Affiliate marketing is a tried-and-tested sales channel. There are many methods you can work with affiliate marketing - a blog, a YouTube channel, Email marketing, and even a podcast are valid strategies. Today we are going to explore one of the least talked about affiliate marketing channels: SMS.
Here is what we will learn:
What is SMS marketing;
How do these two work together;
Best ways to use SMS affiliate marketing;
Let's dive in:
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a sales channel companies use to have other businesses, influencers, solopreneurs, promote their products. In this system, the companies with the products are the advertisers, whereas the promoters are called publishers.
Generally, publishers earn a commission for each sale they make, but the reward method can vary. Some advertisers, like insurance companies, pay per lead a publisher generates, not a commission based on sales.
If you are new to affiliate marketing, you may think "well, if I am promoting a product for an advertiser, how will they know it was I who made the sale?"
Whenever you, as a publisher, promote an advertiser product, you do so using a specific and exclusive link. This link is the key for the advertiser to know you are the person to be accredited for each sale.
For a publisher to be able to promote an advertiser product - and get those special links - they need to join an affiliate program.
Some advertisers, like Amazon, have in-house affiliate programs. This means Amazon manages its e-commerce and affiliate program in the same ecosystem. The majority of advertisers, however, join a third-party affiliate program platform. Some examples are:
These companies have hundreds of advertisers and attract thousands of publishers willing to promote their products.
Digital and physical products
Affiliate marketing works both with digital and physical products and the idea behind it is more or less the same between them. Generally, however, there are some differences between them, such as:
Commission for digital products tend to be higher than physical ones;
Commission approval tends to be faster than physical;
Digital subscriptions may offer recurring commissions;
Many digital product marketplaces offer affiliate programs at the same time;
The rules and technicalities behind them, however, are not so different.
Now let's take a look at how SMS marketing works:
What is SMS marketing?
SMS marketing uses text messages for marketing, advertising, and sales purposes. If it sounds straightforward, it's because it is. Many companies use SMS marketing daily to communicate with their audience.
Here are some ways to use SMS marketing:
Appointment and payment reminders
SMS is a fantastic way to get urgent and emergency messages across. Even governments around the globe rely on SMS to deliver important messages to the population.
Businesses can use SMS marketing for notifying customers of important upcoming events through appointment and payment reminders. Using SMS automation, companies can remind clients of appointments or signal an upcoming due payment date.
If SMS marketing is fundamentally companies text messaging clients, this creates opportunities for conversations. And this is why customer support is another area where SMS marketing thrives.
Customers can initiate a support request by sending a text message to a company's customer support number and immediately access agents on the other side. This facilitates conversations between customers and companies with the simplicity of SMS.
Affiliate marketing is all about sales, and SMS is a proven method to drive them. If companies can send promo codes, discount cards, and special offers, why can't a publisher promote affiliate products with SMS?
This is where text messages merge with affiliate marketing. Next, let's understand how to combine these two powerful tools.
Why SMS affiliate marketing works
First, let's address the misconception that SMS marketing is an outdated communication method.
SMS has been around us for 30 years. And this can create the illusion that something this old couldn't possibly find its way in a world with Metaverse, NFTs, and whatnot. Another way to approach this is that SMS is still around us even in this very world.
And there are good reasons why that is:
SMS has a whopping 98% open rate;
SMS has a response rate of 45%;
9 out of 10 Americans use mobile phones daily to check SMS;
We could go on with the statistics, but these show that, if done correctly, SMS affiliate marketing is a true gem that few marketers and publishers seem to be using.
"But wait, I need a website, don't I?"
One of the main misconceptions about affiliate marketing is that publishers need a website to make it work.
Although product review portals, content-rich blogs, and comparison websites are proven strategies to drive affiliate sales, having a site is not the only method to work your way through affiliate marketing.
The key to being a successful affiliate marketer is to generate value. Websites are great at doing so, but so are email newsletters, podcasts, YouTube channels, and SMS lists.
Moreover, these channels complement each other, as we will see later in this article.
Top 5 use cases for mobile affiliate marketing
The most relevant characteristic SMS has is that it can't go beyond 160 characters. Pass that mark and you are paying for a second text message.
For this reason, people expect that text messages will be short, concise, and to the point. Thus, SMS affiliate marketing works best in a couple of situations.
We are now going to analyze what are they:
Promo codes and coupons
The first way SMS affiliate marketing works well is with promo codes and coupons. There are two reasons why this is.
