Small businesses, in particular, have a hard time making a mark in industries that are dominated by big corporations that have money to spend on everything from billboards to a marketing team.
For this very reason, having a solid B2B affiliate marketing strategy can be an affordable way to take those first few steps of growth as a new company.
According to Business Insider, revenue from affiliate marketing programs has been growing by 10% annually since 2015. It is projected that this trend is going to continue till at least 2021.
What Exactly Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a process within which the affiliates of a company earn a commission through the direct result of their own marketing. The affiliate will promote the company’s products and services and for each customer or website visitor that they refer back to the company, they receive a certain percentage of the sale or a set amount.
Some companies like Bluehost, for example, accept anybody as an affiliate while other companies like Walmart or Lenovo have an application and approval process wherein they only approve a few.
Affiliate marketing is a win-win for companies because if an affiliate manages to refer a customer or visitor, they only have to pay the affiliate a tiny commission and if they do not refer any new customers, there is no loss to the business since they do not have to pay them anything.
A Step-By-Step Guide to a Successful B2B Affiliate Marketing Strategy
Now that you have understood the importance of having an affiliate marketing strategy for your business, let us talk about how you can set your strategy in motion.
There are a few steps you can take to make your affiliate program as profitable as possible for your business.
#1 Get the Word Out
As a B2B company, it is important that you attract the right affiliates. In comparison to a B2C company, it is a little harder to find affiliates that convert well.
Since you are not selling products for people but rather for businesses, you need affiliates that have relationships with businesses. Bloggers tend to be a good place to start for B2B businesses when looking for affiliates.
They normally have a great reach and will be able to talk about your product to the right people.
A great example of this is Bluehost, a web hosting company, that targets newbie bloggers in specific. A lot of Bluehost’s most successful affiliates are bloggers themselves that create content geared towards newbie bloggers.
You will very often see that their affiliates will include Bluehost as a recommendation in their ‘How to Start a Blog’ guides or listicle articles that rank different web hosting services.
These listicle articles will normally rank Bluehost as the best option and they do very well because they are attracting the right audience.
Another good example is Ryan Robinson, a blogger, that does pretty well for himself and he has a very similar post.
If you take a look at his income reports, you can see that a big portion of his income is coming from being an affiliate for Bluehost.
It would be a good idea to reach out to your potential affiliates instead of hoping that they are going to come to you. You can do this by sending them a quick email outlining your terms, commission rates, and how you would love to work with them.
Once you figure out who your ideal affiliate is (just like Bluehost has), you can use that information to reach out to the right people and create a strong network of affiliates that promote your company.
#2 Consider Reaching Out to Your Customers
For a lot of B2B companies, their own customers serve as the best affiliates since they have a ton of connections within the industry. If you have made sure to provide them with great customer service in the past, there is a good chance they will want to team up with you in the future.
It is not a bad idea to reach out to your own customers asking them if they would be willing to promote your products in exchange for a commission. This could be profitable for them as well and you would be able to grow your affiliate network.
#3 Keep Your Affiliate Program Open to Everyone
A mistake that I often see businesses make is not approving all affiliates or keeping the affiliate program very small so that it comes across as more ‘premium’.
Businesses that do not have an approval process for affiliates and accept anyone who applies simply have a better chance of getting referrals. There is no real benefit to rejecting affiliates.
Even if they are really tiny bloggers with no reach, you could still make a sale out of the relationship. Even if you do not, it does not take much effort or money to allow that tiny blogger to create an affiliate account on your platform.
Limiting who can join your network of affiliates only limits your own earning potential.
#4 Make It Worth Your Affiliate’s Time
According to 99firms, the majority of affiliate marketers (42.17%) prefer to promote between 1–10 products. This means that you are competing with every other company they are an affiliate for.
For example, if you are a webinar software and one of your affiliates was creating a listicle post that covered the best webinar platforms, you would want to be on the top of that list because that would mean generating more leads for your company.
To do this, you need to be offering better commission rates and a better b2b affiliate program than any other webinar software. It is not enough to simply have a network of affiliates.
You need to build a relationship with each one of them so that they remember your company whenever they are writing a relevant article or posting to social media.
Whenever you bring an affiliate on board, remember that there are tons of other similar companies whose products they can sell online. You want to be their first choice.
#5 Do Your Affiliates Understand Your Sales Cycle?
It is important to have a hands-on relationship with all of your affiliates. You can do this by keeping in constant contact with them through email.
This allows you to reach out to them with ideas on how to promote your brand, discounts you are having on products, or just simply to check-in.
