SEO Blog

What is Affiliate Marketing?

04 June, 2021

Viktoria Esther Labusga – Digital Marketing Specialist EMEA bei Nike

From this video you’ll learn that…

  • Affiliate marketing is just referring to a product or service by sharing it online
  • In affiliate marketing you have to be authentic to the audience
  • If you don’t have figures, this means you have nothing
  • A brand needs to be careful what they do in different countries

Sophia:
Hi, guys; thank you so much for watching us today. And today, we have a great speaker, Viktoria, the Digital Marketing Specialist in the EMEA region be Nike. Hi, Viktoria.

Viktoria:
Hi.

What are your hobbies?

Sophia:
That’s nice to host you today. And before we run into the professional questions, let’s just talk about you as a person. What are your hobbies? How do you balance your personal life and professional life, especially during quarantine?

Viktoria:
Yes, so as you already said, especially during those times, I think it’s essential to balance like the professional and the personal life. Because yeah, I’m working from home since, yeah, more than a year now. And I think a lot of other people do the same, so it’s kind of essential to have a clear line between your professional and personal life.
So, what helps me a lot is to stay active. I do many sports, so I play hockey on a team, and I go horse riding. And then I also do workouts at the moment, and Epson, we are allowed to do exercises in the park, so I do that. So, yeah, daily almost, and then yeah, at the same time, it’s also super important for me to stay in contact with my friends and family.
Of course, it’s not easy nowadays, but like if there’s the possibility I meet up with them for dinner or a walk and otherwise here, we just have zoom calls. So, yeah, it’s a new normal now.

Sophia:
Exactly, new routine. Well, I think you’re the first person I’m talking to who plays on the hockey team. So that’s kind of like, professional team or just…

Viktoria:
Just for fun. So, it’s also not ice hockey; it’s field hockey.

Sophia:
Wow. Okay.

Viktoria:
And yeah, it’s pretty big in the Netherlands, as the sport and I played when I was younger, also back in Germany. So now it’s just lovely to go like once a week, have a little bit of team spirit.

Sophia:
Wow, that’s so cool. Hockey sounds amazing. My father used to play hockey, and so I feel like this passion for hockey as well.

Viktoria:
Yeah.

What is your professional background?

Sophia:
Okay, what about your professional background? Because your LinkedIn profile is wealthy and lots of information. We know that now you work be Nike. But where did you start your professional experience?

Viktoria:
Yes. So, I would go back to my studies because I studied International Management Foreign Trade, which gives a broad spectrum of different business areas.
So, like from macroeconomics, microeconomics, finance. So I quickly kind of saw, okay, marketing is something that I’m passionate about. Sand social media. Yeah I like to explore, be creative, also digital marketing.
So, my first job started during my studies in a marketing agency, a kind of marketing consultancy, where I got into e-mail marketing, print marketing. So this got me into the marketing field. And then I yeah, I worked also in an agency in London, kind of more for specific display marketing.
And then, when I moved to Amsterdam, I worked for ABN AMRO, a prominent Dutch bank. And then, I was also working more in digital marketing. But it was pretty nice because it was also a mix of traditional marketing. So, we were also working on radio, sports, and event marketing.
So that was super interesting, and yeah, now I met Nike, and I’m still in digital marketing, because as we know, the digital business is growing so much and booming, so I think it’s the field to be in nowadays.

Sophia:
Wow. Okay, so really lots of experiences, and about the broad spectrum from your studies, I feel you, because I’ve just, well, I finished the International Economic Relations and at the same time, it’s like, a lot about everything, which is good as one point because it gives you many opportunities to learn something more in the future. But sometimes, especially after the university, like, oh, gosh, what do I do with my life? Because I will learn so many things.

Viktoria:
Yeah, very accurate.

What does it mean to you to work at Nike?

Sophia:
That’s so cool that you are that you work be Nike. And well, the whole world knows Nike, and maybe you could share just what is working for you at this company means?