First, many advertisers frequently generate promo codes and coupons to boost sales of certain product categories on certain occasions. One example is in the fashion e-commerce business, where retailers are always looking for ways to clear stocks from previous collections to make room for the new season.
SMS affiliate marketing is very effective when sending promo codes and coupons to your audience.
Second, most people are already used to receiving such messages via SMS. You can even build an entire SMS list for people who wish to receive discounts from a particular niche. A "receive one sports gear promo code a day" SMS affiliate marketing list would certainly get people subscribed.
The main advantage of this use case is that the advertiser will generate these promo codes for you. You only have the task of promoting them to your audience.
Our next SMS affiliate marketing use case requires a bit more work - but it's well worth it.
This works best for very targeted audiences that have a common interest. Let's use the "mountain biking" niche to show how an SMS discount alert list works in affiliate marketing.
You can research multiple affiliate programs and advertisers to look for bikes and biking apparel deals that you know would appeal to your audience. You can send a link to discounted products to your SMS list regularly.
Thinking about value, here you are doing your audience the hard work of searching the internet for products they want to buy at a discount that would often fly - unintendedly - under the radar.
And speaking of radars:
Special occasion "radar"
Our third use case for SMS affiliate marketing is the creation of special occasion "radars." Again, let's take an example to demonstrate what they look like and why it makes sense for publishers to use them.
There are a few main e-commerce dates. One of them is Black Friday, where everyone is much more inclined to shop for things even outside of their field of interest, given there is a decent discount on the table.
As the publisher, you can set an SMS affiliate marketing list that sends a link every hour - for example - with the best finding you came across on Black Friday. The word "radar" here is just to serve as a reference for you doing this research on a special day.
You can create an SMS list that is niche targeted, or that is broader and offer the list of the best products, even if they are not from the same field.
SMS affiliate marketing doesn't work only with discounts, however, and our next two use cases are a testimony to that.
Our next SMS affiliate marketing use case works well both with digital as well as with physical products. Since we've been using only physical product examples, let's investigate how a digital product SMS affiliate marketing strategy would work.
Online courses are incredible products for affiliate marketers to generate sales.
With physical products, your promoted product could be found on many sites - sometimes at a better price. With digital products, however, you are most likely promoting something that there is just one place to link to on the web.
One way to work well with digital products in SMS affiliate marketing is to promote online courses, e-books, or digital member clubs launches. Many digital product creators already have a launch strategy in place in which there is a limited window of time to buy. Your job here would be simply to drive SMS traffic to their sales page.
Link to affiliate content
As we mentioned before, affiliate marketing doesn't require a website to work. However, this doesn't mean that SMS affiliate marketing and a website - or other content platforms - can't, or shouldn't, work together.
If you are a content creator that has a blog, YouTube Channel, podcast, etc., and some of your content is focused on product reviews or simply has affiliate links in it, you could send your SMS marketing list a notification when you release new content.
This works similarly to the Email marketing strategy, so this is a strategy to use to unite the sales potential of different platforms.
2 SMS affiliate marketing best practices
It would be a shame if you would have an affiliate SMS list ready to buy from you but you missed a few key SMS affiliate marketing best practices. Some of these are make-or-break and can throw all your effort down the drain.
Check your SMS platform and affiliate program
When we talk about SMS affiliate marketing, we have two big guys inside the room. The first one is the SMS platform you use to send your text messages to your audience. The second one is the affiliate marketing program you signed up to.
The thing about them is that neither all SMS platforms nor all affiliate marketing programs allow you to run SMS affiliate marketing campaigns.
In either case, the first thing you should do before even building your SMS marketing list is to check with both of them if you are allowed to create such campaigns, and, if so, how you should proceed.
Finally, you should never send text messages to people who haven't explicitly subscribed to your SMS list. Get consent to send your audience SMS in a way that people who are joining are aware of what they will find inside.
And even when you do have a consented audience, all of your text messages should always have an opt-out option so that they can stop receiving your campaigns at any time.
SMS platforms can be very rigid with companies and marketers who are indiscriminately sending messages to people. Worst case, you could even lose your precious list.
The bottom line: is SMS affiliate marketing worth it
The short answer is: yes.
SMS affiliate marketing works tremendously well with the use cases we presented above. It is a tried-and-true method that successful affiliate marketers have been using to drive sales for many years.
Even if you are a seasoned affiliate marketer with solidified channels in place, it's never enough to add SMS as another channel to reach your audience.