Influencer marketing and affiliate marketing: can they work together?

Back in January we published our first transparency report where we analyzed what we learnt so far, as well as our current priorities for SliceWP.

One of these priorities was creating valuable content for our current and potential customers. For this, we outlined a few blog article ideas to help small business owners that run on WordPress grow their online shops.

Meanwhile, the world took an unexpected turn and we found ourselves wondering how we can help and whether our content should keep being a priority.

And we realized the answer is yes, because the world didn’t completely stop, commerce is still happening and the means of doing it have shifted massively to online sales. This is a big and sudden change that might become quite the norm once the storm has passed.

The ones that need the most help right now to overcome the crisis are small brands: your friend who recently started a local fashion brand, your neighbour who runs a cupcake shop, a talented artist you bought a painting from or the florist on the corner of your street where you used to buy tulips every Monday. All these people have to figure out a way to stay in business by taking advantage of the online world.

Many of you have already jumped in the e-commerce train, but now what? How do you stay in business and grow your revenue?

Two ways in which you can do this are affiliate marketing and influencer marketing.

What if you implement both of them? Can they work together? Let’s see.

Affiliate marketing

We already wrote an extensive article about the benefits of affiliate marketing and how you can get started with it by using SliceWP on your WooCommerce store.

To summarize, the main advantage of affiliate marketing is the zero cost upfront. Money doesn’t change hands, unless the affiliate sells your product or service. They receive a percentage of that sale, so it’s in their best interest to properly promote your business. This is the ideal win-win situation, especially in times like this.

Another advantage of affiliate marketing is that it’s highly trackable. With an affiliates manager plugin such as SliceWP, you can track both visits and sales generated by your affiliates. Thus you can base your next marketing decisions on hard data and not on guess work. Each affiliate has their unique tracking link, therefore it’s also easy to compare which ones perform better and on which products/services.

However, as with anything in life, it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. Finding affiliates that believe in your brand and want to partner with you can be tough, so you have to be willing to put in the effort of searching for them, especially in the beginning. Read on to find out how you can trim possible affiliate candidates and find the right ones for you.

Influencer marketing

The influencer industry has toughened in the past years: there are more and more people aspiring to get a piece of the pie, many of them allured by the “glamorous” side and looking for a quick win.

Because of this, it has become harder to comb through the sea of influencers and pick the right ones and many brands have lost their trust. However, despite the challenges it faces, the industry is forecast to grow.

The biggest benefit of investing in influencer marketing is to grow your brand awareness. The bigger the influencer AND the better their audience (in terms of engagement and compatibility with your product or service), the more effective your campaign.

However, the bigger the influencer – the heftier the price. Pricing can vary from price per post to price per project (campaign), but it’s usually a flat rate with a part of it often paid upfront. This is understandable, because they create content specifically for you (usually in the form of photos, videos, blog articles) and that content comes with a cost.

If you’re a small business, working with big industry names might be out of your reach at first. In this case, you may want to look for micro influencers (people with smaller audiences and high engagement, either just starting out or working in a smaller niche).

Affiliate and influencer marketing: a winning combo?

The problem with influencer marketing campaigns is that it’s very hard to track their return on investment, unless you use a promo code or tracking link.

Promo (discount) codes are great incentives for the influencer’s audience because they act as a call-to-action. Plus, the followers are rewarded for their loyalty with the discount itself. Win-win!

On the other hand, affiliate tracking links will tell you more information about the customers’ behavior (maybe they clicked through, but didn’t complete the purchase), compared to using promo codes alone (these will appear only if a purchase has been made, so monitoring traffic would be more difficult).

For the best results, we recommend you use both affiliate tracking links and promo codes whenever possible (depending on the platform used for promotion).

With SliceWP you can do both, as long as you have the Affiliates Coupon add-on installed. With this add-on you can associate affiliates to coupon codes, thus when a coupon is used on an order, the affiliate will be automatically rewarded, and you’ll have proof that the campaign is working.

The need to track your influencer campaign’s return on investment sets the foundation for mixing influencer marketing with affiliate marketing.

If you’re a small business that has to do the groundwork of finding affiliates, we recommend you to focus your efforts on finding a few micro influencers that would be open to work with you as affiliates. As we mentioned before, they can be passionate creative people that are just starting out and their type of content fits with your brand.

We see three ways in which this can work out nicely both for you, as a business owner, and for the influencer:

#1. Percentage of sales

This works well if the influencer already uses your product or service and is already mentioning it on their platforms.

Nothing beats a happy customer who raves about your product, so make sure you take care of them. They might be rare, but not impossible to find. Approach them and see if they would be willing to partner with you and become an affiliate.

#2. Free product/service + percentage of sales

In order for the influencer to create genuine and valuable content for you, they will need your product or service, if they don’t use it already. Therefore, you can offer it for free, while also rewarding them a percentage of the referred sales in exchange for their content and promotional efforts.

This can also be an ongoing partnership, depending on what you sell. You can supply them monthly with the product (for free) in exchange for content.

The product/service you sell should be something they need/want both to incentivize them, but also to ensure the content they create will be of good quality.

This is extremely important to consider, because weak content might actually harm your business. An influencer/affiliate that doesn’t understand your brand, your product/service or simply doesn’t resonate with it is detrimental to your business. In this case, your money would be better spent elsewhere. It’s better to work with just a handful of people you have a good connection with and who bring the best results, instead of spreading yourself thin.

#3. Flat fee + percentage of sales

Maybe through your research you found someone whose content you really love, but you might not be able to afford paying for a full campaign. In this case, try to negotiate a smaller flat fee accompanied by a percentage of sales. If they like what you’re selling and resonate with your brand, they might be willing to accept.

Being an influencer nowadays has become a job in itself, so treat them with respect whichever the case. A lot of work is involved behind the scenes to create the content we see online: hundreds of photos to get just 1 or 2 winning captures, countless video and post-production hours for a 5-minute clip, buying props and creating setups, hours or even days spent in researching and writing articles, plus on top of everything the bare living and education costs.

Of course, we mentioned earlier that not everyone takes their job seriously (like in any domain). The trick is to find those who do and create beneficial partnerships for both of you. Don’t forget to choose to work only with people that resonate with your brand.

We know how difficult it is to find strong partnerships that are mutually beneficial, so we invite you to share your experience and tell us what worked for your business.