The New Year is approaching and many people are earnestly looking ahead. Why? Well, there’s too much to say, but 2020 has been quite the year. From the Black Lives Matter protests to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, financial crisis to the stress-inducing presidential election, there has been a lot to keep track of.
Heading into 2021, businesses are looking for a change. For some, it’s needed — a way to survive following what 2020 has thrown at them; for others, it’s a means of staying on top of their game, remaining one foot ahead of their competition. But how can a business push to attain this heading into a new year? What tactic can allow them to increase brand awareness, both to improve engagement and to remain competitive against other businesses in their industry?
An affiliate marketing strategy is the way to go. Enterprise businesses around the globe rely on affiliate marketing to increase brand awareness, but you don’t have to be at the enterprise-level to see the success of such an approach. In 2016, U.S. retailers spent $4.7 billion on affiliate marketing campaigns; current estimates state that that spending is expected to rise to $6.8 billion in 2020. It’s an exceptional marketing approach for one reason: promotion. Rather than developing and producing all outbound marketing materials in-house, companies can outsource their marketing efforts, handing them off to trusted affiliates — businesses, brands, and influencers — to produce and share with their audience. Why is it, though, that you should refocus to an affiliate marketing strategy for 2021? Let’s take a sincere look at what 2020 taught us and how you can capitalize on that knowledge going into the new year.
What 2020 Has Shown Affiliate Marketers
- Politics matter.
The election, pandemic, and many other issues brought out cohorts of people voicing their political message. With the pandemic, many turned to using social media for political activism, but they weren’t alone. Brands have started jumping on the bandwagon — even if it was once considered uncouth to talk about politics in branding.
The benefit to brands is that they can promote political activism across their social media channels with ease. There’s an ease of entry that allows their audience to interact with what they’re saying, along with sharing their message with others. While political messaging should be put before selling a product, you can view it as a form of promotion: People that identify with your political leanings will be more inclined to either a) begin shopping with you or b) continue shopping with you.
In the world of affiliate marketing, this is taken to interesting lengths, particularly where brands can work with political organizers to promote action. For instance, this can include using Instagram affiliate marketing to promote a sale that you are holding, so that a percentage (or all) proceeds will be given to a political organization in support.
- COVID-19 has had a lasting effect.
COVID-19 has had a global effect through 2020, and the pandemic has hit the United States — where it has largely gone unmanaged — especially hard. For this reason, it appears that this pandemic which began globally in 2019 will continue well into 2021. And, through it all, we have seen unemployment climb to insane rates and people given a one-time-only $1200 stimulus check while American billionaires became excessively richer.
Suffice it to say, Americans have been put in a dire position with little guidance or assistance provided by those in power. Brands have been essential through this time, especially as Americans are stuck quarantining at home, providing citizens with some solace throughout all of this, whether it’s providing them with tools to stay sane or ways to keep in touch with close friends and family.
Affiliate marketing has been beneficial to both brands and citizens alike, as it’s allowed one to become aware of the other, creating collaborative bonds where both parties win — all thanks to a printing press supporting another, sharing one’s content to their audience, or a fitness company supporting a nutritional supplement brand.
- Influencers are becoming more important.
As said above, Instagram affiliate marketing has proven itself useful this year, especially as brands have tried to remain relevant amid people being more frugal with how they spend their money. As social media usage skyrocketed during the pandemic, so did the importance of influencers to businesses and brands.
Beyond promoting themselves and their brand, influencers were shown to be helpful during the pandemic, sharing information with their large audiences about how to remain safe. This action, on their part, furthers their audience’s trust in them, showing brands just how important they are to maintaining consistency with the marketplace. Not only can brands learn something from influencers going forward, but they can effectively use them in their affiliate programming.
- Value mobile most of all.
Smartphone ownership has been growing rapidly in recent years, with older models becoming cheaper and newer models catching the eyes of people up on the trends. What does this mean? It means that more of your marketing efforts should be focused on the mobile spectrum than ever before. There are clear signs that people are relying more and more on mobile, whether with Instagram implementing its shopping platform on its main page or for people using apps like Twitter to get their daily news. This can be leveraged by businesses by regularly engaging mobile users through social media, email, and more.
- Authenticity matters.
Just as consumers want to know the politics of the businesses they support, they also want to ensure that these businesses are human. That means that a business speaks to them like a person and respects their trust, time, and finances. These are brands that value their customers and put every ounce of that respect into their branding, messaging, and marketing — they’re not in it solely to make a sale.
