Learning from Affiliate’s Customer-Centric Approach

There’s a lot of talk about cohesive marketing strategies and eliminating silos. The key word here is talk. Holistic, cohesive, unified. It all sounds good. But getting there is hard. Maybe that’s why even those marketers that endorse such a movement are slow to implement it. But examining one of their existing channels –affiliate–could prove useful for brand marketers in seeing how holistic, customer-centric marketing should work.

Unlike other digital channels, such as search, email, social and more, affiliate touches customers at nearly every point in the sales and conversion funnel.  Affiliates are likely employing all of the other types of digital marketing in their business to drive conversions. That means affiliates are already using a customer-centric approach to marketing and doing it in real-time based on the actions visitors take.

Affiliates don’t work for the brand. Instead, they only get paid a commission when someone converts to a sale. This makes them highly motivated to ensure visitors make a purchase. To get results, they use everything at their disposal–paid search, social, email and other digital marketing tactics.

Say No to Silos

As software to track, manage and attribute influence in the customer journey has become more robust, marketers now have a much better idea of where and how they interact with customers at every touch point in the sales funnel. That’s a good thing. It’s easier to see what’s working and what’s not and allocate appropriate budget to individual channels where influence is pushing customer along to the path to purchase.

However, the challenge is that each digital channel is still operating in a silo. Attribution software enables marketers to see that a paid search ad was clicked on. But what if that ad didn’t convert the customer? Well, it’s likely the customer will see the same ad again and again as they browse. The theory is that the repeated exposure might eventually help influence a purchase.

Now let’s say the potential customer who clicked the paid search ad and didn’t buy received a retargeting email. Would that help them convert? And what if that same potential customer went to their social media (let’s say Facebook) and instead of seeing a generic sponsored ad from that brand in their feed for that product they didn’t buy, they saw a retargeted ad that addressed the action took that place in search?

If a customer clicks on a paid search ad but moves on quickly, a different action could be taken by the brand. However, if the customer abandons their shopping cart, they could be retargeted with a coupon or an offer of free shipping. It would all be based on the actions  (or inaction) taken on the search ad.

A Complete Attitude Shift

There are a lot of reasons why taking a customer-centric approach is challenging and requires a complete mind shift. Each channel typically has there own budget and key metrics that need to be achieved. In essence, these marketing channels often act like they’re competing with each other for sales and conversions.

In fact, there is often interdepartmental rivalry when one channel feels they should get the credit and didn’t. Did someone click on a paid search ad because of the paid search team’s effort. Or did the customer receive a compelling email communication the previous day?

That overly competitive “us versus them” attitude needs to be replaced with more cooperation. We’re all on the same team is easy to say, but hard to achieve. To make that happen, the overall marketing strategy must be completely refocused and overhauled to eliminate the silos.

Make the Experience About the Customer

Perhaps brands should think of the consumer’s overall interaction with them like going to a restaurant. Each entity of the restaurant has very specific functions (the hostess, wait staff, cooks, sous chefs, dishwasher, busboys, wine steward), but they are all working in harmony based on the diner’s specific needs to make the experience as seamless and pleasurable as possible.

If the waiter didn’t communicate to the busboy that you are gluten-free and he kept bringing you a bread basket it would be very frustrating. Or if all the utensils had been cleared when you still hadn’t received your dessert. The objective is not for one individual to shine. It’s to make the entire dining experience the best it can be.

Affiliates look at customers in a more holistic way and in a sense operate like their own brand. Brands should take a cue from the proven methods used by affiliates. Adopting those customer-centric tactics would benefit their overall marketing efforts.