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Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Tips & Guides — 11 Nov 2021

What is Performance Marketing?

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

A good marketing strategy can mean the difference between success and failure in the world of business.

This is doubly true when it comes to ecommerce businesses, which live and die by the number of visitors their sites draw in. Worthwhile marketing efforts will boost site traffic and provide these businesses with plenty of prospective customers, which is why it’s so important to identify and capitalize on those worthwhile efforts.

One example of a great strategy your business can make the most of is performance marketing.

In this article, we’re going to cover what performance marketing is, what makes it valuable, and everything you need to know to make it work for you.

Defining performance marketing

Performance marketing is a specific kind of digital marketing. Brands that use it only pay their chosen performance marketers when the performance marketing strategy in question yields a specific result (usually clicks, conversions, or sales).

In other words, the payment model is built around the performance of the campaigns. Successful campaigns net a great deal of profit for all parties involved.

How performance marketing is related to other types of marketing

While all performance marketing falls within the category of digital marketing, not all digital marketing or digital advertising necessarily involves performance marketing.

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Unsplash

Digital marketing essentially involves creating marketing programs specifically for the purposes of advertising online. It’s all about using the internet to connect with audiences full of people who can then go on to become your leads.

All social media marketing, as well as email campaigns and web-based ads, count as digital marketing (or online marketing). It’s a vital part of any brand marketing strategy.

Brand marketing”, in turn, is the term used to describe long-term strategies to increase brand awareness among a target audience. That brand awareness is then intended to develop into brand loyalty over time, which happens as a result of constantly communicating the brand’s core identity, values, and beliefs to potential customers.

As we’ve covered, performance marketing is a type of digital marketing. It also often involves some degree of brand marketing.

How does it work?

The basis of performance marketing is quite simple. It’s based around a business partnership between advertisers (merchants, retailers, clients) and publishers (marketing agencies, affiliates) that’s mutually beneficial to both parties involved.

Advertisers pay publishers every time a specific action, that was agreed upon in advance, occurs. For example, an advertiser might suggest payment for every click an advertisement created by a publisher receives.

The publishers put in the work to create the advertisements themselves. However, they can’t do this alone; advertisers have to supply the material that’s being marketed.

In other words, publishers and marketers rely on their partnership to make the process work.

Performance marketing channels

There are five key performance marketing channels. Each one comes with its own advantages, which is why most performance marketing campaigns tend to use at least two, if not all.

We’re going to take a closer look at all five of them so you can understand their benefits.

Social media marketing

Any kind of marketing plan that involves creating content for social media platforms—including TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other sites—is considered social media marketing.

In most cases, social media marketing involves putting content out onto multiple platforms at once. The most popular one to generate content for is generally Facebook, with Instagram and YouTube following behind:

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Hubspot

It’s generally a good idea to incorporate this type of advertising into your performance marketing plans. That’s because many prospective customers access those sites using both mobile apps and desktop devices, meaning you’ll give your publishers’ content a greater amount of exposure.

You can also massively increase your social media content’s reach by incorporating influencer marketing into your social media strategy.

The most common social media marketing metrics include likes, comments, clicks, shares, and sales.

Native advertising

As the name suggests, native advertising is meant to blend in organically with the medium on which it’s published, as though it’s “native” to that medium.

To put it simply, native advertising is designed not to look like an ad. It’s the exact opposite of display advertising.

Unlike display ads, native ads don’t come with banners or pop-ups, nor do they generally contain eye-catching images full of promotional content. Instead, native ads are designed to be contextually relevant to the content they’re incorporated into.

Native advertising usually uses two specific payment models. These are CPM (pay per impression) and CPC (pay per click).

Sponsored content

This subtype of performance marketing involves creating content that has the specific aim of promoting a brand or product. In exchange, that brand offers compensation.

Sponsored content generally has to include a disclaimer somewhere letting viewers know that it’s sponsored, or paid, in some way.

Influencer posts are an increasingly common example of sponsored content marketing:

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Statista

This type of performance marketing is a great way to reach the loyal followers of influencers. That includes both influencers who regularly engage with the type of products your brand sells (for example, lipstick brands might partner with makeup tutorial artists), and influencers who have a large reach but ultimately little to do with your brand.

The aim of putting out sponsored content is to show prospective customers that current users of your products are happy enough with them to recommend them publicly. This creates a sense of trust and familiarity that helps drive conversions.

Affiliate marketing

The term “affiliate marketing” describes a type of performance marketing that’s based on a promotion model which involves advertisers advertising your product on their websites in exchange for a commission. Its purpose is to give those advertisers’ content exposure to new audiences, and potential leads.

