Tag : customer loyalty

Winning at Affiliate Survivor

affiliate survivalSometimes being an affiliate can be like participating in Survivor. To win you have to need to outwit, outlast, and outplay your competitors.

There’s a reason the show Survivor has endured on TV for 36 seasons. The premise is very simple. However, it plays out with unexpected twists and turns each time as the mix of various personalities navigate a social experiment with many factors out of their control. Participants surely understand the basics. Many are even super-fans or devoted students of the game. But crucial to the competition are adaptability and savvy in all facets of the game.

And while there’s no getting voted off the affiliate island, consumers do “vote”with their wallets. That means affiliates must be able to deftly navigate a myriad of areas including social, content, brand building, SEO, business planning and more. Faltering in any of those areas might extinguish your affiliate aspirations. Game over.

Outwit

Have a Plan – You’ve got to have a plan and execute on it. It’s inevitable  that things change – and rapidly. You’ll need to adapt and be flexible. But without a solid plan going in or an evolving plan, you’re not going to be able to move forward.You should review your business plans every 6 months and update as necessary.

Go Deep – Going a mile wide and an inch deep, isn’t going to get you to success. Instead think about doing the opposite. By focusing on a very specific niche and taking deeper dive into that specific market, you’ll be able to better serve the needs of the audience. It’s a more effective tactic to have a small, extremely loyal user base. , than a huge base that isn’t invented in what you are promoting. Maybe as a travel affiliate your niche is Las Vegas or vacationing families or roadtrippers or foodies.

Outplay

Leverage Content – One way to outplay rivals is to create content they can’t compete with. Because affiliates are often smaller companies they are more nimble than the brands they promote. This enables them to innovate more quickly. That’s true of leveraging content marketing as well. Creating unique, compelling content that has a laser focus on the target market, can be done very quickly by affiliates. And by using analytics it’s simple to see what resonates with the audience and what converts.

Be a Trendsetter – Get in front of breakout and seasonal trends. If you’re planning in advance it’s easier to see in July what might be hot for the holidays. There are also more seasonal events emerging – like Spring Break. Always be on the lookout for new trends in pop culture, art, among celebrities, etc. Often trends from other areas can be easily translated (with a bit of creativity) to specific niches. It might be a color that is hot, a style of decor or a something in fashion. For example if you’re a travel affiliate, you could leverage a return to nostalgia. More people are looking for experience getaways that recreate their childhood – like renting an RV and visiting all the National Parks or taking in baseball games at several major league parks.

Get Creative with Content – Think beyond the blog. Posts are great for some content. But think about mixing it up. You can use quizzes, infographics, video, reviews, user generated content. unusual content formats for recommending products and more. Variety keeps regular visitors interested. It also adds interest and can help with search rankings. Check out more ways to get creative with your content.

Outlast

Build a Brand – Consider what you’re doing to develop the brand of your affiliate website. That’s because brand building comes with many benefits. They include recognition, loyalty, a perception of size and quality, and the perception of experience and reliability.  These combine to provide a significant comfort level for potential customers. Establishing overall trust helps shoppers eventually become repeat customers, which can increase average order value and lifetime customer value – all important success metrics.

Think Recurring Revenue – With affiliate marketing, there is no assurance that your current strategy will work in a month. It could be Google updating their ranking algorithm, your favorite affiliate program shutting down, or media buying costs increasing. It’s wise to mitigate against the possibility of major changes.

Diversify Revenue –  Don’t rely on a single traffic source or a single monetization method. Affiliate, pay-per-click, sponsorships, paid placements all help your affiliate business from being vulnerable to one source of making money.

Look for New Promotional Opportunities – There may be some brands that perform well for your affiliate sites, but consider also joining new programs. Don’t get stuck in what’s working now. But you may be overlooking other programs to help increase your affiliate revenue and work well with in your niche.

