how to build and maintain strong affiliate partnerships, affiliate marketing strategiesBrooke Ray, Director of Partnerships at Rakuten Marketing, recently moderated a panel at CardCon in Washington, DC with four experts on affiliate marketing in the credit card space on how to forge and maintain strong partnerships in the affiliate marketing space.

The ways that people pay for products and services online are evolving quickly.  New payment platforms are emerging, and payment providers are consistently seeking out ways to serve the right products to the consumers they want to target.

As competition in the space increases, it’s important for payment providers to forge strong relationships with publishers to ensure that they are getting the most out of their affiliate marketing campaigns.

“When you forge strong partnerships, that doesn’t mean you won’t go through challenges because they all have their challenges.  What’s important is how do you resolve and overcome those challenges together.” says Brooke Ray, Director of Partnerships at Rakuten Marketing.

Here, according to Ray, are the most important takeaways from that panel.

Listen, communicate and be willing to adapt

affiliate marketing communicationStrong relationships in the credit card affiliate marketing space, as in life, are built on open lines of communication and being able to adapt to changing needs.

“I think it’s a lot about listening and being flexible,” said Kenny Thompson, General Manager of “I try to take a very solutions-oriented approach. I’d rather have an issuer or a publisher come to me with a problem they are trying to solve and we can work with the assets and capabilities we have to solve it in a unique way.”

Some experts recommend that brands and affiliate partners establish goals early on and exchange data to the extent that it is possible. Security measures must be in place to ensure that the consumer is protected.

While machines are getting smarter, Kate O’Brien, Director of Marketing at The Points Guy, says she focuses on the human aspect when it comes to building relationships with business partners in order to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

“I would say it’s about being reliable and relatable,” she said. “When we are doing these partnerships, making sure that you’re going to be responsible in trying out the goals of the campaign. Most importantly I’ve found is being relatable and making personal connections with the contacts, especially with the issuers. If you’re able to have personal and informal conversations, it goes a lot easier. You’re able to pick up the phone when you need to and get things done a lot faster.”

Before working with any potential partner, O’Brien and her team try to set expectations so that both sides know what can and cannot be accomplished by working together.

“We need to be upfront about, especially when we’re coming up with volume estimations, we can’t oversell it just to get the deal done,” she said. “We really want to have that honest communication and make sure we’re accurately estimating everything on our side.”

Keep compliance top of mind

creating partnerships, affiliate marketingWhen choosing which partners to work with, brands must be transparent and ensure that their publisher partners are compliant with all industry regulations.

Loop in compliance managers early on so that everyone understands the nature of the relationship. Review content and offers before communicating to partners to ensure that all industry rules and regulations are being followed.

The more transparent that both parties can be, the more successful a publisher partnership is going to be. For instance, brands need to be clear about who they are trying to reach and what offers they want to promote, while publishers need to be upfront about their capabilities and the type of audience that tends to be most engaged with their content.

Evaluate potential partners carefully

Experts say there is no “ideal” partner, rather digital marketers should be seeking publisher partners with whom they can establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Building trust and maintaining your audience goes beyond simply taking additional measures to assure their data is being protected. Experts say it’s key that your partner’s most engaged audience be receptive to the products you are trying to introduce to them.

“We are a very specific type of audience,” O’Brien says. “We’re not going to partner with everyone. We want to make sure it’s going to fit our audience and their needs.”

Ready to learn more about how Rakuten Marketing can get you in front of a more engaged audience online through the publishers in our best-in-class affiliate network? Get in touch with us today.