Performance marketing and affiliate marketing

Performance marketing has never entered the mainstream of marketing terms since it’s most relevant to some sectors only.

Traditionally, it refers to driving traffic and retail sales through lead or sales-based commissioned-based arrangements which are best known as affiliate marketing. In rare cases, the merchant may have their own programme where they have the scale (Amazon Associates for example), but more often merchants / retailers work with an affiliate network which manages the relationship with affiliate partners who typically drive awareness using paid or organic search, or less commonly, social media.

However, affiliate marketing is also important in other sectors like financial services (especially for credit cards and loans) and travel where comparison sites enable consumers to compare offers. In financial services, these affiliate arrangements are called aggregator sites.

This media category is known as performance marketing since it is a cost-per-performance arrangement where the merchant only pays when a sale (or less commonly lead) occurs. Through

More generally performance marketing is sometimes used to describe the process of ‘data-driven marketing and optimization’ to maximize the return on all media investments for customer acquisition (and repeat sales).

To learn more about developments in this sector, see PerformanceIn. This media site for professionals in this sector focused on affiliate marketing initially, but now covers other performance-based techniques including biddable media and influencer marketing.


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Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. We’re a publisher and learning platform that helps our 150,000 active members in over 100 countries plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice in our planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.

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