Viktoria:
Yes, so as I already said at the beginning, in my house I like sports. So, for me to work for the number one sports brand, of course, it’s fantastic. And I kind of grew up with campaigns and communication from Nike. So, I always looked up to the Nike athletes, and the movements from Nike are super motivational, like we tried to motivate everyone to do it. So, everyone can achieve something if they believe in themselves, and everything is kind of possible.
So, to work for a company that develops those campaigns and inspires a whole world. So, for me, like, I liked it a lot, especially to be part of the marketing and influence those campaigns.

Sophia:
Yeah, that’s I also when I think about Nike. It’s not only about the clothes you wear but also the whole spirit it gives you.

Viktoria:
Exactly.

Sophia:
That’s so powerful, honestly.

Viktoria:
Yeah, it is way more than just like an apparel or shoe brand in the sports sector. Because like, if you look around all the athletes under contract with Nike, they are also like idols and heroes, for so many people especially like, for younger people, they look up to them, they want to be like them.
So, like Nike, we also kind of have a job to motivate those young children and make them believe in themselves.

How could you formulate the concept of affiliate marketing?

Sophia:
Exactly, exactly. Okay, cool. Well, I believe that you also have rich experience in affiliate marketing and that it would be so interesting to learn more about you connected to this school field, and maybe let’s start. So, if you had to formulate what affiliate marketing is, how could you describe that?

Viktoria:
Okay, so affiliate marketing is the process by which an affiliate can be, yeah, a person or a publisher, earns a commission for advertising products, campaigns, retail moments, or even services on blogs, web pages, Instagram, social media, yeah. And like, so really simply put, affiliate marketing just involves referring products or services. By sharing it online, like most digital, of course, there’s also kind of a link between offline and online marketing that comes into place, but this is already a bit more detailed.
And but yeah, basically the affiliate, they earn a commission every time someone makes a purchase. And this is all tracked with unique tracking links to measure the performance and see how effective the campaign’s work is.
And I think this is especially important because if we look at the, yeah, well, today, almost 81% of all brands use affiliate marketing because, with affiliate marketing, you can reach brand awareness. You can get the target audience you, in the end, want to get. And the best example is; also in a report, said that like around 89% of Instagram users don’t necessarily follow brand handles. So, for example, Nike, but then they follow influencers and if those influences are affiliates. So, of course, as a brand, Nike gets those, awareness and like, people purchase Nike because it’s on top of their mind.

Where should I start if I decide to become an affiliate marketer?

Sophia:
Yeah, like, I feel like marketing is essential because it’s sometimes so hard to track what is going where, and you need those tools and strategies to know how to collect the data.
So, affiliate marketing, but how, let’s say if I decide one day to become an affiliate marketer, what do you have to do? Where do I start?

Viktoria:
So basically, if you want to become an affiliate marketer like, there are two things you kind of need to be passionate about or you need to consider.
First of all, data. So, we work with many data on a day-to-day basis. Because, of course, we need to analyze how are the campaigns going? Where is the traffic going? What are the partners in the end promoting?
And on the other hand, you also need to be very creative. And because, yeah, you, in the end, give guidelines to the partners on what they are kind of what they need to do, how they should promote the brand or the service, because of course you can’t like you still need to be represented in a good way and it all needs to be in line with the brand values.
So, you kind of work on a strategy of giving the partners the tools and the information they need to promote your brand in the right way. And then, of course, you analyze the performance of those partners and what they have driven.

What are the most efficient strategies in affiliate marketing?

Sophia:
Okay, well, if we already started speaking about the strategist, I bet there are many that, right? And it’s hard to describe all of them. But maybe there are some, like the most efficient strategies in the affiliate marketing that kind of like help you let’s well, let’s take the example of like, how to increase sales, for example, for a company but using specific strategies of affiliate marketing.