Users of affiliate marketing strategies might also opt to set up or join affiliate networks. These are specifically designed to make it easy for advertisers to put their content into many different places, so they can reach the largest possible audiences.

This type of performance marketing also often involves partnering with review and/or incentive websites that then put out content to make the brand in question look good.

Search engine marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing, or SEM for short, is also often called pay-per-click (PPC) or paid search advertising.

It works by having advertisers bid on keywords, then pay for the clicks their keyword-optimized ads get on top search engines. Usually, that means Google Ads, though Yahoo and Bing are also used:

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Reliablesoft

The ads in question often use a mix of sponsored and native ad content. Of course, the more clicks they’re able to get, the higher the advertiser’s return on investment (ROI) on the money they put into bidding on the keywords in the first place.

Choosing the right keywords is a vital part of a good SEM strategy. Generally speaking, it’s important to research keywords thoroughly before committing to any particular one.

One of the ultimate goals of SEM is to promote brand awareness through search engines. Unpaid SEM can be achieved through SEO (search engine optimization), and it complements paid SEM by drawing in more viewers using keywords. 

How can performance marketing benefit you?

There are many benefits of performance marketing to consider. Firstly, it increases your reach, meaning your brand gets exposed to more people. That has the potential to drive your lead generation, which leads to an improvement in your conversion rates.

Performance marketing is also a great way for ecommerce businesses and startups in particular to build up marketing partnerships that can lead to more future benefits.

When your performance marketing partners deliver your desired results (usually, those include ‘increased website traffic), it’s easy to fulfill all kinds of other business goals as well. For example, it’s easier to lower your CPA (cost per acquisition) when that cost is handled largely by your performance marketing partners.

How to get started on performance marketing

Getting started with performance marketing doesn’t have to be a complicated process. All you’ve got to do is make sure you follow all of the steps and tips listed below, and you’ll be well on your way.

Set your goals

The first, and potentially most important, thing you have to do is set your KPIs. This gives you clear goals to work towards, which ensures you’ll know exactly when you’ve achieved those goals.

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Pexels

The clearer your goals and criteria for success are, the easier it’ll be to conclusively say you’ve achieved them. Also, you’ll be able to pinpoint precisely where you’re exceeding your goals, where you’re meeting them dead-on, and where you’ve got to put in a little extra work to match up to what you’d hoped to achieve.

In short, setting your goals and choosing your KPIs is an exercise in effective, efficient planning.

Set your targets

Your targets should align with your goals, only, you should have significantly more targets than goals.

Targets should answer questions of where you want to be, by when, and how much wiggle room those goals come with.

Setting good targets means you get to avoid being part of the group that “picks a number that feels right” when the time comes to assign numerical values to your goals.

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Databox

Instead, your targets will be based on data, either of the historical or previous-month kind. That means you’ll have realistic expectations that are informed by both your goals, and the data that turns those goals into reality.

Establish roles and structure

This is another crucial step in the planning stage. You need to know who’s doing what, or in other words, what role every member of the team is going to be occupying. You also need to know what the structure of your performance marketing strategy is going to be.

The importance of a well-established structure really can’t be stated enough.

To put it into perspective, consider the following question: If you don’t know how things are running, how can you be sure that they’re running well? The answer is simple; you can’t. 

So, to ensure that everything is progressing seamlessly, make sure you have a clear structure that everyone involved in the process can refer to at any time for clarification.

Select your channels

We’ve covered five types of channels, and we’ve seen how each of them can be helpful to a strong performance marketing strategy. This step involves using that knowledge to your advantage.

Which channels seem promising to you, for your business? Which ones don’t look like they’d be much help to you?

Make sure you’ve taken the time to answer both of these questions, so you know exactly which channels you’ll be aiming for, and what your own specific type of performance marketing will look like.

Launch the campaign

Everything needs to start somewhere, and this is that place for you. In this step, you’ll be getting things started, ensuring everyone knows what the goals and targets are as you do so.

An important tip to keep in mind as you do launch your campaign is this: Track everything. At worst, you’ll end up with extra data you can discard later, when you’re sure you won’t need it. At best, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where problems began to crop up, making it much easier to figure out why.

Evaluate and optimize

You’ve got to keep a constant eye on your progress. Letting things run on their own is no way to manage a performance marketing plan.

Actively managing the process means watching closely to figure out exactly what’s working, and how to fix it when it isn’t working. Only by monitoring the process can you consistently and accurately evaluate its success.

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Pexels

Another key part of evaluation is optimization.

When you always keep an eye on things, it becomes easy to figure out when your guidelines aren’t serving their intended purpose anymore.

For example, you might be getting more clicks than you’d anticipated. That means you need to optimize your targets anew, so they make sense for the actual reality of the situation.

