As most people working in affiliate marketing can affirm, the days when the channel only consisted of voucher code sites and cash-back affiliates are long gone. It’s becoming ever more important to focus on your content and blogger affiliates, as part of your “long-tail” publisher group.

In a recent catch up with a client here at Silverbean, we were comparing affiliate performance in February 2014 (pre-Silverbean management), to February 2015, and a telling comment was made – “Well, I don’t consider what we had back then as affiliate marketing. It was just voucher code affiliates generating sales”. So here we are, one year later after Silverbean took over the program, one year of hard work, and we now have a good amount of content affiliates and fashion bloggers signed up and active for this bespoke fashion client.

Added to the fact that bloggers make the brand’s product appear in a very current, fashionable and glamorous way, these types of affiliates are fantastic to introduce the brand to new customers. And isn’t that what all the businesses need in order to grow? Blogs exist for all kinds of verticals, such as travel, beauty, home interior, culture and many more. Lifestyle bloggers cover several of the listed areas including fashion, so, it’s no wonder that all so many businesses are keen on getting the best ones on board.

But therein lies the challenge – as a brand, how do you attract and retain the cooperation of influential bloggers in a competitive industry? Well, lucky for you, we’re here to give you some helpful tips and hints as to how you can make your collaboration with bloggers work, despite the potential pitfalls.

First of all: Analyse the traffic that comes in via your already existing blogger affiliates to get a good understanding of their performance. Do you have a lot of traffic coming in through bloggers? Does the traffic convert? Is there content in line with your brand message? If you’re answering “no” to any of these, it’s time to re-assess!

Next step: Create a content strategy…

1. Content Creation – Who does what?

Have a think about what kind of content would you like to offer to the blogger. Usually, bloggers prefer to write in their own style, with their own voice. It is possible to minimise time and costs by offering them copy from your own copywriter, however don’t be offended if they decline. The whole point of blogging is that it’s written from their perspective, and forcing copy onto them can defeat the object entirely.

For almost all the merchants we work for, the need and importance of bloggers and high quality content sites has been increasing. As a result,the affiliate marketing team here at Silverbean now works closely with our in-house Content and Social Media Marketing experts, who give us great insight into both. This not only comes in handy for the blogger recruitment, but also for in-house content creation.

The offer of high-resolution imagery to accompany a launch of a new Handbag Spring Collection or a Mother’s Day offer is essential. If you gift them, they obviously take their own picture to put on the website. This counts, especially for fashion bloggers.

2. The Payment Model

The first consideration here has got to be fairness. The payment model should be chosen wisely, to ensure a fair compensation and appreciation of the blogger you work with.

It is no secret that – exceptions left aside – not many sales will be tracked via the affiliate network after a blogger published a feature. This is owned to the early touch point bloggers have in a customer journey. As most affiliate networks still track on a last-click-wins model, combined with the fact that 33% of people in 2015 say they frequently use voucher codes, chances are high that sales which originally were triggered by a blogger, will end up in a voucher code affiliate’s basket.

One of the major affiliate networks, Affiliate Window, has the ability to track so called “assisted” sales, describing the affiliates that played a part in the customer journey. The number of assists within a certain period of time is one of the metrics you can base the commission structure on.

Alternative payment models we think are useful and fair for the bloggers are Cost per Click or the payment of a flat fee for an article (sponsored content).

Many bloggers are open to a discussion, so ask them and have an open discussion about their payment. They will appreciate that you are looking for a fair strategy aside from the traditional CPA (which would be commission on an actual tracked sale), so the relationship is mutually beneficial. For what it’s worth – affiliate marketing is based on a transparent and beneficial collaboration for both sites, which is essential to make the program work.

3. Workflow – Keep it simple!

We can only advise you to keep the administrative part of the content allocation as streamlined and simple as possible to avoid extra work. Set up a Dropbox where you can upload new content/imagery wherever necessary and update the affiliates regularly.

If the agency and client work on the project spreadsheet – a Google Doc might be exactly what you need to keep things transparent.

4. Keep Track of Success

KPIs have to be set up that will be measured after a blog post or any other content went live with a blogger. KPIs can be clicks, assisted sales or actual sales and revenue, generated in an previous agreed period of time. The choice of KPIs should be in alignment with the agreed payment models.

Now…. we have a wonderful strategy and know what we want. But how do we get all these great bloggers out there signed-up and active for our brand?