Viktoria:
Yeah. So, I think one of the main things is, of course, to be aligned and authentic to the kind of business, to the values of the business, of the brand, because you need to be accurate to the audience. After all, otherwise, they don’t believe in the brand, in the product. So, that is important.
Then you should also have a good mix between commercial and content partners. So, I can explain maybe a little more in what types of affiliates there are to come back to this strategy.
So basically, they’re like kind of two leavers of affiliate types. So, we have first content, which are partners that create their content, meaning they produce, for example, informative articles or they make assets, like meaning high-quality images.
So, examples of that kind of affiliates can be influencers, like editorial magazines, bloggers, YouTubers. And then, on the other side, we also have commercial partners. And those focus more on scaling promotions, kind of membership signups, and increasing the basket value. And examples of that affiliate are more like shopping portals, incentive partners, reward partners. And those commercial partners, most of the time, use official creatives that, like a brand, provide them or product images are taken from the website. So, in contrast, really content affiliates produce their content.
So, of course, those different types of affiliates also influence other parts of the consumer journey. So, content affiliates are more used for the consideration and awareness phase. So more upper-funnel, whereas then the commercial interest is held to influence a decision, so it’s more the lower funnel in the consumer journey.
So, coming back now to the strategy, a brand needs to mix those two. So, the whole consumer journey is kind of cover, so there’s this awareness, but then it’s also kind of pushed to make the sale through those commercial partners. And yeah, what else I would also say it is.
Affiliate marketing has a lot to do with relationship management because we work with many different stakeholders. So, it’s also really important to kind of have a good relationship with your partners. And in the end, you need to think about it, it’s kind of a win-win because those partners help you drive business, but then at the same time, like, they also want to get something from you.
So, it’s essential to be in touch with the partners, check-in with the partners on what they need, and align with them because otherwise, it won’t work because then they will not represent the brand in a good way, and then you need to stop working with them.
Another good point is always looking outside the box to try to engage with the audience in new ways. Because especially now, there’s so many, there’s so much content out there and so many web pages; so, you kind of really need to stand out to also look for new ways. So, for example, gamification became a huge thing in the last six months, even years, that kind of a playful way of engaging with the consumers.
And, again, I think above all of those points, there’s still the point with, you need to analyze everything with the data you have. Because if you don’t measure what you are doing, you don’t know if you are successful or not, and you can’t improve. So yeah, that is kind of the strategy that helps to grow and helps you be successful.

Importance to maintain relationships with the influencers

Sophia:
Exactly, numbers. They’re so important. I remember when we would do some projects with our team, and we would forget to report on the project. We always would hear from our office. If the project wasn’t written, it means that the project didn’t happen. And same like with numbers, if you don’t have numbers, then it means that you did nothing in terms of analyzing.
Yeah. And just to catch up with the point, you said that it’s also about maintaining the relationship with the influencers or with other parts connected to this process. And what I have noticed during the quarantine, I started receiving on Instagram some messages like, hey, would you like to become an influencer of the representative of our brand?
And the first stage was sound. So, but then when I see the kind of communication, and I would notice that the lack of communication from the parts of the business, I as the person who could potentially represent their business, I start losing trust, and that’s when I can’t represent their value. So yeah, it’s essential to maintain a good relationship.

Viktoria:
Yeah, especially like, I think many brands sometimes think yeah, the quantity goes over quality. And this is like, especially in affiliate marketing, not the case.
Because especially if you have many partners, it’s also a lot of the times that you lose track of what’s happening. So, you can also get in trouble with that because the content is published, or websites can work with you that shouldn’t work with you because they are not in line with the brand values. So, it can go wrong if you don’t have this good overview and don’t maintain those relationships.

What are your favorite tools to track the numbers?

Sophia:
Yeah, well, and about the numbers, maybe you could share which are your favorite tools to track the numbers? For example, how do you check the performance of your affiliate marketing campaigns?

Viktoria:
Yeah, so I think helpful tools are for sure—Google Analytics, and like Omniture Tableau. So internally, we also use those kinds of tools.
And then also kind of to look at the competitor because, of course, you need to keep track of what our other players in the market are doing. So, a similar web is a helpful tool to like, see, and benchmark where you are standing compared to those competitors. Because yeah, again, it’s super important.

Sophia:
Yeah, understanding who you are in this field.

Viktoria:
Yeah.

Sophia:
Is important.

Viktoria:
You can also see with like data, and with similar web, where could you, be opportunities that you could tap into? What are other players doing that you could maybe do where you are missing out at the moment.
So, that’s why it’s also essential to look at kind of those competitors and have a close eye on them.

