Through the last 20 years, affiliate marketing companies have been a part of the marketing landscape. The basic concept and execution have remained steady throughout; find a publisher that matches your brand, have them skillfully weave your product and story into their content, and reward them directly, usually with some sort of commission for performance and conversion. Yet, the opportunity for shady, lower-level affiliates to capitalize on shoddy, impersonal correspondence and last second loopholes has given affiliate marketing (and affiliates who do it well) a bad name. While this was a common practice 15 years ago, brands and good affiliate marketing agencies have mostly recognized how to steer their strategies towards trusted and effective affiliates who have your (and, subsequently, their) best interests at hand. But they don’t do this out of the kindness of their hearts…they need to be properly compensated for all of the work they do. Which brings us to attribution.

What is Attribution?

Attribution is:
  1. the science of identifying a timeline of touchpoints for the consumer
  2. Giving credit to the affiliate who gets them to those points
  3. Fairly paying affiliates for their introduction to a brand and the results they rightfully scored
Get this wrong and you can reward the wrong people, alienate the talented affiliate partners, and generally make a mess of your campaign and budget. Getting this right creates a solid and dynamic team that efficiently and effectively champions your brand, meets or exceeds your goals, and continually motivates from within. There are a few ways to see if your model of attribution is effective. Do you know what they are? If not, don’t fret this post is going to clear everything up for you.

Keeping a Pulse on Your Internal Attribution Model

Internal attribution is the piece where marketers have a steady pulse on clear timelines and touchpoints for their consumers and knowing which affiliates are bringing in exact sales or conversions. Today, as never before, there are more and more digital channels to try to navigate: mobile, social, and blogs to just name a few. All of these channels have value, but some will inevitably have more than others for your brand. And guess what? That data changes all the time, and flexibility and adaptability are necessities. Internal attribution modeling will allow you to stay on top of those various touchpoints and allow you to determine which affiliates are working and which are not. Not only can keeping a pulse on your attribution model make sure you are constantly refining an affiliate program, but it can also determine the best way to compensate your loyal and most talented performers. For example, a content creator may be the first one to introduce a consumer to the brand. But through another link from another affiliate, the consumer decides to make a purchase. Do you compensate both? How do you determine whose work is more valuable? Monitoring all touch points is time consume yet crucial so that marketers can know who and how to compensate so they don’t lose their most valuable affiliate partners.

Analyzing the Data

As with all things business, it’s all about the numbers. There’s always more data to crunch in order to refine strategies, identify strengths and weaknesses, and generally improve the experience. If you feel like you may not be analyzing your data as well as you could, you’re not alone. This study from Adobe and Econsultancy asked 7,000 marketing professionals if they feel that they have the analysts and infrastructure to make the most sense of their company’s sales and marketing data. Only 37% felt they did, and there’s been no improvement from 2015 to 2016. Having these skills and tools in-house can be challenging, from both an organizational and budgetary standpoint, and your attribution model most likely needs refinement at a professional level to work at optimally.

The Attribution Conundrum

The problem can arise when this internal attribution model conflicts with how to compensate these affiliates. For example, your long-time reliable affiliate is producing good content as always, but, according to your internal data, their value has been dropping. So you end up paying them less…right? But did you consider that it could that their content is still quite effective at bringing consumers in, but not in what your company has set as the high paying conversion touchpoint on the timeline? You don’t want to confuse or upset your loyal affiliate, but you don’t want to pay too much for too little. So there may be an external factor at play such as too many touch points and consumer patterns that aren’t being taken into consideration.

The Solution

Based on the results of the survey, it might be wise to enlist the help of an affiliate program management company who can expertly audit all of your attribution models and work together with you to make the constant adjustments needed.  Not to mention you need an experienced professional who has a wealth of affiliate marketing experience to reference what has worked well in the past. Plus, you can use the power of their software, affiliate partners already in place and expertise for your benefit without investing heavily to bring that in-house. With so many channels, and so many affiliates working at different points in the process, having a comprehensive internal attribution model is crucial. Remember, the sale has already happened…you’re just trying to find out how it happened and who made it happened. Once you’ve identified the most important and effective pieces of the puzzle, then you can re-evaluate your compensation model. Whether you hire an external affiliate program management team or handle it internally, it’s clear that making attribution modeling a priority can help you protect your affiliate relationships and your budget. Need an audit and or have questions about affiliate marketing for your brand? Reach out to us for a free evaluation.