You have an incredible idea for a new B2B product and want to break into a new industry. But often, that process entails you coming up against the seemingly impenetrable wall of big corporations who dominate the market. They have the money to spend on marketing teams, billboards, and TV advertisements, while small businesses are left scrambling for the leftovers.
But small businesses can dodge this problem with a robust B2B affiliate marketing strategy– which is often both an affordable and effective way to start the process of your company’s growth.
Business Insider reports that affiliate marketing revenue has grown annually by 10% since 2015 and projects that this trend will continue. The money in this business vein has yet to dry out, and small businesses are the ones who need it most of all. An effective small business LMS can be an invaluable tool in training affiliates and ensuring they understand your product’s unique selling propositions.
What Is B2B Affiliate Marketing?
B2B affiliate programs typically involve an agreement between two B2B companies wherein one (the affiliate) earns a commission on the sales they provide to the other (the seller) through the direct result of the affiliate’s marketing, bringing the items in question to a wider audience.
Affiliate marketers promote the services and products the company offers, and the company pays them a set amount (potentially a percentage of the sale) for every one of the potential customers that the company receives from the affiliate through their affiliate links.
This promotion usually includes creating content: quality information and entertainment attract potential customers, who then learn more about the company.
There are a few companies that will accept anyone who applies to be an affiliate (like Bluehost), while there are others who have an application/approval process and typically only take a few.
Affiliate marketing provides a win-win situation for sellers: if an affiliate succeeds in referring a visitor or customer, they only end up owing the affiliate a very low commission.
But if the affiliate does not succeed, there’s no loss of money for the seller as they do not need to pay the affiliate anything at all, and the seller has still succeeded in getting eyes from their target audience on their product.
Why Is Affiliate Marketing Important?
Referral sales are a base-level standard practice in the world of B2B business, which means that affiliate sales are now just a necessary extension of the classic world of referral sales.
If you’re limiting yourself to a referral program, your promotional efforts are limited to your existing customers. They might be excellent at promoting your product and showing your personal touch, but you’ll seldom be able to scale that kind of promotion up.
Affiliate programs, on the other hand, will allow you to bring your network into new and exciting segments of potentially loyal customers through the quality content in which marketers place an affiliate link.
Image source: MarketSplash
Tips for Developing an Effective Affiliate Marketing Strategy
Now that you understand how important it can be for your business to have affiliate partners and content marketing, let’s get into how you can get your strategy started.
#1 Promote, Promote, Promote
As a B2B company, you must attract the right affiliates. It is often more challenging for B2B companies to find affiliates that work well for their products than it is for B2C ones.
Because you’re selling your product to businesses instead of people, you need affiliates that have strong ties with businesses. Typically, bloggers are a good place to start in the affiliate search for B2B businesses. They often know which media to use for your specific target audience (blog posts, social media posts, videos, etc.) and have an excellent degree of reach to potential loyal customers.
What’s more, you don’t need to have only one affiliate. You can steadily build your network of content creators specializing in different areas. For example, YouTube affiliate marketing is currently one of the most popular strategies, so you can partner with a YouTube content creator and then choose an affiliate that focuses on writing for your blogs and social media.
#2 Your Customers Are Potential Affiliates!
When it comes to a lot of B2B companies, often, your customers will serve as the best possible affiliate you could have due to the connections they already have within the industry.
If you have provided them with excellent, high-quality service in the past, there is a decent chance that they will have the impulse to work with you in the future as well as an affiliate.
Because of this, it can be an excellent idea to start contacting your customers and floating the idea with them of their earning commission from promoting your products.
#3 Maximize Your Potential Affiliates
Some businesses, for whatever reason, keep their affiliate program very small, so it feels more “premium” to be a part of. But there is no real business reason to limit the number of affiliates you can have artificially– the more affiliates you have, the more referrals you will get.
Even if the affiliate is a minuscule blogger without any existing reach, it could still generate a sale. And if it does not generate a sale or at least a visit, then you have lost nothing in the relationship.
If you artificially limit your affiliate network, you are only limiting your potential earnings.
#4 Craft a Worthwhile Program for Your Affiliates
Content creators like affiliate programs and affiliate marketing are growing, as shown by many statistics. That means that you, as a seller, are competing to earn a spot on the list of good marketers.
Content creators may even promote more than one product at a time. If, for example, you produce back-office management software and one of your affiliates was writing a listicle with the best back-office management solutions, you would want your affiliate to place you at the very top of that list.
The better view your affiliate has of you, the more likely they are to drive sales to your pages.
To give potential affiliates a better view of you, you need to offer rates and a better affiliate program writ large than any of your competing back-office management solutions.
You don’t want to create an affiliate network merely – you want to create an affiliate network that respects and admires you more than your competition. Finding your niche can help you succeed with this. Working with people who already have a significant following or promote products in the same industry can be beneficial.
#5 Develop Hands-on Affiliate Relationships
As a B2B affiliate marketer, you need to keep a hands-on relationship with your affiliates by consistently keeping them in the loop via email or social media.