Take Advantage of Tech Trends – Staying on top of what’s hot in tech can put you ahead of the competition. Whether it’s AI, chatbots, new mobile tech, blockchain and cryptocurrency developments or whatever else is coming down the pike, it’s always an advantage to be thinking about how developments might impact your business. Or better yet, how you can leverage that tech to make more money.

Careful consideration of all these areas can help make you the ultimate affiliate survivor with a sustainable, successful business.

Affiliates Need to Consider the Brands’ Customer Service Rep

affiliate customer satisfaction

As most affiliates work to establish themselves as a brand, it’s worth putting more emphasis on the customer service of businesses they opt to promote.

Since affiliates are not the actual sellers of a product or service, they don’t always consider the quality of the customer service of the retailers they work with. But similar to the manner in which affiliates choose to represent a brand can have an impact on the brand itself, it cuts the other way as well. Affiliates working with brands that have less-than-stellar reputations for customer service could actually end up negatively affecting the affiliate’s brand.

That’s because often the experience of buying through an affiliate link is so seamless that consumers don’t differentiate between the affiliate and the brand. So, if something goes wrong there may be some people looking to blame the affiliate.

Satisfaction is Job 1

Customer satisfaction plays an important role within business. It is the leading indicator to measure customer loyalty, identify unhappy customers, reduce churn and increase revenue. It’s also also a key point of differentiation that helps businesses to attract new customers in competitive business environments.

And keeping a current customer is valuable. According to White House Office of Consumer Affairs, on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. Some research says that it is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Econsultancy data shows that around 70% of marketers say it costs less to retain a customer than it does to acquire a new one.

Additionally, social media has given a voice to those that are dissatisfied. According to data from New Voice Media, 59% of people share poor customer experiences online. On the flip side, happy, satisfied customers become the repeat buyers who keep your business alive and well. They also bring new customers your way. American Express noted that one satisfied customer can equal up to nine referrals. And data from Temkin Group suggests that companies with happy customers have as much as a 16% advantage over competitors in consumers’ willingness to buy, reluctance to switch brands, and likelihood of recommending them.

So when looking to promote offers from a business, here are some things that affiliates can do related to customer service:

Social media – Check out the social media accounts of the business. Look for how they publically respond to complaints – both the tone and how quickly they react. Also, do searches on each social media platform for what people are saying about the brand. This can be a good indicator as to issues that may crop up in the future.

Be a customer – It’s always a good idea to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. One way to do that is to make a purchase and see how smoothly – or not – the process is. Even if you don’t have an issue with the product, you can also call the customer service line. Ask some questions to see what kind of response you get. Is it a live human? A chat bot? This lets you evaluate a typical customer service experience.

Check their website – Review the retailer’s website to see if they prominently display a contact information and a customer service number. You want to make sure there is an easy way for customers to contact the brand in the event there is a problem.

Know the policies – Check out the retailer’s policies. Do they accept returns? What are the guarantees/warranties they offer?  Read the fine print and make sure you are okay with all the policies for replacement or repair and liability.

Ask questions – It’s perfectly acceptable to ask the affiliate contact about customer satisfaction. Does the company measure satisfaction? Conduct regular surveys? Is the feedback taken seriously? Are changes actually implemented? What happens if you get caught in the crossfire of an angry consumer? These are all questions that you should ask before promoting an online retailer.

Understanding how those you work with resolve customer disputes and work to improve customer satisfaction can only help you select partners to promote that will benefit your business and increase the loyalty of your customers.

Make More Money: Build a Solid Foundation of Trust

Building trust

Online marketers who think the cries of “fake news” doesn’t apply to how they do business are very mistaken.

Establishing trust in the era of fake news (being called out on all political sides) is critical and getting more difficult – and not just for media outlets. Marketers and ecommerce players are experiencing a trickle down effect as fake news bleeds into so many facets of life, including online shopping.

Trust is Everything

However, with so much information available to people, it’s not just news stories. Everything from websites, blogs and more are  being viewed with growing skepticism. Consumers aren’t sure who to trust about anything online.

