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What’s wrong with calling affiliate marketing “a channel” of marketing? At least 3 things, and I dive into them in the below video:
If, however, you’d rather review my points “in writing”, here are the three problems that calling affiliate marketing a “marketing channel” leads to:
Problem #1: Misrepresentation
An online marketing channel is always characterized by using a specific type of digital channel for the dissemination of your marketing message. Examples would include:
- Paid search marketing
- Social media marketing
- Online video
- Display advertising
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- …and so on
Affiliate marketing is not tied to any one digital channel! Wherever an affiliate may use a trackable link to market a product, they will do it. You’ll see affiliates using all of the above-mentioned marketing channels, combining and interweaving them – for best results.
Therefore, affiliate marketing cannot be called “a channel”.
Problem #2: Competition with Other Channels
Furthermore, this approach inevitably leads to affiliate marketing’s competition with all other marketing channels employed by a merchant. However, it is not right to compare affiliate to PPC, or affiliate to email, or display, or anything else. You may compare performance of specific types of affiliates to your own performance in the same channel (say, social media affiliates vs. your own social media efforts), but any other comparison is just not “apples to apples”.
Problem #3: Misprioritization
This is, by far, the biggest of the three problems! This one is the result of the misunderstanding of how an affiliate program really works, uniting under its roof affiliates who use every permitted online marketing channel to promote you.
So, whoever you are – an affiliate manager or an affiliate network rep, an affiliate or a general digital marketing practitioner – I plead, do not call affiliate marketing a channel. This makes it seem much narrower and less intricate than it truly is!