It’s crunch time, and you’re trying to come up with ways to get more from your publishers. When you think about optimizing the partners in your affiliate program, you’ll likely think of two opportunities first:

  1. Spending flat fees for exposure
  2. Spending additional commissions for exposure.

And, you’re not wrong—these optimization strategies have a long record of success. However, with premium placements booked months ago and the price for exposure at its highest this time of year, I have found it helps to get creative. Here are ways brands can boost Q4 performance by using an incentive campaign strategy.

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Enter the incentive campaign

The incentive campaign is vastly underrated and underutilized in my experience. What’s so great about it is the flexibility it offers, allowing you to easily customize goals and payoffs based on your key initiatives and budgets. While it can require a little more initial legwork than your traditional optimizations, it offers the opportunity to grow your program and deepen the relationships with your publisher partners.

Here’s how to make it work for you

  • Determine your candidates — Which partners are you hoping to grow? Are they new to your program? Which type of publisher model do they use? I recommend keeping your list between 5-20, as you’ll be reaching out to these partners and tracking their performance individually.
    • Example: Focus on click-active partners who have not driven a sale over the last two months.
  • Determine your goals What is it you want these partners to accomplish? What is the time frame you’re evaluating? Use this opportunity to review reporting and vertical benchmarking to help determine whether you want these partners to get click-active before the end of the month or grow 30% YoY.
    • Example: Task publishers to drive $1,000 in sales in the month of December.
  • Determine your incentives — Why should they focus on you? We’re in peak shopping season, so you need to make sure your publisher partners have a compelling reason to promote you. Incentives can range from future promises such as an exclusive offer, an increased rate in the new year, etc. to bonuses (a flat fee, a gift card to your store, etc.).
    • Example: If they drive $1,000 in sales in December, offer a $100 bonus.

Once you’ve done all that, start your outreach! Make sure you tell these partners why you’ve selected them, what you’re asking them to do, and what it is you’re offering if they can make it happen. Share upcoming offers and creative so they have what they need to promote your brand.  Check in with them throughout the incentive campaign– if these publishers are going to be working hard to grow your business, you want to set them up for success.

Even if some of the partners you selected did not reach their goals at the end of the incentive campaign, you should have better relationships with all of them and a stronger optimization strategy moving forward. That, in turn, sets you up well for the next campaign.

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Katie England has been with Rakuten Marketing for over 4 years, and she is currently working as a Manager, Strategic Services. In this role, she consults with current and prospective clients on how to make the most of our product suite. She is based out of Tampa, FL, though likes to spend her free time traveling (or planning her next trip). When she’s at home, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two dogs.