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Jason Lilien of All Inclusive Marketing shares about the 'new world' of B2B affiliate

Our conversation with Jason Lilien is a part of our agency speaker series, courtesy of Affluent.

As Jason Lilien puts it, the growth of B2B sales over the last few years has been “pretty incredible to watch.” It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the B2B space, forcing buyers and sellers online and rapidly accelerating the trends toward remote interactions.

Now B2B Saas companies are looking to diversify channels and how to reach new audiences online, said Lilien, a senior director of B2B for All Inclusive Marketing Inc. That’s why his agency has put a “big, strategic focus on B2B,” he said, adding that the target audience ranges from everything from small businesses to corporate ones. Though B2B isn’t often thought of as a natural affiliate market, more and more of these companies are looking into affiliate as a potential revenue stream, in large part because of the diversification of channels and the massive changes in how B2B purchases are made.

Several years ago, people were looking at up to five channels in their B2B purchasing journey, Lilien said. Now that number is up to 10 or more channels and continuing to increase. That means brands must figure out what channels and what extensions of their traditional sales team will help them reach new buyers, Lilien said.

Research from McKinsey & Company suggests that 71% of business users said they would spend more than $50,000 on online transactions for B2B Saas. About 27% said they would spend over $500,000.

“With affiliate and B2B taking off and continuing to grow, you see a lot more people playing and having an influence in that purchasing behavior,” Lilien said.

That growth has also led to a lot of variation and flexibility in payment terms, Lilien said, but clients consistently want a performance model to be the base of the program.

“On top of that we can add more strategic partnerships, but that performance model is what people are still interested in,” he said.

Still, there’s a misconception about affiliate that it’ll perform like paid search, Lilien said. “Certain partners will perform like paid search, but in general, you see a lot of differences," he said. "As a heads up to people: it doesn’t perform the same.”

Lilien said despite the changes to affiliate and the B2B space, a few key qualities are still necessary to be successful in affiliate. Sales and business development experience can help affiliate managers see things in an efficient and pragmatic way.

“The challenge with affiliate, in general, is that we need people who can do everything and do everything well,” he said. “That doesn’t always happen, so if you can focus on the B2B side specifically in that more sales and business development stuff, you tend to see people do really well.”

So much of the B2B side is about outreach and relationship development, Lilien said. Publishers on the B2B space aren’t necessarily affiliate partners, meaning the conversation is about explaining and exploring affiliate and negotiating what will work best.

“My perspective, which may not be loved by many, if we can provide value for our clients, whether that’s channel partnerships or more traditional affiliate relationships, I’m happy to do it,” Lilien said.

Affiliate is a “great environment to test” what works best,” Lilien said. The key is developing a good line of communication with the other teams (sales or influencer teams, for example) and determining how to attribute customers or leads.

“If you want to make it work, you’ve got to be flexible,” Lilien said. “It’s a bit of a new world out there for B2B affiliate and just having that flexibility allows people to figure out what works for there brand. There’s great opportunity out there.”

The agency speaker series is brought to you by Affluent. Read about or watch the first conversation in the series here.

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