Sophia:
Yeah, I don’t know why but since we started speaking about sports, I recollected how we would have some team sports, and we’re like, so engaged in the game. But then there will always be this table with the score. And when you are in the game, you sometimes just lose the feeling of what the score is.
But it’s so good to sometimes look at the table to understand how good or how bad you’re doing to understand that there is something you need to change.

Viktoria:
Definitely, and that also goes for all the complaints, like you need to check daily. What is happening? Because if you just keep on going without reflecting, without looking at how complaints are evolving, how the traffic is, then you, in the end, are just blind, which you definitely shouldn’t be.

Sophia:
Yeah. And that’s why I believe it’s so good to have a good tech Coach who can tell you what your score is.

Viktoria:
Yeah

How does the payment model work for affiliate marketing?

Sophia:
Because sometimes, yeah, I remember swimming. When you swim, like there’s nothing else you see, except for swimming. And it’s so good when there’s this coach who just runs next to you and tells you, yeah; you can do it better, you can do it better. Yeah.
Well, another thing that, while I was also interested in learning, how does this payment model work for affiliate marketing, because even when I would receive those messages were becoming like the face of the brand, you think. And how do they track? So, how does this payment model work out of the way in your professional case or any other case?

Viktoria:
Okay, so usually, in affiliate marketing, we use commission when the partners achieve preset goals.
And in the affiliate world, it’s pervasive to be paid by either CPA, which is a cost per acquisition, so kind of cost per sale, or CPC cost per click. And, of course, the commission rate depends highly on the partner. So, there are also differences between our commercial partners and content partners. And it also depends on the contract with the partner. So, what did you agree on in the first place?
And of course, there are also some times when you need to pay kind of a fixed fee to the partner to kind of get more than the usual. So, for example, they need to, if we look at content partners, if they need to rent a shooting location or work with models, then sometimes the CPA will not do it, and there needs to be an additional fixed fee.
Also, especially in big retail moments, like Cyber Week or Black Friday, where everyone wants to be on top and wants to be like the biggest, the best. This is also a time where a lot of times fixed fee gets involved.

Sophia:
Oh, yeah, yeah. Especially for each different agent. For each different stakeholder, you have to find something specific that would catch their needs.

Viktoria:
Yeah.

Sophia:
Yeah. That’s where the negotiation comes.

Viktoria:
Yeah

How does affiliate marketing balance its life between 2020 and 2021?

Sophia:
In the beginning, we spoke about how you balance your personal, professional life during this quarantine and how a feel with marketing balances its life over 2020 and 2021. Has anything changed?

Viktoria:
So, I would say, in general, the digital world is booming. So, I think what we can see, it was constantly already growing and booming. But now, with the whole COVID situation, it’s like, really going through the roof. Because especially if we look in kind of the fashion industry or in general, consumer goods industry, a lot of the shops are closed, so you can’t even go outside and go shopping. So, people rely on online stores. And that’s why it’s so important to be like, digitally present, and have a good consumer journey on the website and especially like those partners to have this brand-new awareness.
So, I would say in terms of change, yeah, it changed in the sense that it became even more significant. So, yeah, without I think digital, the digital world, digital marketing, it would be challenging for brands to exist.
And of course, we also see several trends in the affiliate world. So, for example, video content over the months has become more and more. Also, influencers are becoming more and more important.
So, I remembered a couple of years ago, yeah, there were some influencers, but it was also older. So, yeah, generations, and we’re trying to give people like, yeah, some advice. And nowadays, if we look online, we see influencers that are like five or six years old. So, this will, I think, also continue to grow.
Like platforms, I think last year, there was a big rise of kind of Tick Tock kind of video formats to engage with people. So, all those trends, I think, will continue to grow. And we just saw over this whole, yeah, COVID situation, how it could grow.

Sophia:
Yeah, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when the quarantine is over. Because I believe, now we get so used to having everything online that it might be hard to get back to offline.

Viktoria:
Yeah.

Sophia:
And then, with the Tick Tock, I remember when all of my friends were downloading the application and trying to do something there. So, I downloaded it too, and then Viktoria, I just, I spent, I don’t know, like around 30 minutes, just watching videos. And I was like, wait, stop, what is going on? And that’s it, I decided to quit it because it takes your time, but it attracts you so much. So, it’s a compelling platform. Yeah.

