Andrew Slack and Kirstie Gascoyne are the directors of MoreNiche, a leading affiliate marketing agency with a growing presence in the fitness market.
Andrew started making money from the web in his teens, selling his first website at 16 for $13,000. Since then, he has gone on to bootstrap a number of multi-million pound businesses and MoreNiche is on track to turn over £9m in 2016 through its extensive network of 4,500 highly engaged affiliates.
How should fitness companies decide if affiliate marketing is something they should be exploring?
The simplest way to see if there’s an opportunity is to look at what your competition is doing. Even just a simple search for “brand affiliate program” for example, will show which of the your competitors offer these programs, and if these brands are investing in affiliate marketing then chances are you should be too.
“Affiliate marketing is the digital equivalent of hiring thousands of salespeople who only get paid when they generate sales”
In our opinion, just about any online business in the fitness industry should have an affiliate strategy. Whether it’s a significant part of your overall activity or only very minor one will depend on the nature of the niche in which you’re operating.
If done correctly, affiliate marketing is the digital equivalent of hiring thousands of salespeople who only get paid when they generate sales. It’s the ultimate dream of any sales director.
What’s your advice for developing the most effective affiliate strategy?
1. Be clear on where you want to position yourself
You need to decide what it is that your brand actually stands for. Is it a value offering or is it premium, because once you’ve started competing on price there’s no turning back!
“Ultimately, you have to make a decision between volume and profit”
In the race to grow most companies will end up distributing via large retailers like Tesco’s, Amazon and Holland and Barrett. The trouble is that they end up being so squeezed on price that they lose all their margin and the brand is destroyed. It’s the same within the affiliate world. Working with networks like Affiliate Window, for example, may get you huge exposure, but only if you’re prepared to discount your brand. There’s no loyalty between affiliates on large networks and the brand is quickly devalued. In our opinion high street retail and discount based affiliate marketing are both zero sum games.
Ultimately, you have to make a decision between volume and profit. Our advice would be to prioritise profit. After all, surely it’s far better to run a small but highly profitable and stable operation than it is to fixate on revenue and find yourself barely breaking even?
2. Pay well
There are various factors involved in building great relationships with affiliates, but ultimately it comes down to earnings per click. This is one of the reasons you want to be able to maintain high prices. Remember that an affiliate’s time is valuable and they have a whole world of brands to choose from. Why should they favour yours?
It’s also important to pay reliably. In 15 years we haven’t missed a single affiliate payment and that’s one of the reasons we have such a close relationship with our affiliate base.
3. Find your niche
Everyone’s selling protein powders, but if you can find the next big trend then that’s where the real opportunity is. The competition will be limited and you can command a far higher price point, again allowing you to pay your affiliates significantly more than your competition.
4. Be willing to ship worldwide
The UK market is pretty saturated, but in countries like France, Spain or Italy there is far less competition, so you are missing an opportunity if you don’t ship worldwide. Today shipping costs and translation services are cheap and even food goods are being shipped across Europe. There are huge numbers of foreign language affiliates, so there’s really no excuse for not broadening your strategy into these territories.
Furthermore, if you’ve found yourself competing heavily on price in the UK, then expanding globally can also offer a fresh opportunity to reposition your brand at the top of the market.
5. Have rules
One of the reasons why brands are often nervous about affiliate programs is that it feels like they’re relinquishing control. However, while there are limitations to how prescriptive you can be, you can enforce simple rules such as the website domains they’re allowed to use or which brand terms they’re allowed to bid on.
Hiring an in house affiliate manager or proactive affiliate management company can help you enforce your rules. We have a compliance team who manage our clients ruleset on their behalf.
6. Build Relationships
We invest a huge amount of time and money in getting to know our affiliates. Our affiliate managers travel the world meeting people in person. Relationship building is the number one priority after ensuring your pay your affiliates well.
“Business is built on relationships and trust, and so is affiliate marketing.”
At the end of the day affiliates are just people and will show far more loyalty if you get to know them personally. We offer extensive training to our affiliates and let them know our support team is always available to help. Business is built on relationships and trust, and so is affiliate marketing.
Affiliates are by nature competitive people, so by publishing your top performers it adds a bit of fuel to the fire. We also publish merchant stats so they too have an incentive to up their game.
We pride ourselves on being the most transparent affiliate network on the market. You can see the lists publically here: https://moreniche.com/stats/
Finally, what do the best affiliates usually look like?
Affiliates come in all different shapes and sizes, from extremely organized people who have teams of SEOers, content creators and more, to people just starting out from their bedroom. Strangely, we find that a lot of successful affiliates are husband and wife teams. One might be more technical and one more creative, but they work brilliantly as a team.
They’re usually extremely determined. The most successful aren’t those with the most experience, but those with the most dedication and tenacity. They have their goal of one day working from their laptop on a beach and won’t let anything get in the way. They may not have extensive experience in affiliate marketing, but they’ll contact our team two or three times a day to find out how they can develop and improve. Building strong relationships with a small number of people like this who are completely committed to your brand is far more powerful than having an army of affiliates that each only see you as a small part of their strategy.