Business 2 Consumer (B2C) affiliate marketing is huge. We have multi million pound affiliate networks, huge consumer affiliate brands in the space and it is set to continue to grow. Statista shows affiliate marketing spending the United States from 2010 to 2022. According to the source, the U.S. affiliate marketing spend is due to reach 8.2 billion U.S. dollars by 2022, up from 5.4 billion recorded in 2017.
Where affiliate marketing appears to struggle is Business 2 business (B2B). There are few, if any, B2B specialist affiliate networks. Affiliate brands in the B2B space work on the old ad revenue model, so tend not to be open to performance based marketing.
So, does this mean B2B Affiliate marketing doesn’t work?
Well, no it doesn’t. It is alive and well, but that said it does have a few differences.
B2B Affiliate Marketing
B2B businesses tend to have a wide range of issues when using affiliate marketing:
- Long sale cycle
- Complex sales cycle
- Complex sale process
- No affiliate examples from their space
- No working use case or case studies to prove concept works in B2B
Yet for all of these things, there are solutions. One clue could be in the language B2B businesses use for these types of relationships. They don’t see them as affiliates, they see them as partnerships or joint ventures.
So how could you use affiliate marketing strategies for your B2B Business?
Well one way to remove the issues around sales processes is not to remunerate based on sale, remunerate based on lead or enquiry instead. Lead Gen is an easier way for marketing departments to add affiliate marketing to their marketing mix. They will already be looking at Lead Gen / Demand Gen programs and paying on a lead basis. So that could work.
Technically, paying per lead is also quicker for the affiliate to get paid, and therefore could motivate further activity to drive you more leads. It is easier for you to manage and control.
You could simply use a different landing pages and enquiry forms for each referral partner. So each lead that comes in is tagged for that affiliate. It can be done easily and cheaply. It also means by controlling the number of affiliates you can control scaling to a point. So you don’t flood your funnel with leads. (Yes, this is sometimes not a good thing).
So if you are going down the lead route , where do you find affiliates? One thing I will say for now is don’t approach lead gen companies. I know, this will get a few peoples panties in a bunch – but it is best to keep lead gen lead buying as that.
But look for companies that talk or work with your potential client base already. Approach them. You can find them with:
- Google searches
- LinkedIn Groups, Content and Searches
- Industry Press and Editorial Websites
- Trade Bodies and Professional Organisations
Private or Public?
Do you want to have an affiliate programme page on your website or not? Do you want to publicise you have a programme? Do you want an open programme or closed one? For most B2B businesses I would personally suggest a closed network. So you don’t have an affiliate programme page on your website. You don’t do PR or advertise for affiliates on Facebook.
You research and invite affiliates directly. In this way, you are building and protecting your affiliate network. An affiliate programme can be a great asset to your business and help you scale.
Using affiliate marketing is a great way to drive more leads from new potential sources of traffic. It can also be done in a quick and low cost way. Using a private lead based programme removes the issues associated with trying to shoe horn an affiliate software solution that won’t work into your business sales cycle. It can help you scale and help protect the lead volumes coming into your business.
There are of course other ways to use affiliate marketing in the B2B space, but this is the quickest and easiest way. It is a great way for smaller businesses to work with affiliate partners.