6 top tips for successful performance marketing

Making performance marketing work for you is easy with these six top tips. You can improve all of your performance marketing strategies by following them, so let’s dive in and look at each of them in turn.

1 – Choose traffic sources wisely

Not all traffic sources are created equal. Some are more reputable than others, and all impact the impression of your brand that your audience is left with.

For example, if you’re advertising on a sketchy website that also contains ads trying to fish for viewers’ credit card details, you’ll accidentally create an association in your customers’ mind between your brand and those phishing scams.

That lowers trust in your brand, which is something you should avoid at all costs.

By choosing your traffic sources carefully, you can ensure that you create a positive impression of your brand. You can also avoid losing out on valuable prospective customers. Additionally, you get to ensure that your investments are worth every penny, since reputable sites are great at driving traffic to your site.

To that end, it’s also a good idea to look at partnership management tools that can help you connect with reliable partners – but we’ll get into those shortly.

2 – Run A/B tests

A/B tests are a type of test that’s run with the aim of evaluating the user experience. They’re also called ‘split-run tests’ because of the way they work, which is by splitting testers up into two groups and having those groups evaluate different versions of the same element.

That’s a pretty technical definition, so let’s look at an example. We’ll say that one of your specific goals is to get more clicks on your Facebook ads – and that to do so, you’ve created two versions of the same ad. One uses mostly green colors, the other favors grey.

Your A/B tests would then involve getting two groups together to test those ads. The A testers would only be exposed to the green version, while the B group would get paired with the grey one.

This way, you can measure the efficiency of your solutions on a case-by-case basis to find the perfect ones.

3 – Work with reliable partners

Unfortunately, an attractive arrangement like “pay only for your desired results” is one that’s ripe for exploitation by businesses with bad intentions. These kinds of marketing firms would lure partners in with promises of results, and then achieve those results with unsustainable methods and black-hat tactics.

You can avoid dealing with non-credible agencies by using services that partner you with suitable companies, like Affise does. Affise’s focus on preventing marketing fraud makes it an ideal partner to help you filter out the bad apples and concentrate on the good, credible ones. 

4 – Create good landing pages

All the site traffic in the world can’t guarantee new conversions if your landing pages aren’t attractive, or if you don’t have enough of them.

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Cience

With high-quality landing pages at your disposal, you’ll convert more of your website visitors into paying customers. That means that the value of every site visitor goes up, which in turn makes every bit of effort put in by your performance marketing partners worth more.

5 – Make data-driven decisions

You should be using statistics to optimize the way your business runs. That includes using them to optimize your approach to, and implementation of, performance marketing.

It’s easy to generate statistics when you’ve got a wealth of data available to you. That’s exactly what performance marketing can bring. From the moment your partner marketing strategies are implemented, they start to generate data that you can then use to create statistics.

With more data available to you, it’ll also become easier to figure out which of your channels is the most profitable. That means it becomes easier to optimize your whole marketing strategy thanks to the performance of your performance marketing.

The more data you track, the greater the extent to which you can do this.

Affise BI helps you manage that unstructured data from each of your marketing channels, making it easier to track and analyze all of it.

Data is immensely valuable. It can save you money, increase your profits, and much more:

Performance marketing definition and guide to getting started

Image source: Finances Online

That’s why it’s important to track as much data as you can in real-time. More than you need is never too much!

Get started on performance marketing with Affise

Affise is designed to make your partnership management as simple, successful, and easy as possible.

It helps you find partners through Affise Reach. Once you’ve got your partners locked in, Affise’s other functionalities support you throughout the processes of campaign automation, generating in-depth analytics, tracking, and many others.

With Affise’s CPAPI tool, you can also easily connect sources of offers with recipient systems. The platform also makes it easy to pull all your offers into a unified tracking platform for simple and effective management.

Conclusion

Making room in your marketing budget for a bit of performance marketing is always going to be worth your while. Put simply, that’s because it’s a sure-fire way to increase your website traffic, incoming leads, click through rates (CTR), conversions, and sales.

Whatever your intended result or desired action, performance marketing can help you make it happen.

All you need to know is which marketing platforms you want to dedicate to performance-based strategies, and which marketing companies or marketers you want to partner with to make those strategies happen.

As far as marketing partnerships go, you’ll want to make sure you’re working with legitimate, capable partners. That’s why it’s a good idea to use a partnership marketing platform like Affise, which makes it a simple matter to manage your partnerships effectively. There’s little to lose and much to gain when it comes to performance marketing strategies.

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Affise Academy

Affise is a partner marketing platform for brands, advertisers and agencies to scale via all possible performance marketing channels. Synergy of technology and our long standing experience lets you expand your partnerships, automate every step of the campaign lifecycle and make data-driven decisions.

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