Stop! It’s Nurture Time! A How-To Guide For Growing Your Affiliate and Influencer Relationships In this ever-changing world with brands using digital marketing to improve conversion, production and efficiency rates--constant goals are on every brand’s mind. And performance-based marketing is the ideal tool to reach those marks. Performance based marketing works with the strongest aspects of both affiliate and influencer marketing and rewards a brand’s marketing partners for tangible action instead of paying for posts. Affiliate marketing is arguably the most efficient and cost-effective method available to brands anywhere. And now more than ever, affiliate marketing and influencer marketing are best friends when you run these marketing strategies together since the strategies overlap and feed off of each other. All this success makes it easy to forget that your marketing relationships are the ones who pump out creative content and knock out sales. It’s easy to forget that these people are real live humans who thrives on feedback, praise and genuine connections. Yeah, they’re getting paid well if they’re great at what they do. However, if you want your relationship with your brand’s content creators are to grow and last, you need to nurture them just like any effective client relationship. So, we’ve compiled a list of ways to keep your hard-working team happy, loyal and motivated. Agency or In-House Approach? Understanding the important aspects of affiliate and influencer relationships helps brands decide if they should run their programs in house or if they should partner with an agency. When the budget allows it, brands often prefer working with an established company on this type of marketing because they have the relationships, technology and strategies in place to scale affiliate and influencer marketing. Regardless of your approach, the following components when it comes to nurturing marketing relationships are important to know so that you can oversee the right strategy with your brand and/or choose an agency who emphasizes nurturing strategies for their clients. The Courtship First, let’s assume you are just getting started with finding affiliates to work with or maybe just need a few more quality people to join your team. Their social network is their virtual office so start by following interesting prospects on Twitter, Facebook, or any other network. Like their posts, share their content, and work in a few complimentary comments in their feeds. Familiarizing yourself with the content of your potential marketing partners is crucial for two reasons. First you need to know if their topics and voice is a fit with your brand while second it’s good to reference their content later when you reach out to partner. Learn what they like, read and respect. Don’t jump in with any official introductions or offers quite yet…it’s best to just listen and learn at first. You’ll establish a much more genuine connection by showing interest and doing research on your end, and this sets the table for an interactive relationship from the outset. Popping the Question Once you’ve started the nurturing process and have gotten yourself on the radar, it’s time to engage. As you can likely imagine, popular content creators get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails a day, so personalizing and being concise is key. When reaching out to a new influencer with email, take the time to customize with some basics -  name and specific details and assets in a brief yet informative manner. First impressions, as we all know, are crucial. Mentioning a prior relevant blog post from the affiliate is a great touch; this shows you’ve done your homework, and a bit of flattery is always solid strategy. Be sure to bring up their readers, and how they will benefit from your brand. And be certain to wind up the email with a question, like asking their opinion on the campaign or what specific assets might help them. You’re a lot more likely to get a positive response this way. Granted, this initial process can be time-consuming, but it’s sure to pay dividends down the line. Keeping It Going Now that your affiliate or influencer partner is on board, you can let up on the nurturing, right? Quite the contrary, because now’s the time to really let them know how much you value them. Make sure their onboarding and technical logistics are running smoothly, and offer support throughout. Present them with high quality images and brand-specific messaging, and suggest some links that may be relevant. However, it is important to not go too far with the suggestions; writers are creative beings, after all, and giving them the freedom to craft the story is crucial. In fact, referencing what you like about their earlier work is a great way to encourage and empower them to create. If your brand’s website has a blog in place, that could be a perfect spot to link a  marketing partner’s prior work back to them and don’t forget that social shares are always a positive thing. Random check-ins or even a scheduled phone call helps to personify your brand, and even making sure you have a photo or avatar near your signature can strengthen that connection. Lastly, introducing incentives at various stages throughout the campaign can do wonders. Offer them a sneak peek at the product or website, or exclusive discounts for friends and family before anyone else in the general public can. A gift card near the end of the campaign might give them a boost, also. Regardless of the specifics, staying engaged and actively communicating your feedback and encouragement is always welcome. Ending On A High Note Showing your appreciation for a job well done is always welcome. Thank you notes and reports with numbers and feedback helps your affiliate understand how much their efforts mean to you, both personally and professionally. If you plan to use them again, make sure you tell them that. Or, even better, consider keeping them on throughout; content-driven marketing can continue to extend sales and improve customer experience even after the final click.  Whip up at least one more social blast highlighting the great work your affiliate did…it will be shared and retweeted over and over, extending your brand recognition on its own. Whatever you do, keep it personal. Your extra efforts are sure to be recognized and reciprocated, and likely will lead to many more successful partnerships. A little reminder for you, however: all of this takes a lot of time, planning and expertise. Many CMO’s might end up hiring the best “man” for the job, and turn to an expert affiliate program manager to handle the entire process. Either way, making sure you’ve nurtured your affiliate throughout the process is your best path to a meaningful (and profitable) relationship. Do you prefer to run affiliate and influencer marketing campaigns in house or work with an agency? Please let us know and tell us why in the comments!