Viktoria:
For sure. I mean, I think it’s the same kind of with Instagram; once you’re on Instagram, just start scrolling.
So yeah, one needs to be careful. But of course, for marketers present on those platforms is good that people are spending so much time there. And yeah, I think for marketers in general, it’s really important to go with those trends and adapt to what consumers are doing and how they are spending their time because, in the end, this is how we reach them.

Does affiliate marketing differ from region to region?

Sophia:
Yeah, exactly. I’m wondering if affiliate marketing can differ from the different regions because you work for the EMEA region, and do you see changes in differences as indifferent contrasts?

Viktoria:
I mean, of course, because it is always important to look at local trends. After all, working in one country might not be working in another country, especially in EMEA. This is because there are so many cultural differences between the countries.
So, a brand needs to be careful what they do in specific countries because there are also many legal regulations. So, in the end, it differs from country to country. So, this all needs to be kind of taken into consideration. And like a simple example is, also now during COVID. So, if we look, some countries were fully open in terms of like; they didn’t have a lockdown, whereas others had a complete strict lockdown.
So, if a brand would post a lot of outdoor content and content on festivals in groups in a country that is in lockdown, of course, it wouldn’t resonate with the people in the country.
So yeah, for sure, there are differences, and there are also many reports; there’s much information out there that marketers need to consider to be present in the right way in the correct country.

Sophia:
It is. I remember those studies at the university when we would. But, still, I think it was a little bit stereotypical, stereotypically, like saying that this country does this, this country does that. Yeah. But then when it comes to the real world, I don’t know, you have to be so careful about choosing the right words, giving the right topic, just understanding the culture and people’s mentality. It’s such an art.

Viktoria:
Yeah, for sure. I mean, of course, the core states kind of also from university, like what we learn there, it is true, like, every country has different values, has a different mentality. A different culture and a brand or, yeah, a company need to be irrespective of that. So, they need to kind of find a way to communicate around those, yeah, or in this kind of language, in this cultural language.

How should beginners in affiliate marketing build their strategies?

Sophia:
Yeah. Cool. Okay, maybe one of the last questions about affiliate marketing is because you work for a big company. What if, let’s say, I’m a representative of a small company that is just starting to emerge on the market. What could you recommend? What do I do with my affiliate marketing strategies? How do I build it?

Viktoria:
Okay, yeah, so I think one of the main things is authenticity. So, you should work with partners that are authentic to your brand, or service, or and your business. And that kind of reflects the values that you as a company have. Because again, you can’t work with or you can’t have a, let’s say, vegan product, and then work with someone that eats meat every day, it would not work, and it would not resonate with the audience you want to target in the end.
Then at the same time, be bold, be creative with the campaigns, and also with kind of the platforms you use, because again, there are so many businesses out there that are using affiliate marketing, there’s so many in available products out there, so you kind of need to stand out from them. So, kind of find a way to have this, yeah, let’s say stand-alone, you know, a position that people will remember you as a similar brand, or the brand’s product.
And another thing is, yeah, as we mentioned before, have good relationships with your partners you work with because this is key. In the end, it helps you also a lot with negotiations with them if you have a good relationship, and also be selective for those partners. So, don’t go for like the quantity but more for the quality. Because in the end, those partners can be spokespersons for the brand. And they must do this in the right way.
And again, like it always goes back to data. But everything you do, you need to use the data to draw the conclusions and determine if what you were doing is correct and if the KPIs you set before are met.

What advice would you give to a person who wants to become an affiliate marketer?

Sophia:
Yeah, wow. Okay, cool. That’s excellent advice, especially I bet the startups who would be listening to us, that something they will write down. And if you, well of course, what you do, you love what you do. So maybe you could list a couple of advantages, like the key points that could work, that could advise a person to choose this position of becoming an affiliate marketer.

