I recently ran a charity auction to benefit Travis County Emergency Service District No.6, who courageously fought the central Texas wildfires of September 2011, where the prize was an interview to appear on my affiliate marketing blog.
The winner was Deluxe for Business, and I’d like to give a big thank you for their generous donation.
I interviewed Marty Marion, Affiliate Manager for Deluxe, who handles the various affiliate programs for the Deluxe’s suite of products and services. Marty has over 15 years of experience in web development, e-marketing, website design, paid search and online media, including such companies as Deluxe for Business, 3M and Meyers Printing Company.
Shawn: Please describe the focus of Deluxe for Business and your target audience.
Marty: Many people already know Deluxe for checks. Since 1915, Deluxe has been a leading provider of small business products & services. But Deluxe is much more than checks these days. We are a growth engine for small businesses; helping businesses start, manage and grow their business. Currently four million small business customers access Deluxe’s wide range of products and services including customized checks and forms but also touching on many other business growth needs such as promotional merchandise, web design and hosting, search engine marketing, logo design, printing and mailing services, retail packaging, business holiday cards & gifts, email marketing and business identity protection.
Deluxe’s particular segment of the B2B market is what we refer to as B2sB (aka Business to Small Business). Over 75% of small businesses are run by sole proprietors, meaning the business owner is also the buyer. Even with larger businesses (in the 5 – 15 employee range), many of these businesses have not yet grown quite enough to have a formal in-house purchasing department. Instead, most small business decision makers act as their own purchasing department; and that is moving the demand for B2sB products online… and that has opened up a huge opportunity for affiliates.
Shawn: Are you working with affiliate networks for your tracking and reporting? If so, which one(s)?
Marty: Deluxe currently works primarily with the ShareaSale for all of its small business programs (Currently Deluxe checks and forms, Bags & Bows, LogoMojo, Aplus.net, PsPrint and EasyContact are live on ShareaSale). Two of Deluxe’s programs are also available through CJ (Aplus.net and PsPrint.com), with these remaining programs will be available through Commission Junction by the end of January, 2012.
Shawn: Do you allow affiliates to promote your companies via PPC and social media?
Marty: Yes, we do permit PPC bidding, providing the affiliates follow our very strict – and closely monitored – trademark bidding and direct URL linking policies. As Adam Riemer has discussed in the past, we want to make sure that affiliates are adding value to the program, and we hope that – as a merchant – we can add value to their content offerings. That’s one of the reasons we are committed to fostering one-to-one relationships with our affiliates.
As some of our top affiliates can attest, an investment in the B2B affiliate programs through Deluxe does pay off, but – as with any new or untamed market – it does take a bit of work in the early stages to crack the code on B2sB marketing… and for that, we’re here to help.
Shawn: What sort of affiliates do you look for when recruiting?
Marty: To date, what we have found content-driven affiliates work best. Our research has shown that small business owners regularly turn to the internet for the information they need to help make a business decision. Affiliates who help small businesses come to an informed decision seem to be the ones with the greatest level of success. But by content, we don’t necessarily mean entire small business sites or blogs. Often, content can simply be a small business opportunity within existing content niches. With the rapid growth of startups, more and more people are turning their passions into their professions. Niche blogs often have a direct pipeline into the current of future small business owner. Even coupon sites are showing success by optimizing their taxonomy and category content for the B2sB market.
Lastly, with the continued growth of Social Media as a business decision maker, we are very interested in joining forces with those that have a significant Social Media presence, especially those who provide information and inspiration within the small business space.
Shawn: Are you focused more on reaching small businesses, medium, or both?
Marty: Mainly small businesses, especially within the affiliate channel. Basically, those businesses that don’t have a formalized purchasing or procurement department and need help finding a reliable source for their business products and services. The reason behind this targeting is simple… a recently survey Deluxe conducted showed that nearly 80% small businesses prefer to buy business products online. In fact, more businesses stated that they use the internet to buy products more than those who used the internet to advertise or sell their own products.
Think about that for a second… according to these stats, for all of the businesses out there looking to sell their products online, there are even more out there looking to buy. In both cases, by taking a combined B2C and B2sB approach, affiliates can win.
Shawn: Do you concentrate more on quality or quantity when it comes to recruiting affiliates?
Marty: A bit of both, really.
In general, we’d be looking for a core set of the strong B2sB affiliates who truly “get” the small business audience. Because that does require a stronger commitment to understanding the market and how to communicate with them, we expect that to be a smaller but very powerful part of the affiliate business.
On the other hand, there are a wide variety of affiliates who inadvertently speak to the small business owner and some may not even realize it. Coupon sites are a solid B2B opportunity, bloggers, posters, “Likers” and Tweeters, especially those that discuss topics of significant interest to small businesses (Social Media, SEO, PPC, Marketing, Management, etc.). Even – as mentioned earlier- niche or hobby bloggers have a certain portion of their audience that would be potential or current business owners as they turn their hobby into a business.
All an affiliate needs to do is think to themselves “What are the chances that some of the 26 Million Small Business owners in the U.S. visit my site?” Based on the answer to that question, they should see a solid opportunity to capitalize on a new area within their current niche.
Shawn: Do you have any tips for affiliates to break into B2B affiliate marketing?
Marty: Absolutely… the first tip is to put yourself in the mindset of a small business. Business owners are constantly looking for products and services that will help their business… help them make more money, save money, etc. If you have a way to help a small business owner while driving affiliate revenue for yourself, go for it.
Secondly, look for easy ways to add a small business section within what you already do… Coupon Sites – Do you have a Small Business or Home Office category? Email, Content, SEO, Posters & Bloggers – Is there an opportunity to add a “let’s talk business” approach? PPC – What keyword sets can you effectively target? A majority of affiliates communicate with small business owners on a daily basis, many without even knowing it… it’s time to stop letting those opportunities pass them by.
Thirdly – Start now. The B2sB affiliate market remains relatively untapped, the opportunity is now. Don’t wait until the B2sB category is as saturated as many B2C programs before taking advantage of this market.
Finally… call me (651-787-1408), visit deluxe.com/affiliates, twitter.com/MJMDeluxe or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). We are dedicated to working closely with affiliates to help them build a solid B2sB program, and I’m available to help in any way I can.
If you would like to find out more about B2sB Affiliate Marketing, make sure you attend the session, “How to Make B2sB Profitable” at Affiliate Summit West 2012 in Las Vegas.
Marty Marion will be speaking on strategies for lead generation, B2sB product promotion, messaging and customer outreach, plus top 10 things affiliates can do to earn in B2sB.