It’s that time of year again. Marketing budgets double, company sales numbers surge, and—ahem, sorry—when peace and love and gift-giving are the top priorities. Right? Yes, Q4 marketing strategies are all about ensuring your products are in front of consumer’s eyes during the holiday season. Because where there’s gift-giving, there’s gift buying.
Retail sales between November and January are estimated to exceed $1.1T in 2019, and of that, e-commerce numbers are expected to perform 16% better than they did in 2018. For companies to earn their slice of that pie, their Q4 strategy must include all that digital marketing allows for: social, search, and content marketing, and of course, affiliate marketing.
In this article, the focus will be on the latter. For everything you need to understand about affiliate marketing in Q4, read ahead.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
First thing’s first, let’s get on the same page. Affiliate marketing consists of third-party entities performing advertising for you in exchange for a cut of the sales they generate. The two common types of affiliate marketing that you’ll encounter are:
- Native advertising – This is when a promotional article is posted to a community-driven site with the intended purpose of driving traffic to the promoted company (whether that’s to a specific product page or to their homepage). The article aligns itself with the site’s overall goals and themes and is both informational and commercial.
- For example: A supplement company runs an article about overall health (one part being about supplementation) on a workout-focused blog.
- Affiliate links – As bloggers write posts, they can add a direct link to a product or service of a company. When readers click on this affiliate link and purchase the product, the company offers the blogger a piece of the sale. This is how bloggers use their viewership to create passive income.
- For example: When a fashion blogger talks about the equipment they use to create their clothes, they might include affiliate links to the products in the post.
Affiliate Marketing in Q4
The holiday season provides an opportunity for companies. One correct move and the perfect marketing strategy, and companies can experience a massive spike in sales and enter the new year with a cash cushion.
Choosing the right relationships with affiliate marketers can be that one correct move. This type of marketing can be a massive source of views, impressions, clicks, and ultimately sales. The key is that every company around you is also preparing for this fourth quarter—which means the competition is fierce.
Businesses that are planning for affiliate marketing in Q4 need:
- Deployment strategy
- Secure placements
- Promotional plan
- Advertising assets
Timing of Affiliate Marketing
By November 1st, you can be sure that the biggest affiliate blogs and websites are filled up through January. The time to plan for Q4 is in Q3, maybe even in the later weeks of Q2. This is because affiliate marketing is based on relationships. It’s not something you can plug and play and expect good results.
Bloggers need to create the content, place the links, and allow for the content to sit on the website uncontested. This takes time.
If you haven’t started yet, it doesn’t mean affiliate marketing is out of the question. However, it does mean you should start NOW.
Here’s how to create a strong deployment strategy.
- Know which blogs to focus on – Align yourself with blogs that have similar themes and messages. If you plan on rolling out new products and tapping into different markets, find blogs that match that part of your brand.
- For example: If you currently sell secondhand textbooks but want to expand your selection to secondhand fiction, this will require a different market. Whereas you may have started targeting student-focused blogs, now you’ll want to reach out to blogs geared toward general readers. Simple enough, right?
- Payment for affiliates – You must decide beforehand how you are going to pay the affiliate for their marketing abilities. The two most common ways are pay per click (PPC) and pay per performance (PPP).
- Pay per click – Every time the affiliate link on the blogger’s site is clicked, they earn a certain amount of money (usually in the cents range). Bloggers prefer PPC because it guarantees them money if they have viewership, and some will solely operate on PPC. For businesses, this should be utilized when the blog has a proven track record.
- Pay per performance – When a reader clicks on the affiliate link and purchases a product, the blogger earns a certain amount of money (usually a small percentage of the product’s price). Companies prefer PPP because it guarantees results before paying.
Note: Establish the payment options upfront with each affiliate to avoid future hassle.
- How many different affiliates – This is a difficult question to answer: What is the right number of affiliates to have in your program? The problem is if the answer was 20, would you want to stop at 20 when finding more would increase your sales? Of course not. The number of affiliates will balance out to the amount of communication it takes to handle each one. The only answer, then, is: the more affiliates generating sales, the better.
