5 tips for running a successful affiliate marketing campaign in a B2B environment

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What are the advantages of a self-service affiliate platform?

It has always been a topic for discussion among marketing professionals; are affiliate programs a good match for b2b companies, and is there even such a thing as b2b affiliate marketing? Referral sales have always been standard practice in b2b marketing. You should look at affiliate marketing as an extension of it, not as a replacement. With a referral program, you’re almost always limited by the effort your existing customers decide to put in it. With affiliate marketing though, you can pick from almost unlimited partners and third-parties to generate leads and drive sales for your brand.

This blog dives into the combination of affiliate marketing and b2b companies and explains why it is indeed a good match. We do this by providing you with 5 clear and practical ways to use affiliate marketing in the b2b sector.

Interested in more interesting insights? We have a whole section of affiliate marketing tips!

Table of Contents

1. Start with recruiting the right affiliates

When running an affiliate program, recruiting the right affiliates isn’t just the most important thing, it’s also one of the most time-consuming parts of the program. You simply cannot assume that the right affiliate partners are going to find your program. They probably won’t. Why not? Because you don’t want just anybody. You’re looking for specific partners who are hardened professionals in their own niches. They are the price, and you have to work hard to obtain them.   It’s important to understand what the biggest difference between b2b and b2c affiliate programs is. It’s the size of your audience. There are fewer potential customers in b2b, but each customer is more valuable.  

Finding the right partners takes time

It is true that a lot of affiliate marketers have a b2c focus. B2c marketing is easier and generally more accessible than b2b marketing, thus attracting more people. This is something to bear in mind. It’s also a good reason to spend more time finding the right affiliate partners for your business. If you want to generate the best results, you need to do your research and invest time in personalization.   Bonus tip: an Affiliate Marketplace that shows extensive publisher information might help to ease the process. Choose your affiliate software carefully.  

2. Entice your b2b affiliates with the right motivation

When you’re setting up your b2b affiliate program, it’s important to think about the fees and incentives you’re going to give your affiliate partners. Look at it from their perspective, why should they promote your products and services and not those of one of your competitors? They can only join a limited number of affiliate programs after all.  

Focus on the top publishers

A commonly heard statistic in affiliate marketing is that 10% of your affiliate partners make up 90% of your leads, conversions, and sales. This is also true for b2b affiliate programs. The top dogs of affiliate marketing are very much in demand and may be hard to reach. It’s even harder to convince them to join your affiliate program and potentially leave their current program. This is why it’s important to have your offer stand out from the competition’s offer.   These top-level affiliate partners can receive more than 100 emails a day with requests from companies to switch over to their affiliate program. If you want them to respond to your request it’s important to send them an offer that attracts their attention right away.

3. Affiliate marketing is a great way to boost your lead generation

Everybody wants high-quality leads, of course, you do. High-quality leads have a great chance to convert to customers. There are a lot of different ways to generate more high-quality leads using b2b affiliate marketing. Things like paid advertising, email newsletters, and social media campaigns are all known to score well. Potentially.   When using affiliate marketing to grow your b2b business you’re people from outside your company to generate your leads. These affiliates are extra motivated to bring you high-quality leads depending on the deal you made with them. If they only get their commission after a lead performs a certain action, then low-quality leads are not worth generating for them. They will always try to attract the best quality leads because only then they get paid.  

Focus on more than affiliate sales

Your final goal might be sales, that doesn’t mean every one of your affiliates should reach for that goal alone. You need to take a good look at your sales funnel and customer journey and decide where your affiliates can add real value to your business. You could, for instance, use your affiliates to build up your email database. You can then use that database to send out offers to potential customers.   It’s important to get leads that are easy to convert for you. If you’re strong in email marketing, getting your affiliates to build up your database is a great way to increase revenue. If you’re not that great in email marketing, but you have a killer converting website, it might be better to use your affiliates to send traffic to said website.  

4. Go all in

Running a successful affiliate program isn’t a side gig. It’s a real effort. Especially when you’re in b2b, which is generally harder than b2c. If you’re not all in, you’re better off not bothering at all. Things like creating a separate landing page for your affiliate program is a great start, but there is much more to it.   But you’ll always have to consider your resources, especially if your business is small. And even if you’re not that limited by resources, you still have to calculate whether or not an affiliate program is profitable enough for your b2b business. Do affiliate marketers have the potential to create enough revenue, leads, or growth for you to have it be worth your time and resources.  

Make your efforts count

Making a little profit or generating some leads on an affiliate program is probably not enough to make it viable for your business. Even if the gains seem to outweigh the costs. Why? Because an affiliate program doesn’t run itself. You need to be actively recruiting affiliates and you’re constantly communicating with them. There are reporting and tracking and you need to handle your pay-outs as well as your general administration. This can add up to a significant amount of time. And it can be well worth that time, but if profits are small, it might not be.   Bonus tip: use our savings calculator when switching from a afilliate software solution or from an affiliate network solution solution to see how much you can save on your affiliate program!  

5. Make sure your affiliates understand how b2b works

There are some big differences between b2c and b2b affiliate programs. One of the biggest may be that in b2b marketing, the sales cycles are longer than in b2c.   If your affiliates are used to promoting b2c offers, you might want to properly inform them about b2b sales cycles and their complexity. If you don’t, they might lose patience and leave the program early. You have to be prepared to invest time in communicating with your affiliates.   The sales cycle might be longer, but so are the margins. Meaning that the conversions bring a higher profit for the affiliates as well. It pays for them to be patient, literally. You just have to make sure they know what they’re up for.  

In summary

In summary, affiliate marketing works. Whether you’re running a b2c or b2b affiliate program. It’s proven to be an effective channel for generating leads, driving sales, and creating growth. Almost 90% of all advertisers consider affiliate marketing as a very important part of their marketing strategy. Using the methods above should help establish a successful b2b affiliate program. But remember, an affiliate program is never ‘done’. There are always affiliates leaving and there are always better affiliates out there. Keep on the lookout for new strategies and better techniques to stay ahead of the competition.  

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