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Partnership vs affiliate marketing

January 27, 2023

For a number of reasons people equate partner marketing, partnership marketing and affiliate marketing. One of the main reasons is that the affiliate marketing industry developed a reputation for get rich schemes and having a lot of scammers in their affiliate networks.

Because of this a lot of the affiliate platforms have started to re-brand themselves has partnership tools and their messaging has evolved to to talk about partnerships and talking about the product as a partner marketing platform.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance marketing strategy where affiliates (businesses, individuals, or organizations) promote products and services from another business in exchange for a commission on any sales generated from their referrals. It allows businesses to tap into an existing network of affiliates who are willing to promote their products or services at no additional cost.

The core of affiliate marketing is the relationship between the advertiser (the business whose product or service is being promoted) and the affiliate (the entity responsible for spreading awareness of the product or service). A successful affiliation requires both parties to have similar goals, be transparent with each other, and adhere to specific guidelines set forth by the advertiser.

In order to maximize their profits, companies often develop sophisticated tracking systems in house or use affiliate tracking software that allow them to track leads, conversions, and affiliate payments. They also provide an array of tools and resources to help affiliates understand how they can best represent their products and services.

Overall, affiliate marketing is a great way for businesses to increase brand recognition while also earning extra revenue. With proper planning and execution, it can be an effective component of any company's marketing plan.

What is partner marketing?

Partner marketing (also known as partnership marketing) is a strategic collaboration between two or more businesses or organisations. It involves any strategic collaboration between the parties that benefits both entities and helps them achieve their business goals. This type of marketing can be used to reach a broader audience base and mutually benefit both parties.

Partner marketers are often tasked with attracting new partners, building relationships with existing partners, creating campaigns, and managing the budget allocated for partner marketing activities. They must also ensure that all activities are completed within the set deadlines and budgetary guidelines.

Overall, partner marketing is an effective way for businesses to combine forces and increase their reach in the marketplace. By leveraging each other’s resources, businesses can create powerful campaigns that will help them reach their desired goals.

There are 14 main types of partner marketing:

  1. Affiliate marketing
  2. Cause marketing
  3. Co-branding
  4. Content marketing
  5. Cross promotion
  6. Distribution partnerships
  7. Event marketing
  8. Experiential marketing
  9. Integration partnerships
  10. Licensing partnerships
  11. Loyalty programs
  12. Product Placement
  13. Shared Stores
  14. Sponsorship

Some would add influencer marketing but for me this is a grey area, in some ways a little like Sponsorships.  They can truly be a partnership but also are often just another paid channel.

As you can see Affiliate marketing is a subset of partnership marketing, not the equivalent.

What are the pros of affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a great way for businesses to increase their online presence and boost brand recognition. Here are some of the top benefits associated with this type of marketing:

  • Low Cost: Unlike other forms of online advertising, affiliate marketing doesn’t require big upfront investments or a large budget. It’s also very cost efficient since its success is performance based, not an ongoing financial commitment or a pre-paid flat fee.
  • Attracts Quality Traffic: Affiliates generate qualified traffic that is more likely to convert into sales than general advertising campaigns. This makes it a great option for businesses looking to target specific consumers.
  • Strengthen Brand Awareness: Partnering with affiliates allows businesses to gain exposure to new audiences and build awareness for their products and services. This can help strengthen brand loyalty and encourage repeat customers.
  • Increased Revenues: By leveraging the reach and influence of partners, businesses can generate higher profits from additional sales. This can also help brands expand their customer base and create stronger relationships with existing customers.

Overall, a good affiliate program offers many advantages that make it an attractive option for businesses looking to increase their profits in a cost-effective manner.

What are the cons of affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing, like any other type of marketing, can have certain drawbacks or baggage associated with it. Some potential issues that may arise include:

  • Difficulty in finding and recruiting quality affiliates: It can be challenging to find individuals or organizations with a large and engaged audience that are willing to promote your products or services.
  • Lack of control over the affiliate's marketing efforts: Once an affiliate is promoting your business, you may have little control over how they choose to do so. This can lead to inconsistent or ineffective marketing efforts that do not align with your overall strategy.
  • Potential for fraud: Some affiliates may engage in fraudulent activities such as click fraud or lead fraud, which can cost your business money.
  • Difficulty in tracking and measuring success: It can be challenging to track and measure the effectiveness of individual affiliate marketing efforts, making it difficult to optimize your strategy.
  • Dependence on a third party: Affiliate marketing relies on the efforts of others to drive sales and revenue, making it more vulnerable to changes in the market or the actions of other players.

It's important to keep in mind that while affiliate marketing can have its drawbacks, it can also be a very effective way to reach new customers and drive sales when executed properly.

What are the pros of partnership marketing?

