by Smartico

Affiliates Beware: 5 Red Flags To Look Out For When Selecting A Partner Program 

A B2B enterprise may leverage affiliate partner programs to drive growth, which is a sensible strategy as the right affiliate can increase the volume and quality of leads and sales while mitigating risks by leveraging an existing program. Moreover, such programs offer a significant return on investment and an additional revenue stream. However, affiliates must evaluate potential partners and identify red flags before joining the program.

While there are many B2B affiliate partner programs, you need to be cautious when joining, as there are several red flags to be aware of. One of the key differences between B2B and B2C affiliate marketing is the level of emphasis placed on the sales process. Even though business-to-business sales are often compared to business-to-customer sales, there isn’t much emphasis on the sales process in B2B. One of the main reasons is that selling a one-off product like a camera or a digital subscription is much more straightforward than selling a complex SaaS product.

However, the gap between B2B and B2C marketing is getting tighter, presenting an opportunity for affiliates to tap into the trend of people relying on peer reviews before making purchasing decisions. Before joining an affiliate partner program, businesses should ideally consider the company, the product, and the program itself. 

But first, let us go through the basics. 

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What is Affiliate Marketing? 

Affiliate marketing is a popular marketing strategy where a third-party affiliate, such as a blogger or social media influencer, promotes a business’s products or services to achieve specific sales or marketing goals. By partnering with an affiliate, a business can boost its sales, enhance its online visibility, and connect with a target audience at a relatively low cost. In exchange, affiliates earn a commission or a percentage of the sales or web traffic generated through their efforts.

While the concept of revenue-sharing in marketing is not new, affiliate marketing has evolved into a primarily digital practice. Today, affiliates typically link to a business’s products or services online and receive a commission for each sale or click generated through their affiliate link. Global affiliate marketing spending currently stands at approximately $17 billion. 


How Does Affiliate Marketing Work? 

Affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that involves four primary entities:

  • The affiliate or publisher: This person or entity promotes the merchant’s products or services.

  • The merchant: This is the individual or entity selling the product or service that the affiliate promotes.

  • The affiliate network: This acts as an intermediary between an affiliate and a merchant’s affiliate program, even though the parties can connect directly as well.

  • The customer: This is the individual who purchases a product through an affiliate. Merchants and affiliates work together to connect the customer with the affiliate’s audience, with the ultimate goal of converting them into customers.

Generally, an affiliate can find merchants to work with through an affiliate network. However, affiliates may also seek out merchants directly. For example, a network might suggest a variety of tech products to a blogger who specializes in reviewing laptops. On occasion, an affiliate and merchant may connect organically through direct outreach. A merchant that produces baking pans could also approach a blogger who writes about baking to expose their products to the blogger’s audience.

And now, without further ado, here are five red flags to look out for when evaluating a partner program:

1. A complicated sales process

A complicated sales process - TAP

In B2C, customers usually click on a link and make an immediate purchase. The B2B sales cycle, however, is lengthier and involves more steps.

For example, when clicking on a B2B SaaS link, it is unlikely that you will purchase the product immediately. Instead, you may submit a demo request or start a free trial and then navigate through several more steps before completing the final sale.

It is also important for businesses to consider how the purchase process is structured and whether it is user-friendly and easy to navigate. The more steps a customer has to go through to access the product, the more challenging it becomes for the affiliate to make the sale. Thus, it is essential to look for sales cycles that are as simple and streamlined as possible to maximize conversions.

2. An inadequate idea of their value proposition or product

2. An inadequate idea of their value proposition or product - TAP

When considering joining an affiliate partner program, it is crucial to ensure that the company has a clear understanding of how its product fits into the market and the specific problem it aims to solve. Without a clear understanding of these essential aspects, it can be challenging for your business to achieve success.

Moreover, if the company cannot articulate its product’s value proposition or explain how it works, it becomes even more difficult for affiliates to promote it effectively. Therefore, it is essential to seek out programs that can communicate their product’s unique value proposition, relevance to the market, and target customers clearly and concisely. This will enable affiliates to better understand the product and its benefits, which will ultimately lead to more effective promotion and increased success.

3. Poor training program for affiliates

3. Poor training program for affiliates - TAP

Compared to B2C affiliate marketing, B2B requires a more comprehensive and specialized training program. When evaluating B2B affiliate programs, it is crucial to consider the quality of the training and reporting system. A well-designed learning management system that caters to affiliates’ needs and is easy to navigate is essential.

Moreover, the learning management system should include accessible success metrics that allow affiliates to track their performance and identify areas for improvement. Additionally, affiliates should have access to relevant collateral and resources that can help them enhance their skills and drive growth.

Effective communication is also a vital aspect of any training program. Therefore, it is essential to have a direct line of communication between affiliates and the program manager, enabling affiliates to seek information and clarification as needed. By investing in a robust training program, businesses can equip their affiliates with the knowledge and tools necessary to promote their products effectively and drive success.

4. A poorly built rewards program

4. A poorly built rewards program - TAP

When evaluating a partnership program, it’s essential to carefully review the available reward options, as different programs offer varying incentives. The quality of the rewards program should be a key consideration when selecting a program that meets your business’s growth needs.

In B2B affiliate marketing, reward programs typically provide more extended earning periods than those in B2C. While B2C rewards are usually one-off benefits that customers receive upon making a purchase, B2B programs offer rewards that can accumulate over time. For instance, some programs offer perpetual rewards, where affiliates earn a percentage of every sale for the lifetime of the customer’s subscription, while others may only provide rewards based on the first year of the subscription.

Both reward options have their pros and cons, and businesses should weigh them carefully to ensure they get the best return on their investment. Ultimately, selecting a rewards program that aligns with your growth needs can help maximize your earning potential and contribute to the overall success of your business.

5. Weak perspective commitments

5. Weak perspective commitments - TAP

Successful affiliate marketing relies heavily on making long-term commitments with your partners. Therefore, it is important to be cautious of affiliate partners who are only interested in short-term, one-off projects. While short-term wins are useful for testing, it is crucial to prioritize long-term planning for sustained success.

Effective planning for peak periods, such as holidays, requires early preparation which is often impossible with a short-term commitment. While it may be tempting to prioritize immediate success, it should never come at the cost of a long-term strategy.

Agencies that accept short-term commitments often struggle with staffing and maintaining a healthy client-to-account manager ratio. For this reason, it is advisable to partner with an agency that prioritizes long-term commitments and has the resources to hire experienced affiliate marketing professionals.

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