Viktoria:
Yeah, so what I like about affiliate marketing is that you have the mix of working a lot with data. So, someone needs to be data-driven. But at the same time, you can be creative and influenced the content that your kind of partner affiliates are creating.
Um, and again, it has a lot to do with relationship management. So, you work with a lot of different kinds of stakeholders. So, it’s versatile; you are tapping into different kinds of parts of marketing in the end. Even though you work in performance marketing, with a lot of the time being only data-driven, you can be creative, which in affiliate marketing is not valid. Like there are so many opportunities for you, and significantly since it’s growing so much.
So, if someone really wants to have this performance marketing data-driven approach, but with also a link to more traditional marketing of being creative, creating like content, content marketing, then I think, yeah, affiliate marketing is the right, right choice or a good starting point to look at.

Working with numbers

Sophia:
Okay, well, it sounds inspiring. If I decided to change my position one day, I believe affiliate marketing could be a perfect option as creativeness is cool.
And with numbers, what, what I have seen, honestly, people, when they think about numbers, they just think it’s something so dull and hard. But honestly, numbers; is a fun thing, mainly when you use that properly because it gives you a base for the right decisions in the future, which is fantastic.

Viktoria:
Exactly. And especially what is so fascinating that you can conclude from your numbers, and then you apply it, and then you immediately see the result.
So, it’s also really, yeah, nice to see what you can take from this data and kind of make it, because in general, if we think about numbers, data, it’s not tangible. Whereas if you then draw the conclusions and apply them to your campaigns, it becomes tan, natural, which is like really, really lovely to see.

Sophia:
Honestly, when I listen to our speech, it sounds like I think we can use this part of speech for the students who are about to learn Statistics, and they’re like, I don’t want to learn Statistics. And well, you do need to learn Statistics, because then you can learn a lot.

Viktoria:
Yeah, if I remember my days back in university, I wasn’t the biggest fan of other life finance statistic courses. But it helps you just so much to at least have a general understanding of the kind of data and what you are doing.
And I think, especially in today’s world, where you have so many online courses, like online courses, to develop yourself further, even though you didn’t like it in university. So maybe now, you think perhaps this is an excellent time to freshen up my knowledge, there are so many possibilities. So yeah, those students should definitely…

Sophia:
Get inspired.

Viktoria:
Have a look.

What can you recommend in terms of reading?

Sophia:
Exactly. Okay. Well, and usually with tradition, we always ask our speakers what they recommend in reading. So maybe there’s some book that you could recommend to our listeners; it doesn’t have to be professional-oriented; it can be anything.

Viktoria:
Yes. So yeah, like one book I think I need to recommend is “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight. I don’t know if you ever heard of it. But it’s a memoir by the co-founder, Phil Knight of Nike. So, it’s kind of highlights the early struggles and the evolution of Nike, and it is a great read. It reads like a story, not really like a business guidance book. And I would say it’s a must-read for everyone in business, especially for those who want to start a business or grow their business. So, this is definitely yeah, everyone should have read this. And I’m not only saying this because I work for Nike.
Um, and then yet another more on the fiction side novel that I read recently, and it kind of kept me. So, yeah, I kept it in memory is “Queenie” by Candice Carty-Williams. So, this is again, yeah, it’s a fiction book, and it seems that it looks like an easy read when you start reading. But it’s eye-opening, and it goes intense. So, it does have kind of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. And it follows a Jamaican girl around that has some problems and struggles with her life. But in the end, kind of the key takeaway of the book is, yeah, that awareness and hope in, in the daily life are beautiful gifts, and we should cherish that.
So yeah, those would be like my two recommendations. One more on the business side, the other more on the fiction side.

Sophia:
Oh, cool. Thank you so much. I collect all of these books. And I think when I will be able to read all of them. But when I hear those inspirational speeches about the books, I’m like, okay, now it’s time to read the book. So, thank you so much. I bet it’s going to be useful for lots of listeners as well.

Viktoria:
No worries. Yeah. And especially now with the whole COVID situation. I mean, there’s not that much we can do in terms of going outside. So, I think it’s a good time also to start reading, and yeah.

Sophia:
Exactly. Well, thank you so much for today’s meeting. And, that was so interesting to learn more about you and about what you do. And thank you so much for being so inspirational to become the affiliate marketer, maybe in the future.

Viktoria:
Yeah, definitely. No worries. Thanks.

Sophia:
Thank you so much. Stay healthy.

Viktoria:
Yeah, you too. Bye, bye.

Sophia:
Bye, bye.