Affiliate vs Partner: What’s Really the Difference?


If you are looking to develop your affiliate program by recruiting affiliates through a clever affiliate network, welcome to 1998. If you want to increase your income through synergistic partnerships that may also include subsidiaries, welcome marketing performance.

Affiliate or partner?
I know I know. They are just words, and everyone says “affiliate” anyway, and no one really cares, and those who simply should get more, right?

False. This is not just semantics.

Ok, yes, early coupon sites and shady players painted affiliate word in a negative light in the day and many people simply do not want to be called more affiliates. That alone just – stop insulting people who are driving your bonus.

But again, this is not just semantics. There are real differences between how “affiliation” and managed ‘partners’ programs. For example, we tend to be judged by the program network size; the other by the network quality. It requires continuous recruitment and onboarding to capture long tail revenue; the other, a continuous generation of creative ideas, content and strategies to generate true income. We tend to focus on deals and coupons; the other on the brand value. A network engages their mass emails; the other engages their extended team through individual and group conversations. A relationship is the network of property; the other, which belong directly to the brand, with workflow managed by platform. One is about an iterative process; the other, on relationships. It is … well, you get the picture.

The point is, there is certainly a difference between working with a subsidiary in relation to a partner. And it is tangible.

Types of partnerships
Technically, an affiliate is a type of partner, although I do not feel myself saying things like “partners and affiliates” to distinguish the two. In my mind (and many others) traditional affiliates tend to be the last click contributors like coupon, loyalty and price comparison websites, while partners can sit anywhere on the funnel and rarely benefit from the last assignment click credits, even when they deserve it.

Bloggers and other content sites used to be considered “traditional affiliate” simply because they had to join an affiliate network to get paid. But once the tracking technology gave us visibility into the complete journey for consumption beyond the last click, we discovered that many content sites – those that produce really valuable content – contributing to conversions lot more than we realized and not been rewarded for their incremental value.

In many ways, this puts many content sites, especially those with high affinity and following the brand in the category of influencers. And these influencers, moreover, can be managed and paid on the same platform alongside traditional subsidiaries, as the platform offers flexible payment options beyond the last click CPA as the recurrent and CPC .

social influencers that promote brands through social platforms and can not even successfully a blog, which usually come to mind when we think of influencers, but do not stop there. Consultants and analysts who rely on your product are absolutely influencers. And book authors who write about your industry certainly fit into this category.

And then there is this general term we hear often: “non-traditional partners.”

Non-traditional partners
If affiliates are traditional partners, “nontraditional” partners are basically any person or company that does or could join an affiliate network or partner market, but that would be quite the promotion of a brand if it makes sense synergistically to. By this definition, influencers are often referred to as non-traditional partners.

I do not know how I feel about the term “non-traditional partner” and I hope the industry comes up with something better that this relationship becomes, well, traditional, but it is certainly better than “affiliate” so I’ll leave alone. What I’m more interested in is to share concrete examples that will open, hopefully your mind to partners that you might not have thought to consider which Onboarding, workflow and payments can be managed on the platform of performance marketing right, just as easily as a traditional branch.

Professional athletes
Athletes are an easy example. It is very unlikely that a professional athlete – or even a popular fitness instructor with a large social suite – joining an affiliate network or market a SaaS platform. But the brand partners with both types of athletes all the time and pay for their influence and endorsements.

And here’s the thing: fitness brands have always known that their athletes influence the preferences of fans, but they are not always known how. Therefore, they could not tell whether they were over or under paid for their contributions or how to maximize their efforts.

performance marketing platforms that offer follow up on the baseline, contract sides and partnership workflows provide fitness brands with the ability to track and manage all online contribution areas their athlete, as well as some areas of their contribution offline.

By learning how their athletes contribute to sales, brands can adjust their strategies to better optimize their collaboration and appropriate partner remuneration.

University and booksellers
The Internet did not exist when I was in college, but if it did, I would not want to see banner ads on my university’s website. And I do not want my university called an affiliate.

That said, if I enrolled in online courses and gave a landing page accurate books I needed for my classes, which saved me the huge hassle of trying to find books, time to waiting and the pain of having to take the bus across town to the other libraries with the features excluding stock issues.

While the university was transparent in their dealings and teachers were not receiving kickbacks (the books were chosen because they were good books for the class), I would be ok know the university in partnership with a portfolio relevant book suppliers and publishers to provide this service. I would be more okay with it if they channeled their income directly in the student center or health Eats in the dining room.

Whether the bookseller and the university chose to partner via CPA, fixed costs or even no cost at all, offering mutual benefits while avoiding any apparent conflict, both parties can manage subcontracting, the product distribution and reports in a system – easily, same system, booksellers use to pay for their content partners and affiliates of coupons, as well as manage and synchronize their product catalog feeds.

New ideas
Imagine that you sell laptops, productivity software or other products related to work for entrepreneurs and small businesses. You have reached a plateau together with its affiliates and are looking to expand beyond bloggers and comparison sites. What types of partnerships could make sense?

What to establish a synergistic relationship with coworking spaces and chambers of commerce? Neither are likely to join an affiliate network or partner market, but both benefit from direct partnerships with brands that allow them to offer discounted products to their members.

Make it work
There are three main points that I hope you leave with.

As for the growth of your performance program, think outside the box. Think about who your customers are and what type of membership or program they could join or be part organically. Then consider whether and how the group leader / owner / influencer benefit from your products or services and how you can partner to provide a range of value and synergistic.

Do not set and forget. Working together as true partners and focus your efforts combined to provide thoughtful solutions that make sense for their members, participants or fans.

Your true, synergistic partners are not affiliates. Set expectations from both sides of the relationship and let them know you recognize their valuable contribution by referring to them as partners.

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