Exclusive: Online music retailer Sweetwater succeeds with affiliate marketing

Sweetwater incorporates content creators into its marketing strategy.

Tyler Grooms, director of engagement at Fort Wayne, Ind.-based online retailer of equipment and musical instruments Sweetwater, recently had a conversation with chain store age on how the online retailer set up a affiliate marketing strategy and how it approaches selecting influencers to work with.

Sweetwater uses affiliate marketing to promote a holistic customer experience, with the company seeing its “Sweetwater difference” as actually the product it is promoting. The company originally launched this program in 2019, and 2020 was the first year it exceeded $1 billion in sales.

[Read more: Exclusive Q&A: Sweetwater Sound hears the needs of the customer]

What made Sweetwater pursue an affiliate marketing strategy?
The development of the Sweetwater Affiliate Program came naturally through the interest of our customers who also happened to be content creators. We already have a reputation in the music industry as a go-to source – not just for instruments and professional audio gear – but also for expertise and knowledge. The content creators offered us ideas on how we could partner on projects that would be win-wins for them and for us. So we worked on creating a more formal program that would reward them every time they referred a client to us.

How Did Sweetwater Set Up Your Affiliate Marketing Program?
We already had a network of people that we collaborated with on a fairly regular basis, but we were able to expand that once we implemented affiliate management software that could help us manage the program. We steadily expanded our list of partners over time as we extended invitations to more and more interesting channels and publications.

How does the program work?
We are constantly looking for partnership opportunities with musicians and other content creators, but we are very selective about who we invite into the program. We work together to help them share their passion in an authentic way that will spark interest in our brand. We want their content to be original and engaging, so we don’t follow a formula.

As a result, we spend a lot of time with our affiliate partners just thinking. Once the content is created, they push it to their channels with special trackable links that generate a percentage of the sales they help generate.

What are the benefits, both for Sweetwater and for your customers?
Musical instruments are a big investment. Customers are researching their options, and a third-party recommendation of their favorite content creator is a powerful factor in helping them feel better about what and where to buy.

Every content creator we’ve partnered with has worked hard to build a reputation with their audience. It’s important to them that they can send their fans to a retailer that they know will take great care of the customers they refer to us.

Are there any future plans for your affiliate marketing program that you can discuss?
We are currently expanding our team so that we can attract even more affiliate partners and find new and innovative ways to collaborate with them. We also continue to look for ways to improve the program by working with our manufacturers and suppliers on things like new product launches, affiliate giveaways and more.

And their promotion attests not only to the products they use, but also to their experience as a customer working with Sweetwater to buy them and help them on their musical journey.

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