Recession proof your affiliate programme with these 5 easy steps

| By contenteditor
As we find ourselves hurtling into 2023, the current economic climate is creating worries across all industries, the affiliate space included. These tips should come in handy for some tough times ahead, writes Lee-Ann Johnstone

This year we’ll likely be navigating our way through the impending recession. Not the best way to start a new year, but there is no denying that things may be a little bleak in the first quarter of 2023. 

You might be worrying about how much you will have to spend to secure your real estate with top affiliates on a monthly basis, and you may be considering reducing budget while uncertain outcomes prevail.

Yet how you react now will affect the overall performance of your brand and programme revenue in future.  

Here are five quick steps you can take that will help see you through some potentially tough and uncertain times ahead.  

Keep calm, don’t panic!

First thing’s first, it’s important that you don’t panic! This is not the first recession we’ve weathered in the affiliate industry and it won’t be the last. Although times are a little uncertain right now, affiliate marketing has always come out on top in such times of financial insecurity as the performance paying model that underpins our industry is so agile. 

With careful planning, you can opt to look at low-risk strategies based on data that will see you on the upturn. Get back to basics, and start preparing a SWOT analysis, so you can have a detailed look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Understand and get to know your customer avatar and where they will be spending time online, and how they will be spending during this period. Get to know what they need and want and match that back to your affiliate programme partners to gain momentum in niches that fill these gaps. 

This will allow you to create a clear strategy over the coming months. Just having a plan will calm you down and get you ready for the harder times ahead. Looking into your competition is also a good way to get yourself on a solid footing. Benchmark yourself against their activities and results so you know how you are faring comparatively. Only after you have done this can you get to work on your strategy. 

Segmentation is also critical: you need to ensure you are spending your time and money where you should be. Are you covering the right customer segments? What about the geographical locations suitable to your market? Often, after a while we can get a little lax in how we handle our data so make sure you are using it wisely. The same goes with your partners. Analyse them and see if they are driving value to your direct ad revenue spend.

Double down and secure longer tenures

Remember the recession back in 2009? The best businesses that came out of it weren’t ones that shied away from spending in channels they knew converted, they were the ones that were confident in their revenue streams and partnerships and doubled down on the investments they knew already worked for them. 

Instead of working on a month-on-month rolling contract, try and secure longer-term deals. It will maintain a steady revenue stream for you and will also offer additional safety and security.  

If you are forming new partnerships, then make sure there are appropriate partnership agreements in place, with minimum KPIs and get-out clauses if they don’t work for both parties. Now is the time to set very clear partnership expectations. 

Keep testing new traffic sources – don’t retreat

Although you will be focusing on the tried and tested methods of traffic to generate solid revenue, it’s also a good time to test out new traffic sources for experimentation. You’ll likely find the pricing of traffic will fluctuate and without testing you could miss out on new niches that could yield great results. 

For example, in spite of the success of influencer marketing, it has always been used with a little caution and not often valued as much as it could be within the igaming industry. As a trial, you could source micro or nano-influencers on appropriate channels such as Twitter to test activation on certain promotions or seasonal events. Or even explore podcast advertising to establish yourself as a thought leader in the affiliate space to raise awareness.

You may also want to have a look at affiliate networks or incentive and loyalty sites to build brand reach at a cost-efficient rate of advertising. Previously these sites have been thought to deliver poor quality traffic, but in a recession – where people are naturally going to want to price match and find bargains – you could look at how to leverage branding and seasonal events to talk to consumers who are in this mindset and niche to convert. 

Look to offer CPA deals with guaranteed deposits to mitigate risk when testing new sources during this time. The activation marketing on these kinds of deals would be fairly low-touch on your part to begin with and will give you an idea as to what else is out there.  

Use all of your data to make informed choices

Data is everywhere; it’s your job to collect it, collate it and to make informed choices about your strategic direction. First of all, make sure you have all the necessary integrations and tracking in place to provide an overview of player values and tenure. 

From there you need to analyse your traffic sources. Have a look at the volumes from all different areas and see how these link up to conversions. These can also be aligned to the player lifecycle where you can have a clear indicator of your return on investment over time.  

This will also allow you to be more specific about what you want/need from affiliate partners to bring you the best results. 

Focus on deepening collaboration with your partners

Remember your affiliate partners are your front line when it comes to pushing your brand to a customer. You should be looking to them for information on what they are seeing as patterns in terms of consumer behaviour and uptake in the wider marketplace. Leverage your connection with partners in your programme to tell you what and how to improve your offering.

You also need to remember that partnerships tend to work better when you know, like and trust one another. Stop thinking of affiliates as traffic suppliers and start thinking of them as an extension of your marketing team. Make sure you put in time for regular meetings and catch-ups, and pencil in some time at any conferences and events where you can brainstorm ideas together.

Your affiliates will also have some knowledge from other campaigns and other brands as to what customers want and how you can add value to them as players. Don’t underestimate their contribution to your partnership so engage them in conversations that give you insight vs just pushing them to do more. 

In summary

Get clarity on what you need to deliver, take stock of what you have and what you need to focus on. Although a challenging economy will cause us to take pause and breathe a little, it is important to know that if you follow these steps, stay calm and don’t panic everything will be fine in the end. 

The beauty of affiliate marketing is its adaptability and its ability to evolve given any situation, and I for one am excited to see what innovations happen next.

You can see Lee-Ann cover this topic at iGB Affiliate London 2023 on 9 February.

Lee-Ann Johnstone
Lee-Ann Johnstone
is the founder of AffiliateInsider and one of the forerunners of affiliate marketing. Lee-Ann has managed many blue chip and startup affiliate programmes, helping grow their global reach across verticals from retail and ecommerce, payments and fintech, to esports and igaming.

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