The rise of partner marketing
Over a decade ago
At the beginning of 2005, I joined a conference on online marketing in Amsterdam. The industry was in a state of disruption and there were very lively debates, in particular on partner marketing – or affiliate marketing, as it was more commonly called then. Still relatively new, marketing managers were deeply suspicious of the idea. Yes, the return on investment was impressive. But were partners reliable? How could a network of partners be managed? How do I avoid a situation where my brands end up on some crappy website?
The answer to all of these questions was innovation. Partner management at that time required taking on some risks, as fraud prevention wasn’t as good as it is nowadays. But at the same time, the disruption brought about huge opportunities: the partners in the network I managed then were doing creative things unheard of in marketing. They weren’t marketing agencies or companies that were in any way established; they were regular people – sometimes even kids – sitting at home with a computer, writing code that would adjust the color of a website to the time of the day, in order to push conversion rates.
Fast forward to 2019. Times have changed and online marketing has settled down. Most of the experiments from 2005 have become commonly used tools for any online marketing strategy. If the kids who developed them haven’t retired early, they are running companies that dominate the online marketing industry.
However, online marketing is on the verge of a new period of disruption. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (now also affectionately known as GAFA) have reached such a powerful position that they can erase business models simply by launching a new feature. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is rapidly changing what can be done in online marketing all around the world and the upcoming ePrivacy regulation will change it even more. Artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and voice-based solutions are rapidly maturing and will provide fundamentally new ways of the digital experience. This means a rise in constraints but also that further innovations will be needed. Now the question is: how and from who will those innovations emerge?
Catering to innovation
This new disruption will bring about innovation again – probably far bigger than what we’ve seen 14 years ago. The problem any digital company faces is that you cannot tell where this innovation will emerge – let alone hire the people who will produce it. What you can do is to have a solution in place which allows you to reach out easily to people who are currently exploring new possibilities.
A partner management platform provides you with such a solution. With a partner management platform, you can engage with today’s innovators as partners, not as employees or service providers. This gives both you and your partners the freedom to experiment. Should they fail, no sweat – you’ve got the risks minimized. With partner marketing, you can choose to only engage with their services on-demand, in other words, on a CPA basis.
And given the performance-based nature of the partnership, you will profit directly when your partners’ experiments start to work and emerge as the well-established marketing tools of tomorrow. More than ever, partner marketing provides the platform on which innovation can take place. And the industry won’t wait for you to explore them.