How to find the right bloggers for your brand:

As an agency, Silverbean can benefit here from years of relationship building with bloggers and getting to know about newly signed-up affiliates from the networks. Running a search by keyword in the affiliate program will help, which has the advantage if the bloggers are already signed up to the network. But we want more!

Tools such as Followerwonk and Buzzsumo give you the top influencers for certain topics discussed online. Also browsing on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest will help you find trending bloggers for your brand.

Everyone likes gifts!

If the brand is open to gifting blogger for a blog feature and if the brand has quite a good reputation in addition – blogger recruitment will be easier. Premium and luxury brands often do not have the possibility to give away their high-value products for free. Especially when they don’t know the outcome and effect the blog post will have. As an alternative, some brands lend items to the bloggers or give them a hefty discount for their purchase (can you give away 50%?). Some really popular bloggers ask for a budget for the creation of an article.

Blogger Event – The Building and Strengthening of Relationships

It’s no secret that it is easier and more effective to work with people you know, than with strangers, who do not really know the brand. Especially when they can choose daily from a huge amount of brands, products and offers to push via their blog.

In February, Silverbean organised 2 blogger events in London. We can say with full self-confidence that both were a success. Here’s a little insight into both…

OKA Blogger Event

Our client OKA Direct offers stylish, high quality home furniture and accessories. We invited the bloggers from the areas Interior Design, Home & Garden and some Lifestyle bloggers to the OKA Store in Chelsea, London.

Image shows a living room decorated by oka direct

The aim was the introduction of the brand and of the Spring Collection. Besides delicious catering Silverbean and OKA put together Goody Bags and organized a cushion arrangement competition in the store, to engage the bloggers and create some beautiful content for their blogs. We as an agency and the client had both the opportunity to talk to the bloggers and see what they need in order to make this relationship work. It’s so much better to see each other face-to-face then only via email or the phone.

Did it work?

In a word, yes. OKA got a lot of coverage during and shortly after the event across social media platforms, where the bloggers posted about the event and posted images, but also months after some bloggers put together high-quality and fantastic blog posts about OKA collection launches, new product ranges and promotions. Next to strengthening the relationship with existing bloggers, Silverbean managed to create new relationships and recruit new bloggers to the program. Also with some who were not able to come to the event. The invitations opened up the communication with new bloggers already before the event.

We will definitely set up a new event for Autumn and will continue with the events also throughout 2016, to get additional talented and creative bloggers on board. Let’s be honest – it also was a lot of fun!

ATG Tickets – Wicked Event

Also in February, Silverbean held a bloggers event in conjunction with our client ATG Tickets, the UK’s leading Theatre, Arts and Entertainment Ticketing operations with theatres such as Apollo Victoria (Wicked), Lyceum (The Lion King), Phoenix (Once), Piccadilly (Jersey Boys) and Savoy (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

Silverbean invited key content and lifestyle bloggers to attend the successful ‘Wicked’ show at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.

As with the OKA event, we gave the bloggers a strong reason to attend – as well as two complimentary tickets to the show, attendees received free drink vouchers to enjoy a tipple before the show, during the interval and after curtain down. They also took home an ATG goodie-bag filled with DVD’s, information on up and coming shows and other ATG freebies.

The arrangement on the night allowed both Silverbean and the ATG team optimum discussions with affiliates, to chat about their needs to promote the brand and how we would follow up after the event.

Did it work?

Again, yes! The brand received content and social coverage from the key affiliates who attended, and even after the event we are seeing stronger exposure leveraged for ATG as a result of making our affiliates feel happy and special. It worked so well, that we are taking the ATG affiliate blogger event on the road, with touring shows such as Women on the Verge and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Silverbean and ATG are collaborating to organise affiliate nights in Edinburgh, Liverpool Birmingham and Sunderland.

And a final note…

The building of long term relationships with content affiliates and bloggers is a continuous task. If you put in a lot of effort and some creativity, it will work and it will definitely be worth it. So don’t get discouraged if bloggers need a while to react to your offers. As the blogger-sphere continues to evolve, you’ll be able to adapt your engagement strategy and make these relationships work hard for your brand. And if all else fails, Silverbean are happy to support you with the management of your affiliate program and/or creation and development of an effective long tail affiliate marketing strategy. Just get in touch!