By leveraging each partners's expertise, networks, and resources, companies can gain access to new markets, customers, and opportunities for growth. Here are some of the top benefits associated with this type of marketing channel:

  • Increased Efficiency: Partnerships allow companies to operate more efficiently by taking advantage of shared resources and services. This can help them save time and money while also boosting their competitive positioning in the marketplace.
  • Shared Risk: Partnerships reduce the risk associated with business activities as both parties share in any potential losses or gains. By dividing up the responsibilities and costs associated with projects, partners can ensure that their businesses remain financially secure.
  • Greater Reach: If a company only has limited resources available to them, partnering with another business allows them to leverage access to wider networks and reach new audiences that would otherwise be out of reach.
  • Improved Performance: Studies have shown that working together on joint ventures can lead to improved performance from both parties involved. This can result in higher returns from investments and increased success rates for initiatives.

Overall, partnership marketing is a lucrative channel and an effective way for businesses to capitalize on each other’s strengths while mitigating risks and increasing efficiency.

What are the cons of partnership marketing?

Although partnership marketing has many benefits, it is important to consider potential drawbacks as well. Here are some potential drawbacks associated with this type of strategy:

  • Power Imbalance: Partnerships can result in one party having a greater amount of control over the joint venture. This can lead to an imbalance between the two parties and could potentially create tension or disagreements.
  • Conflict of Interests: Working with partners can lead to conflicting interests between businesses. This can be problematic if different companies don't share the same goals or have different approaches to achieving them.
  • Loss of Control: When working with partners, businesses may have less control over certain aspects of their joint venture than they would if they were working alone. This can be especially true when it comes to decisions related to marketing and operations.
  • Financial Risk: Joint ventures involve financial risks that both parties must manage together. This can include taking on additional costs and liabilities that could affect each businesses' bottom line if not managed properly.  

Overall, partnership marketing involves several considerations that should be taken into account before entering into partner agreements.

For both affiliate and partner marketing the cons can mostly be over come by clear communication, simple agreements and well thought out partner programs.  If you're just getting started, start small and understand that not all partners are going to work out.  Date a little before you get married.

So, which is better, affiliate or partner marketing?

The good news is, you don't have to choose and actually, you shouldn't. Since partnership marketing is an enter marketing category that includes affiliate marketing, referral marketing and everything else listed above, it should be a part of your partner programs.

What types of partner marketing should I focus on?

That's going to be an 'it depends' type of answer.  It will depend on where your business is at and what your goals are.  Business growth is a common goal but you'll need to get more specific than that.

Let's start with your digital marketing strategy to begin with.  If your goals are to deliver inbound leads because your product is a self service B2B SaaS then you'll want organic traffic from SEO and events like webinars.

To rank well from an SEO perspective you'll need two key things, lots of good content and backlinks. You would then focus your partner program on looking for content partners for things like guest posts, joint content creation and in some cases working with each partner's existing content to add relevant backlinks.

A consistent series of webinars can bring 1000s of additional visitors to your site every month, so event partners should be part of your partner program as well.  Events that are listed in or other marketplace can bring additional backlinks too.

Can affiliate marketing campaigns help in this scenario? Yes they can.  You can encourage affiliate marketers to create content (and they often do) and add backlinks as part of your affiliate program terms and conditions.

Many traditional affiliate marketers are somewhat stuck in their ways but when you have a great partner they're not just there to generate revenue, they can lift your brand awareness and add value in a lot of different ways.

Should I use an affiliate network?

In the beginning of the affiliate industry the focus was on revenue sharing and how to do it.  Some companies initially created in house affiliate programs and the affiliate tracking software to provide a tracking link so they could see how much they should be paying affiliates.

Soon after dedicated affiliate marketing software emerged which were much better at monitoring partner performance, and tracking link placements.  Over time SaaS companies emerged which were even better at tracking the prospective customer all the way through to a successful sale and make sure the right affiliate is paid.

Shortly after the dedicated software started to gain traction and it seemed like every business was launching an affiliate programme, the affiliate marketing ecosystem started to emerge and along with it, the affiliate networks.

It was in these early affiliate networks that the fraud and get rich quick schemes started to appear.  Websites popped up sprukeing how lucrative online businesses were and that all you needed to do was put up a simple web page and drive traffic to it to become a millionaire.  This why content affiliates suddenly sprung up in their 1000s.

Soon after, a lot of companies started to reject the affiliate networks and a lot of traditional affiliates and they set out to find their own affiliate partners manually, which turns out is a lot of hard work.

Wrapping Up

Both affiliate and partner marketing are a compelling and lucrative channel.  Overall a partner program should meet the needs of the business and support a number of different types of partnership activities.

Today, more modern partner marketing platforms, like intribe, offer one place to match you with all the different types of partners you might need and build amazing partnership campaigns.

What is Intribe? 

Intribe helps brands partner up to enjoy collaborative partnership marketing opportunities. Our clients tell us this delivers 10x the conversions of traditional advertising channels. 

We are currently running an early bird discount of 75% off our normal prices.

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