Advanced Content Marketing Strategies: Optimizing Content Partnerships

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In our latest webinar, Advanced Content Marketing From Publishers to Influencers, Erin Killian, VP, Customer & Agency Services at Partnerize shared a presentation on how to optimize content. Afterwards, she was joined by Emily Chan, Head of Affiliate Marketing at Our Place, Natalie Brown, Head of Marketing at Sur La Table and Alexis Caldwell, Head of Brand Development at rewardStyle for a panel discussion.

Read the recap below or watch the replay here.


Content Performance Trends Lead to New Partnership Trends

One of the biggest methods for optimizing content performance in 2021 is leveraging partnerships. With content and social media partners increasing in importance for upper-funnel activity, marketers are ready to diversify the ways they work with performance channels, which now necessitates a range of content partner types.

As marketers look to create these new partnerships, they’re realizing the relationships themselves are active connections to be fostered. In turn, this changes traditional partner payment structures. As more budget is invested into content creation, commission per partner increases. Content partners are driving higher sales, upping brand awareness and heightening conversion rates more than other types of affiliate partners.

Evaluating Content Partner Types for Your Business

Before even considering how to optimize with these partners, it is essential to understand how the partnership will function, their fees, placement requirements and the communication structure. Killian highlighted the three categories of partner types and how to best work with them:

  • Commerce Content: The traditional mass media communicators. In these channels, the editors are in control and must stay true to their own voice, so your brand’s content should be a natural extension of their own media. They often leverage fixed fee placements rather than creating a longer contract, but don’t just set it and forget it. This type is key for brand awareness.
  • Influencers: Incentivize consumers and interact with their audiences. When working with influencers, tailor the relationship to that individual person—tier optimization tactics based on follower size, become their friend and understand what kind of merchandise they would want or how they would want to be paid. Influencers can be driven by commission with product reviews and merchandise, but each influencer has different preferences. FTC disclosures are very important for these channels.
  • Content Syndication: Larger business entities that work with smaller content aggregators such as bloggers or TikTokers. They help those smaller people monetize their relationship with brands and usually have high engagement rates. Content syndicators are a great way to reach a large number of content providers in a scalable way, but they usually require hefty commission minimums to garner exposure to the masses. Additionally, these channels will work with you to help educate and facilitate the relationship with influencers and other sites.

Optimization Techniques

While optimization can come in many forms, here are some of the best tools your brand can use:

  • Communication
  • Diversified tracking mechanisms
  • Testing
  • Consumer engagement
  • Branded materials
  • New consumer acquisition
  • Paid engagements and commissions
  • Measurement
  • Leverage technology and payment


With the shift toward content partners, the industry questions if cash back or coupon/loyalty programs have any value left? Our panelists agreed they instead focus on creating content, which draws a higher quality customer, rather than one who only wants to shop a discounted product.

All Things Influencers

rewardStyle shared their ‘3 Hot Tips For Influencers’:

  1. Cast influencers based on data. They’re often casted based on follower size, but this does not always mean they have high engagement levels.
  2. Let influencers have creative license. They want to give their audience the opportunity to love your products, and know how to shift the message to reach them properly.
  3. Contract for longer term commitments. Contracting to set them up as brand ambassadors will engender loyalty so they’re more likely to create more content about your brand outside of dedicated contracts.

A few other tips for influencers:

  • Find people who are already passionate about your brand and know it well—they will be able to naturally integrate your content into their platform.
  • Build strong relationships—don’t treat your influencers like monetized transactions.

To introduce influencers into your program, focus on:

  • Historical data (again, to see what their engagement levels are).
  • Genuine active users— if the person has not expressed interest in your brand before, it will be alien for the person and the audience will notice.
  • Smaller influencers—oftentimes their community is smaller and more engaged with the content. Additionally, small influencers are more willing to take risks and try something new, so their content is more interesting.

Measuring Performance

To measure the performance of these content partners, focus on the goal of the specific engagement to build out your KPIs and measure tactics based on those goals. For example, when launching a new product, sales numbers would be the goal so looking at tracking links and traffic sources would help measure the performance.

How to Scale

Scaling is time consuming and often easier with agency help because they have the tech stack behind it to ease the process. Invest in your teams to help with relationship management as content partnerships cannot be successful and grow without strong relationships. Additionally, investing in your technology to create efficiencies and do it in an easier way will allow you to scale more without some of the stress of management.

Last Click Path Evolution

As last click evolves to top-of-funnel activity, it’s important to think about how you can reward those activities to better actualize the revenue (such as with tracking and other mechanisms). These top-of-funnel activities will flourish as more traditional partners shift their focus to shift to content and add more to the conversation as a whole. Ultimately, it will be essential to dive into data solutions from technology providers that can automate rewards for top-of-funnel activities.


To end the panel, our speakers shared one concrete step brands can take now to improve their content marketing:

  • Partnerize said “Communication is king.” Have a strong communication plan and make sure you’re not just communicating via email.
  • rewardStyle emphasizes “Test, test, test!” As new technologies roll out quickly, there’s a lot of testing to be done—what you believe may generate great results may not actually be the necessary fit for your brand.
  • Sur La Table advocates to “Understand what’s working and not working.” Dig into your content and use other tools to find interesting new influencers (such as social listening).
  • Our Place agrees that you should “Test across channels.” What works in affiliate may work in wider channels and this will allow your brand to get max ROI out of a strategy.

Content marketing is an important part of the modern marketing strategy, and if you aren’t already prioritizing it, these tips will help you get started. Be sure to keep tuning in to the CommerceNext Weekly Webinars as we share best practices to help elevate your brand’s marketing techniques.