Affiliate marketing, contrary to popular belief, is not a ‘set it and forget it’ type thing.
AppSumo is a company that does an awesome job of maintaining relationships with their affiliates by sending in an email that they call the ‘affiliate digest’ every week within which they outline the best programs to promote for their affiliates.
Instead of hoping their affiliates go on to the affiliate dashboard to check out what they can promote, Sumo reaches out to them to make the process easier and increase the odds that they will promote the brand.
#6 Scale With Technology
What you can do with technology must never be done manually- especially when it comes to affiliate marketing. If you truly want to scale your business and grow your affiliate network, you are going to need to form a robust system that needs little to no manual work.
This means you need to be using the right tools and software to keep a track of your affiliates. Good software will provide the affiliate with their own analytics (how many times someone clicked on their link, number of conversions, etc.) and a dashboard where they can find personalized promotional links to use when promoting your products.
Using a tool that is capable of showing your affiliates the analytics of their marketing efforts will also further strengthen the relationship between your business and them by ensuring transparent reporting.
A good affiliate marketing software will also allow you to answer a few questions that can help you scale your growth such as:
- Which of my affiliates is performing the best?
- Which types of posts convert the best?
- Is my ROI on the affiliate program good? Can it be better?
- What products of mine are receiving the most traffic?
In general, using the right technology not only makes it easier to maintain an affiliate program but it also allows your business to become more profitable.
If you are just getting started with affiliate management software, Post Affiliate Pro is a great software option simply because of the insane amount of features that are available when you choose to use them as your program of choice.
Some features include:
- Multiple Tracking Methods– Post Affiliate Pro allows you to track conversions in a variety of ways whether that is through impression tracking, action tracking, or per product tracking to name a few. So, no matter what sort of program you want to run- there is an option for you.
- Types of Commissions- Each company has a different way of compensating its affiliates and Post Affiliate Pro keeps that in mind by offering tons of different commission types. Lifetime commissions, multi-tier commissions, performance rewards, and actions commissions are all popular options.
- Reporting– Thorough and complete analytics make it easy to maintain a transparent relationship with affiliates. A top URLs report, trend report, online users report, etc. make this option great for affiliates and businesses alike.
Using the right technology alongside your affiliate marketing strategy not only saves you time and money but it also helps you scale your operations in the long-run and make the right decisions at every turn backed by data.
Case Study: ConvertKit
A great example of a brand that scaled their growth and became one of the frontrunners in their industry through affiliate marketing is ConvertKit.
ConvertKit is an email marketing software that is geared towards bloggers in particular. They used affiliate marketing to grow their brand from $98k in monthly revenue to a whopping $625k per month by conducting over 150 webinars in only one year.
This is how they did it-
Step #1 They maintained an open affiliate program
I have already mentioned this above but keeping your affiliate program open to everyone only increases the odds of you making more money as a business. ConvertKit did exactly this which meant they had a giant pool of affiliates.
A lot of their own customers became affiliates and started to promote their products. A good commission percentage and maintaining relationships with all of their affiliates was the base on which they built their strategy.
Step #2 They hosted webinars with any blogger that was willing
Once they had a decent number of affiliates, they started hosting webinars with any affiliate who was willing to jump on. They never targeted only the bigger affiliates and worked with everyone no matter how well-known (or not) they were.
This meant that they were hosting hundreds of webinars and one almost every day. This also helped them grow as a brand which is a good takeaway from this step in particular.
Much like hosting a webinar to grow your reach alongside your affiliates, you could also guest post on your affiliate’s websites. This is a similar strategy to what has been used in case study where they managed to increase their DR from 49 to 71 by receiving over 120 backlinks.
Step #3 They gave away tons of value in each webinar
Instead of pushing their product down people’s throats during the webinar, they would give away information that was worth hundreds of dollars in value. At the end of the webinar, the viewer walked away with so much new information about email marketing, they were more than happy to try out ConvertKit’s software to get started.
They focused on providing information that could be used alongside their software rather than just talking about their software. In each webinar, they would often even give away stuff like courses and eBooks as freebies.
Every audience they came in contact with loved them.
This case study should show you the crazy number of possibilities that come with a good affiliate marketing strategy. You can use this same technique to grow your own small business (you can use an affordable webinar software like ClickMeeting to get started) or use the steps we covered above to create a completely new one.
Wrapping it up
Creating a good affiliate marketing strategy means more money for your business, better relationships with your customers, and overall growth for your company. Once you have a strategy in place, the sky’s the limit.
You can get started with your affiliate marketing strategy today by taking a look at the Post Affiliate Pro affiliate software.