Four key reasons why you need an affiliate programme in the US
| By Aaron Noy
US states offer a wholly different proposition to online operators compared to the UK and Europe, so where should the affiliate channel sit within a US operator’s marketing mix?
As the US market continues to open up, there appears to be a huge appetite for affiliates to invest their time and resources into developing key projects that will enable them to expand their reach and marketing efforts into this lucrative marketplace.
However, implementing a programme strategy that works for your brand within the confines of the regulatory limits is going to be key. There is no doubt that affiliates can not only bring a lot of value to your organisation, but over time they can also help you save on other marketing practices such as SEO and brand awareness.
In this article, I am going to list the four key reasons why US operators need to engage affiliates to grow their brand locally, and what marketing considerations need to be made before you take the leap to invest in this channel.
1. YOU CAN USE YOUR AFFILIATES FOR LOCAL REACH AND TO REDUCE YOUR MARKETING COSTS
The first thing you need to consider is what role affiliates will play in your brand and acquisition strategy, and how that can be leveraged in your local state-by-state marketing plan.
You’ll need to consider how affiliate partnerships can augment your existing localisation and marketing efforts, and what kind of affiliates (traffic sources) you really need and want to engage with to push your brand reach. Because of the stringent regulatory and licensing requirements that are operating in the US, the strategy that sits behind your programme will differ to that of European operators.
You’ll want to leverage your partners to push your brand across multiple channels or entry points, and you may also want to use them to increase your local SEO advantage in SERPs. Alternatively, and depending on your brand stature, you may decide to use key affiliates to augment your own marketing efforts if there is a product or service they deliver that users might find helpful.
Affiliate recruitment won’t be as difficult to start with, which means you can be a bit more selective when launching your programme and keep the cost of investing in this channel manageable. Once proven, you can then expand slowly to decrease marketing costs later on, via other brand and engagement channels.
Additionally, affiliates are proven to reduce SEO costs and increase brand awareness for operators. They typically invest their own time and resources into driving traffic without any kind of upfront cost. This helps you to save on localised SEO ranking and dominate on high-performing keywords that might attract customers to you. It also helps you diversify your content marketing strategies while giving you more budget to spend on paid advertising.
2. THE NATURE OF THE US PRESENTS A VALUE VS VOLUME GAME PLAN – SO WHICH IS YOURS?
Unlike here in the UK and EU markets, your affiliate programme objective isn’t going to be about simply getting as many partners on board as possible to push your brand reach. Instead, you will be looking to make more strategic partnership deals because of the state-by-state licensing limitations currently imposed. Your strategy is therefore going to be impacted twofold – from a cost perspective and a reach perspective.
US operators will need to consider affiliates with a wider remit not only as an acquisition channel supplier, but as a customer retention and loyalty supporter too. Using your partners to uplift the entire customer journey will help you to reduce your internal marketing and resource costs over time. With the right tracking metrics in place, you’ll be able to utilise strategic partnerships to track buyer behaviour and increase player tenure as the marketplace gets more competitive over time.
Brands that are engaging affiliates early on as part of their marketing channel need to be focusing relationships around key areas: brand reach or customer affinity marketing; customer conversion (which is centred around the competitive reach your partners can support you with); and traffic diversification. The fact is, your marketing budget will never allow you to be everywhere all the time but your affiliates can help you expand your brand. Best of all, they are paid on performance.
The truth is we don’t yet know how the US audience will take up the marketing offers brands supply over time. But, by on-boarding a variety of different types of affiliates, publishers, app traffic sellers and influencers, you may get some additional learnings to help you streamline your marketing strategy state-by-state, and formulate a mechanic to gain reach faster than you could via standardised paid media channels.
To build any successful affiliate programme, you have to start small and be focused on how the channel supplements your marketing strategy as a whole, while concentrating on value rather than volume to achieve the desired results.
3. YOU CAN LEVERAGE YOUR AFFILIATE CONNECTIONS TO LEARN LOCAL MARKETING FASTER
If you are moving into a new market or region, you will need to consider how to leverage local marketing methods to attract customers at the right price points into your portal. Each state is going to have a different marketing approach based on the local customs and behaviours.
Affiliates have a multitude of data running across their reporting suites internally, and you can leverage their intimate knowledge of consumer behaviour to ‘speed wobble’ your own marketing efforts. We all know that terminology changes from state to state, as do opinions on sports betting and gambling in general. Think about how you can leverage this localisation knowledge in your wider marketing remit.
Ask your partners what they think will work and then plug that feedback into your own local marketing plan. Affiliates who are already active in the region (and working with competitors) might be able to offer a helping hand or a lot of insight in this regard. Use their experience to determine the right strategy for leveraging these local markets and you could be leapfrogging your way to the front of the queue to provide great customer incentives that stimulate your brand growth.
4. CONSIDER THE TECH STACK AND USE IT EFFECTIVELY TO CUT COSTS AND INCREASE MARKETING INSIGHTS
For any affiliate programme to be successful, margins of profit are a big consideration. You don’t need or want to be paying for technology that you don’t fully utilise, and the technology that you do have in place should be giving you the insight you need to make quick and successful marketing decisions around your players or customers.
Weighing up the cost of building an in-house programme against launching with an appropriate network to meet your objective might be something to investigate before taking the leap to invest in this channel. Having the wrong tech stack in place will impact your profit margins and efficient programme running. While you need to have sophisticated and transparent tracking in place to build scale, there needs to be a clear marketing and tracking strategy outlined before you get into bed with a tech provider that, over time, won’t deliver.
The foundations of your programme need to be solid. Before you decide what tracking to implement you need a strategy and plan. Without it, you’ll likely be paying too much for tech you don’t need, or paying too little and being unable to scale across the states as they open. If you are just getting your US programme set up and you aren’t sure what tech to use, ask an expert. Too often I see programmes with the wrong infrastructure failing to make a profit and then paying loads to fix problems that could have been avoided in the first place. Consider also what other kinds of marketing you’ll want to track and whether your tech stack can support this – you don’t want to have multiple systems and processes in place costing you unnecessary time and money.
Affiliates can be hugely beneficial to your marketing operations but only if they are nurtured and valued for the work that they do while being complementary to your own. Not including affiliates as part of your marketing strategy could be detrimental to your growth and profits. It’s a no-brainer really, and one that all brands need to consider as part of their wider marketing mix.