One of the best ways you can do this is by video calls. It takes more time than email, but it allows you to build a face-to-face relationship with your affiliates.
This lets you contact them regularly with promotion ideas, discounts that you have on products, or just to check-in. The more your affiliates tangibly feel that they are your partner and are a real part of what you’re doing, the better they will promote your product.
#6 Befriend Technology
Technology can bring you past anything you could accomplish purely manually, and that’s especially true in the context of affiliate marketing. If you want to expand your network of affiliates and scale your business, you will need to create a robust system that minimizes the manual work on your behalf.
This means that it is vital for you to use the right software and management tools to keep track of your affiliates. Some popular affiliate management programs include UpPromote, WeCanTrack and Tapfiliate. If these aren’t what you’re looking for, there are plenty of others online.
Effective software provides analytics to the affiliate (number of clicks, sale conversions, etc.) and a centralized location (often called a dashboard) where they can discover the personalized affiliate links they will use when promoting your product.
Allowing your affiliates to see analytics of their work also helps to strengthen the business relationship between you and them even further by making the whole process simple and transparent.
Effective affiliate marketing applications answer questions that are important for you as you’re figuring out how to scale your growth, like:
- Which one of my affiliates has the best performance right now?
- What post types lead to the most sales conversions for my product?
- Am I satisfied with the ROI I’m getting in this affiliate program? Could it be better?
#7 Host Webinars With Your Affiliates
Another excellent way to further develop your affiliate relationships is to host webinars with your affiliates. We recommend that, if you go in this direction, you give all your affiliates the same opportunity to do this with you. Giving each affiliate the same opportunity, despite how well-known or not they are, can help you build better relationships.
The goal of these webinars is to grow your brand’s visibility and expand your relationships with your affiliates– you want to make as many of them happen as you possibly can.
Another helpful way to get a similar benefit is to guest post on your affiliates’ websites.
Regardless of how you do it, make sure that these are valuable nodes of partnership for anyone who attends. Teach people about your product, but also the end of business that your product exists in.
If you’re selling email marketing software, teach people so much about email marketing that they feel like they’ve gotten something valuable without paying for it– but also convince them how helpful your software specifically would be.
#8. Don’t Be Afraid to Innovate
You shouldn’t be afraid of innovation here, either. The “standard” model for affiliate marketing typically includes articles that contain embedded affiliate links, but there is no need for you to limit yourself to that. And indeed, as you’re trying to think of people to reach out to, it can be a critical error to limit yourself to purely the world of blogs and text marketing.
Specifically, YouTube affiliate links can work extremely well. There are several YouTubers out there who are working hard to make excellent content for businesses. Your imagination is the limit of what is possible with affiliate marketing.
#9. Partner With Other Affiliate Marketers
Have you ever heard of a power couple? If you have, then you understand how successful this dynamic can be when implemented correctly. One of the best ways to boost your affiliate marketing is to partner with another person advertising the same product.
When customers see two people they know and trust advertising the same product, they’ll be even more inspired to use your affiliate links.
#10. Take Advantage of Affiliate Marketing to Generate Sales Leads
Affiliate programs aren’t just helpful for driving direct sales– they’re also for generating new sales leads. Of course, there are several paths that can help you generate promising leads, whether it’s paid advertising, newsletters, or social media campaigns.
Image source: MarketSplash
What makes affiliate marketing stand out is the capacity to use third-party individuals to generate more business leads. And the affiliates are motivated to carry you those leads because their commission depends on actions that you agree on with them.
If you only pay your affiliates for conversions, you’ll only get conversions. Your goal can’t just be to get conversions– you also need to think of the sales funnel and new business leads. That said, you don’t want to invest your valuable resources in getting unhelpful affiliates on board.
It’s a delicate balance to strike, but you need to decide what will bring the most value to your company.
An important factor is that it is easy for each of these leads to convert. You want to make sure that the money you’re paying your affiliates for leads is not going to be fruitless and that these leads are becoming customers. That requires an affiliate page that is user-friendly with smooth navigation.
Reaping the Rewards
If you can successfully create an effective affiliate network and marketing strategy, with an optimal commission rate, that will make your business a great deal of money in the long run, while also bettering your customer relationships and overall company image.
If you can do this, you will likely see your conversion rates go up, your bounce rates go down, and you will reap the hefty rewards entailed by a successful B2B referral program.
You don’t however need to do this on your own. There are tools out there to make the job easy to handle. If you are using Shopify for example, you can use this list of affiliate marketing apps available for Shopify users to start your off on your journey.
Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways to increase sales of your products in this day and age. Partnering with affiliates skilled in marketing products on social media can benefit you in ways that traditional marketing alone can’t.
This type of B2B marketing has been rising since 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Developing a great strategy is the first step if you’re ready to begin affiliate marketing.
For further resources, check out why affiliate marketing is important and why it can be beneficial to your business.