A big part of convincing people on the path to purchase is creating a sense of trust with potential buyers. This is especially important for new and upstart companies. But consumers are struggling to discern if websites have an agenda, if they are legitimate, if reviews are real, whether product recommendations really come from objective sources and actual testing, and other questions. Consumer skepticism is rampant.

Baymard’s Checkout Usability study reveals that 18% of users have abandoned a checkout flow during the last 3 months because they didn’t trust the site.

This is a big problem for internet marketers that are constantly competing for attention and dollars in an increasingly crowded online marketplace. Without consumer trust a brand can wither.

Traditional Methods are Eroding

In the past there were a variety of proven ways for marketers to foster trust. But those traditional methods are eroding and no longer as effective.

Paid Recommendations – Buyers now understand that influencer marketing (including so-called mommy bloggers, celebrities, and content bloggers with big audience reach) can be bought and paid for by brands with sponsored posts and run of site advertising.These bloggers are required by the FTC to disclose if they are paid by a brand and if they make money for promoting or recommending products. And while most bloggers are adamant they wouldn’t recommend a product/service they don’t believe in, the financial compensation from the brand can taint that endorsement for some consumers.

Media Mentions – In the past, highlighting all the places your product or service received a mention in the press, was a good way to foster trust. Many brands would have (and still do) a section on their website – maybe even showcased on the homepage – where they would gather all their accolades and present them to visitors as a way of touting legitimacy. Having a third-party saying positive things about your company was a well-proven way to build trust with consumers.

However, the effectiveness of that tactic is lessening. Using media mentions on your website or in marketing efforts (such “Appeared in the NY Times”  or “As Seen on CNN” or “Reviewed by whateverwebsite.com”) no longer carries the same weight as many people question the basic legitimacy of many media outlets – both in print and online. In fact, there can be negative connotations of associating with some media, depending on the target demographics of your product or service.

Reviews – There’s also an air of distrust around reviews based on evidence of fake reviews on Amazon and Yelp. Until last October, Amazon permitted so-called “incentivized reviews,” whereby reviewers were given free or discounted products in return for reviews, so long as the reviewer made the arrangement clear. However, after incentivized reviews started flooding the site, many clearly fraudulent, Amazon banned them for the vast majority of products.

Tactics That Still Work

There’s still credibility in some traditional trust methods such as trust logos (Google Trusted Store, BBB Accredited, TRUSTe) that convey trust through business authenticity. As well as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) seals  including Norton, Thawte, Trustwave, Geotrust, Comodo, etc., that denote trust through technical security.

Additionally, highlighting partnerships with businesses you work with engenders trust by association with recognized, established  brands. This old chestnut continues to foster trust because people will make the mental leap that if you are partnered with Apple or Microsoft or Cuisinart and those are respected brands, your business must also be trustworthy.

What’s Next?

So, with some traditional trust methods declining, the future is still in flux as to what will be the most effective tactics for creating trust.

  • Social recommendations – Social circles (from only friends, family and direct social connections) continue to be given more weight in purchasing decisions and establishing trust. People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend, according to a report by Nielsen
  • New tools – A handful of new tools and plug-ins are coming out to allow brands to show peer reviews and mentions in real-time on Facebook and other social platforms. Because shoppers can see real-time reviews and actually verify the reviews are coming from a real person, it could equate to more trust for brands.
  • Artificial intelligence – AI will be used by many brands to help customers with everything from finding products to providing customer service. If these bots can effectively solve customer problems (and that’s still being determined), customers may find more effective customer service fosters increased trust.
  • Increased personalization – Like relationships in real life, trust is built over time. Better tools for creating a more personalized experience should help brands develop trust with customers.

Regardless of what form it takes – tools, better service, more verified reviews – creating trust with customers is a foundation of marketing that can’t be ignored and must be in place for success.