of their package. This is surprising because as we wrote previously, affiliate marketing can offer businesses a 16-to-1 return on investment making this branch of marketing one of the most valuable to brands looking to get more by spending less (and speaks to the margins an agency can profit from as well).
Especially with the deteriorating trust in brands and social media by the younger generation of consumers, marketing that depends on the word of peers, experts, and Influencers is key to making up this trust-gap between businesses and their audience. Agencies that can offer access to and expertise in affiliate marketing can fill a needed void in the overall marketing strategies of SMBs to enterprise-level companies.
In essence, offering an affiliate marketing solution is akin to providing a way to maximize trust currency, which is in short supply these days.
Why it’s tough for agencies to do affiliate marketing in-house
With the other types of marketing services an agency offers mentioned above, it’s all pretty straight forward. An agency can run email campaigns for a client. An agency can take care of the SEO. Sure they need input here and there, but marketing agencies have the ability to run with these campaigns.
Affiliate marketing is different. Affiliate marketing is all about managing people, usually a brand’s biggest fans.
Because of this, it’s much more intricate, much more time-consuming, and most of all, much more personal. And then imagine managing a dozen or more brand representatives for a dozen or more clients. Affiliate marketing can become exponentially difficult for agencies to do in-house. It’s not impossible, of course. Marketing agencies might have to hire a bunch of dedicated affiliate managers, but balancing the personnel cost with the revenue from running these campaigns can be dicey.
But there is another way.
Why agencies partnering with affiliate marketing SaaS makes sense
If your agency doesn’t have the time or manpower to build an affiliate marketing service from scratch, you should consider partnering with a SaaS company that specializes in this niche. This allows for your agency to take advantage of the custom software that makes it easy to find reps, onboard them, manage them, and pull analytics of their performance; all without building the tools yourself.
This way, just a few of your agents can manage the affiliate marketing campaigns for all your clients; freeing up resources for other tasks, and keeping overhead low. Just as you wouldn’t build your own email marketing platform when Mailchimp already exists, you would leverage an already vetted affiliate tracking platform to run these campaigns.
What agencies should look for in an affiliate marketing SaaS partner
When your marketing agency is shopping for an affiliate marketing SaaS, there are a few things you should be looking for:
Reputation and Experience
Has the SaaS been established as a major player in the field? Does it reliably work with the major e-commerce platforms around (such as Shopify and BigCommerce) that so many retailers build their stores on? What is their rating on review sites like Capterra? Do your due diligence and make sure you’re not signing up with a lemon. You’ll want a SaaS that has worked for companies big and small, as well in as many industries as your stable of clients.
Features (especially Reporting)
Your clients will want to sign up reps in many different ways (social media, email, direct traffic to landing page, etc). Will your SaaS solution be able to accommodate these different paths to success? Can they offer individual coupon codes and personalized links to offer the best tracking? Speaking of which, how robust is the reporting so you can keep track of the major affiliate KPIs? Take a close look at the list of features each SaaS offers to see if it fills the needs of your clients’ varied use-cases.
Most, if not all, of your clients won’t want to run any of their marketing with a 3rd party brand emblazoned across anything client-facing. No enterprise company wants to send out emails that say “Powered by Campaign Monitor,” so your SaaS solution should have the ability to white label any affiliate-facing portals. This includes the signup page, the rep’s dashboard & reporting, and more.
You don’t want to break the bank, but the reason we put this last is because by now you should have a very good sense of what features you’ll want in your affiliate marketing SaaS. There are many cheap options to choose from, but they may be lacking in the areas you need the most (for example, white labeling or customer support). Like with most SaaS out there, you get what you pay for. Keep pricing in mind, but skimping here can cost your agency more in the long run if you go with bare-bones service.
Affiliate marketing should be a branch of marketing that all agencies should offer to provide the most comprehensive service possible. But there are real challenges to trying to implement it completely in-house. Consider partnering with the right SaaS company in the space to get the best of both worlds. And since there are various affiliate marketing SaaS solutions out there, it behooves your agency to see which one fits all of your needs, and the needs of your clients.