Affiliate marketing is a simple way to reinforce this with consumers, especially when the affiliate that is promoting the brand is an authentic brand or influencer themselves. This promotion, to the audience, can be taken as an authentication of your brand’s character, saying, “I trusted this brand and their product enough to promote them to my own followers, who I care for so deeply.”
- Consumers want accountable businesses.
Beyond authenticity, consumers want to see a form of responsibility, too. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) tends to be the way brands show their duty to the world around them. CSRs tend to be implemented either through charitable giving, environmental benchmarks, or diversifying the workplace.
A report from IO Sustainability and Babson College’s Lewis Institute for Social Innovation showed that CSRs have a positive impact on the brand image and reputation of a company, as seen in the character of, say, Starbucks, whose CSR program steadily works at supporting employees, paying farmers fair wages, and more. This growing trend will be increasingly important going forward, as there is overlap between it and a consumer’s need for brand authenticity and political messaging — think of it as a company putting their money where their mouth is.
Your 2021 New Year’s Resolutions
While there are lessons to be learned from 2020, that knowledge needs to be put into practice to make a change for 2021. Here are some year-to-year ways to improve your affiliate marketing strategy and your 2021 guide to enhancing your approach.
- Consider your commission rates and affiliates.
Part of being a successful affiliate marketer is being able to entice affiliates to sign with you. That involves offering competitive commission rates to high-performing affiliates. Pay affiliates what they’re worth — you’ll get better results out of them that way. Moreover, look through your affiliates and determine how they performed over the last year. Your top affiliates might be deserving of a raise; other affiliates might require a reconsideration of how much you pay them per commission.
Moreover, consider developing a system that works better for both you and your affiliates. This could include a tiered commission system that pays affiliates a respectable commission to start that steadily increases by the number of conversions they hit per month — the better they perform for you, the more they’ll begin earning per commission.
This should also include you considering bonuses and promotions that can be implemented throughout the year. These simple incentivizations can help you secure interested affiliates and hold onto veterans who have been working for you for a few years.
- Create content that counts.
Any type of content works, but you should focus on content that works best for your company. Your affiliate marketing software can provide you with analytics that shows what type of affiliate deals, coupons, links, and content performed best with consumers throughout the year. Use this to your advantage.
Learn what content works best for your brand and leverage that. Furthermore, find ways to piggyback off of that content — it could include developing specific content that can be utilized for Instagram affiliate marketing.
A simple way to keep an eye on trends, outside of your network, includes researching your competition. Ask yourself: What does their content look like? What type of content are they creating? How are they being more unique than my brand? Learn from what they’re doing and implement it your way!
- Focus on your top performers.
Your top performers provide you with a lot of financial support in times of need, acting as a consistent force that promotes your brand to new consumers. Show them you care in 2021. Offer them a bonus for exceptional work during 2021, whether it is a cash bonus or a nice gift. Consider also presenting them with a raise and offering them large affiliate deals they can provide to their audience — the latter increasing their chances of making conversions, thus leading to a payout for them and more sales for you.
- Onboard affiliates more efficiently.
You shouldn’t be wasting the majority of your time trying to get your affiliates off the ground. Rather, you should have an efficient onboarding process in place that allows them to jump directly into the deep end from the very start of your partnership.
You can create a thorough onboarding packet that can be hosted on your affiliate marketing software, along with a brand style guide, where affiliates can regularly check in with your standards and expectations to effectively promote your brand to their audience.
- Get personal.
As mentioned, consumers want to see businesses that care, whether personally or politically. Don’t be afraid to use your affiliates to promote your business’s position. This can include using them to talk about your corporate social responsibility program or the ways you are working to provide support to your audience and political organizations in times of global strife.
- Take chances.
There are tried-and-true methods to conduct an affiliate marketing strategy, sure, but following the rules doesn’t lead to exceptional success among the crowd. If you’re looking to stand out among your competitors, it’s time you took chances. That can include signing on affiliates from niches you might not have previously considered or it could involve testing out new forms of content you haven’t created before.
Don’t Be Surprised
2021 is approaching quickly. Don’t let it take your business by surprise. Begin planning your affiliate marketing strategy before the new year begins, getting a feel for your affiliate marketing software so you can hit the ground running.