Published on January 17th, 2012 | by Paul Morris0
14 Affiliate Management Tips
By Paul Morris
In a previous life I was the Affiliate director/manager/ tea boy for companies such as National Friendly, Park Resorts, Farm and Cottage holidays, Baines and Ernst, Hoburne, etc hence knew a thing or three about affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is an important part of your digital marketing mix, not only for direct sales but also for branding, hence thought I would document my top 14 tips for a succesful affiliate program:
Devise an outreach strategy. Many of the points below will enlarge on this statement but just make sure you have a plan of when and where to release new offers, widgets, competitions, incentives, etc to affiliates over the course of a year.
Networks are great but your own affiliates are better. Whilst partnering with an affiliate network on an exclusive basis has its benefits for the short-medium term (often better account management and a reduced commission %) I would not recommend this strategy for the long term. It is definitely worthwhile following a dual network strategy or better still using an in house system where the URL’s do not have CID parameters in them. If integrated intelligently non ‘affiliate-uniform’ inbound links count towards your SEO positioning (The first example I saw of this was when I worked at Laterooms.com 10 years ago and the strategy is still greatly helping towards there inbound link profile now e.g. Laterooms Newcastle Airport partnership).
Pay affiliates regularly and without fail. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately not!
EPC (earnings per click) is REALLY important to an affiliate hence make sure you try to improve your own, particularly when measured against your direct competition.
Sign up to your competitor programs. Start an affiliate profile across the affiliate networks (Affiliate Window, Buy.at, Tradedoubler, Commission Junction, OMG, WebGains, etc) and subscribe to your competitor programs so you can find out what they are up to.
Maximise conversion rate. If your campaign does not convert then affiliates will leave you in droves to your nearest competitor hence engage in A/B and multivariate testing to maximise site conversion rate.
There are many ways to skin a cat. Remember there are many affiliate types e.g. content sites, voucher codes, blogs, forums, corporate intranets, banner networks, PPC, shopping portals/ directories, product/ price comparison, cash back sites, social networks, email data list providers, etc and you need to engage with the right ones, in a tailored manner, for your products. As an example offer exclusive voucher codes and cash back incentives rather than run of network discount campaigns.
Use your stats to sell your program. If you have a great conversion rate, £payout, extended cookie duration, 2nd tier cookie referral program, excellent bonus scheme, market leading AOV, amazing competitions, seasonal rewards, excellent payouts to your super affiliates, etc then shout about them.
Use grunt work to sell your program. Market your program via sponsoring a relevant section on the A4U (www.affiliates4u.com), engage in A4U discussions, post updates about your program, target sites that might be willing to sell your wares, etc.
One of my favourite grunt work initiatives is to engage in keyword research and find relevant sites to target. You do this by trawling through the first page of Google (paid and natural results) for hundreds of relevant terms, pick out those sites who might want to promote you and then send out a series of communications (1 email, phone call X 2 and then a final chase email if they have still not responded) to try to get them to sign up for your program. Ensure within your outreach you make it succinct and personal to the specific affiliate, sell in the USP’s of your program and give them an incentive to sign up now e.g. for the next 30 days you will earn double commission on any sales generated.
Use fresh ideas to sell your program. A variety of banner designs (flash, gif, static and different sizes), widgets, interactive banners, product feeds, video, onsite tools, etc gives the affiliate something different for their site and makes you stand out from the crowd. An example of someone who does this well is BuyAGift
Detail your promotion restrictions and recommendation clauses. This can be everything from how they use your brand to voucher code usage to whether you allow PPC affiliates.
Stay in touch. You should have different contact strategies depending on your affiliates – not only defined by affiliate type but also by how they like to be contacted and also by how much money they generate. Be open to a wide variety of communication types (phone, email, meetups, email newsletters, IM, twitter, blogs, forums, etc). You also need to be available out of office hours as some affiliates do this in their spare time.
Help your affiliates. Karma is a great thing. Help your affiliates with general affiliate marketing advice, tell them what is and isn’t working, give them monthly top tips, etc and watch them promote you instead of the competition. As you can see from the posts I used to add to the A4U forum (the biggest forum for UK affiliates) I was always courteous, tried to upsell the program (‘use your stats to sell your program’ point above) at every opportunity and answered questions honestly and quickly.
Understand what day of the month it is. E.g. If you are a retail site do not try to recruit people in Q4 as they will be busy with updating their site for Christmas. Basically put yourself in the mindset of an affiliate and understand when it’s best to start a specific piece of outreach activity.