Title for Analysis of Market Trends or Developments

Much has been made of the rebranding of affiliate marketing to partner marketing. And considerable debate about if this is just semantics or represents a new discipline. The answer is neither.  It already has a name: strategy. What the leading platforms are representing as “partner marketing” is two brands forming a strategic partnership that drives incremental value.  

MARCH 30, 2020

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This is just placeholder copy. The decision to partner in order to leverage similar audiences to drive incremental value has a long history. Is has been the purview of the business development or corporate strategy teams. In fact, there is an academic discipline called “strategy” that covers partnerships.  


What platforms are actually talking about is automating many of the difficult elements of partnering: tracking, reporting and paying. As a former boss of mine used to say “disrupting the spreadsheet industry.”


Finding partners and thinking through opportunities was never the challenge when I managed strategic partnerships. The barriers were execution: negotiating terms, training marketers, salespeople and customer service teams, tracking sales and compensating partners. These actions required the buy in of several different parts of two different organizations. 


Lowering those barriers is valuable, and the industry is right to promote this. 


However, the affiliate industry has discovered that recruiting “strategic partners” is laborious and there are already people at brands responsible for building these partnerships.  


The value prop of automation for business development and strategy teams is cost savings.  If you can eliminate the need for humans to track and pay, you can take more risk bringing on partners. 


The challenge for the platforms is to do one or both of the following: 

  • Use automation to steal strategy roles from the BD teams

  • Build a new go to market strategy that  focuses on cost savings and sell into finance and strategy teams. 


Both are possible. When I was at Partnerize, I saw several smart affiliate marketers promoted to strategy roles specifically because they demonstrated how to automate strategy. Conversely, I saw Partnerize competitors successfully sell automation into strategy teams. 

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The irony is that the affiliate industry is discovering that recruitment of strategic partners is not plug and play, much like many new entrants to the affiliate channel discover about recruiting partners. 

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