Affiliates are independent online marketers who, for a commission, promote products or services sold by merchants. The merchants partner with a network, which tracks sales. Merchants do not always have the resources or experience to effectively grow affiliate programs, which is where outsourced program managers and agencies like Apogee come in. The affiliate manager, a person or agency, manages the relationships between the affiliates, the merchant, and the network.
Launching a merchant on a network and choosing auto-pilot never works as a growth strategy. The only way to see success is through proactive affiliate program management.
The daily work of the proactive affiliate manager is the recruitment, activation, and motivation of affiliates. Without strong affiliates to promote products and drive traffic to a merchant, there is no affiliate program.
Affiliates come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Managers need a thorough understanding of them all because each has a unique aspect that demands attention. Coupon affiliates must be monitored for proper code promotion. Loyalty affiliates can take credit for another affiliate's sales or from other e-commerce channels the merchant may have. Any affiliate that utilizes paid search could harm a merchant’s own PPC efforts. Bloggers and review affiliates need to be monitored for FTC compliance. Deal sites can drain inventory and crash a merchant website.
Proactive affiliate managers use network tools and merchant promotions to stay on affiliates’ radars and keep the program fresh and relevant. While the primary avenue of communication is most commonly the program newsletter, successful managers have an open door policy for their affiliates. Email, contact forms, Facebook or Slack groups, forums, even publishing a Skype contact name, makes an affiliate manager accessible to busy affiliates.
A successful affiliate manager is in contact with the merchant regularly—at the very least, reaching out to the merchant every month about new promotions and coupon codes that can be presented to affiliates. A newsletter is part of a proactive manager’s toolbox, and some of that monthly content will come from the merchant. Merchants need to know how the program is performing; affiliate program management is about results, and reports must be presented.
When new technology is introduced by the network, the proactive affiliate manager brings it to the merchant. New tech often means tracking code and pixels can be upgraded or that datafeeds can be further optimized.
An educated manager understands the strengths and weaknesses of each network and that being on the wrong network could mean the difference between having long-term growth with profitable new customers and adding additional costs to existing customers and seeing program decline. A proactive manager works to move a program onto the best network for its needs.
Not all affiliates promote merchants equally, and different rules are needed for attribution. Having the ability to split commissions and protect hard working affiliates from losing sales at the last minute to another affiliate is crucial. Responsible affiliate managers implement available network tools that ensure level playing fields for all the affiliates.
Choosing the Right Affiliate Management Team
Merchants looking to hire an affiliate manager would do well to consider the following suggestions.
- Seek the opinions of industry experts and thought leaders. Ask about prospective management teams.
- Ask the prospective manager how they work to protect your other e-commerce channels.
- Ask the prospective manager how they monitor for fraud, paid search violations, and unfair practices by affiliates.
- Observe how a prospective manager publicly communicates with affiliates and current clients. Observe their social media habits. Determine if their values are in alignment with yours.
- Ask the prospective manager the number of programs managed by each manager in the organization. A high client-to-manager ratio makes it difficult for a manager to pay much attention to any one program; worse, it can mean that most of the focus will be on one or two programs while many others languish.
- Ask the prospective manager about the average length of a client contract or client lifespan. The client-to-agency ratio should be high; while turnover is a fact of life for every agency, short lifespans can be an indicator of problem management.
That is affiliate program management.
According to Apogee.