Once these parameters are set up, the next step is to begin the communication.
Securing placements on blogs is the most important factor. It’s why you need to allow yourself time to perform affiliate marketing properly, and why many marketers begin their conversations as early as Q2.
There are plenty of reasons why targeted blogs won’t work out.
- They prefer PPC when your company is only working with PPP advertising.
- Their cut or percentage of the sale is too high, and they won’t agree to less.
- Their blogging schedule could already be full (full of your competitors).
- They require too much communication.
- They offer too little communication.
The list could run on and on. Not all relationships are ideal, and the same holds for affiliate marketers.
Once the deployment strategy is prepped and you’ve secured placement in blogs, begin understanding your promotional plan. Review what your competitors offered last year during Q4 to gain insight into what types of aggressive promotion you’re competing with.
Next, consider all the types of promotions that you can offer.
- Sitewide discounts – When in the holiday spirit, it can be attractive to create store-wide discounts. With everything on sale, it makes shopping fun. For those with a large customer base, sitewide discounts are a great way to reward your audience for being loyal to your brand.
- Category discounts – Instead of discounting your entire catalog, you can create a seasonal display. Some companies prefer to associate the sales with the different holidays and add timers for when the discounted items will be swapped out. This increases the pressure to purchase certain items, and it means you’re not losing revenue on the majority of your inventory.
- Percentage off vs BOGO – Regardless of whether you choose to discount your entire collection or only put specific holiday products on sale, you must also decide between “percentage off” or “buy one get one free” (BOGO).
- Many companies prefer BOGO-type sales. You can create the same discount incentives, but with BOGO, you’re selling multiple products at once.
Ideally, you’ve offered these types of promotions throughout the year and recorded their performance. Understanding the most optimal promotions for your brand will allow you to capitalize on the time when it counts: the holiday season.
Now, all that’s left is to prepare for showtime. You need to have everything sales-related that the bloggers need before they post the article.
That means planning your assets:
- High-Quality Photos – For customers, seeing is believing. Nobody is going to buy a product without seeing it. Similarly, if the image is blurry and glazed in harsh yellow light, most people will steer clear from both the product and the seller. According to 67% of consumers, the photo quality is more important than both the product reviews and the description.
- Call to Action – Your call to action (CTA) must be clear and prominent on the affiliate site and the landing product page. Your CTA should include action words and evoke a sense of enthusiasm about your product.
- Banners, Infographics, and Shareable Content – Shareable content that you can offer the affiliates that directly align with your product will help boost the quality of the blog post and cause more readers to click on the affiliate link.
The Importance of Q4 Affiliate Marketing
One of the biggest reasons people read blogs is to learn about a certain product or service. In a blog, the writer sounds like an ordinary person who happened to buy a set of knives or used a home-cleaning service, and now they’re writing about their experience. It’s why 61% of people use online reviews before making a purchase. When done correctly, the voice of a blog feels like your friend or neighbor telling you about what product they use.
Affiliate marketing is a way to capitalize on customer trust. And when people are scrambling around during the holiday season, trying to determine that perfect gift for their friend or loved one, they’re going to read customer reviews about it. Which means, they’re going to check out blogs.
To be the product on those blogs, be sure your Q4 affiliate marketing strategy is ready sooner than later. And if you haven’t started yet, know that tomorrow is too late.
Inc. Retail Sales Are Expected to Top $1.1 Trillion This Holiday Season. https://www.inc.com/anna-meyer/retail-holiday-sales-season-growth-2019-christmas.html
Entrepreneur. 6 Ways Irresistible Product Images Enrapture Customers and Boost Conversions. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/293150
Forbes. Building Trust: How Blogging Can Improve Customer Relationships. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ajagrawal/2016/03/28/building-trust-how-blogging-can-improve-customer-relationships/#5e144d014eeb