I may have posted something similar to this on the old blog but I think it’s time to freshen up the idea. As a certified affiliate manager, I’ve come across many styles and brands on how this job can be done. What works best for me is proactive management that focuses on individual outreach to top affiliates. Give them what they need to succeed and keep them on speed dial, but don’t overwhelm them, they are working with hundreds if not thousands of other merchants. Also, work with merchants that understand affiliate marketing and are prepared for the strategies that go into making programs successful. The worst thing that can happen is unrealistic expectations.
Obviously starting a program versus managing an existing program needs a different strategy. For startups, there has to be patience on the merchant’s side. No matter how great you think you are or how well your products have done elsewhere, working with top-tier affiliates in ShareASale or Commission Junction is a different game. They don’t know you or trust you. You need to educate them as much as possible in the first three months. But that doesn’t mean sending them emails every day. That’s a great way to get them to ignore you and send your emails to the spam folder. The first three months of an affiliate program are for recruiting and education. I like to group affiliates into three categories: Full, Niche or New. The bulk of my attention will be focused on the full and niche affiliates because these are the ones that can deliver sales quickly. Full affiliates just need a good offer and niche affiliates need some special attention, such as pre-written blog content or deals on certain products… When you blend this approach, success is around the corner. Sometimes you start getting sales in week one, sometimes it takes a while to start to see the results you expect.
For an existing program, it’s all in the history. Did affiliates have success with you in the past and then stop promoting you? Was it because of a better deal from a competitor, change in terms of service or just a lack of program management? With these type of programs, I like to contact the top affiliates and start rebuilding the relationship. It’s not hard to do and all it takes is someone to reach out. When recruiting new affiliates, I’ve been turning to my forum at Affspot.com, previous affiliate relationships and affiliate lists within existing clients. It helps when you work with mature programs that have more than 4,000 affiliates in both ShareASale and CJ.
Managing merchants requires diplomacy as well. I’m very upfront about expectations on both sides. I have used Basecamp since I was with Kowabunga several years ago and I use it religiously. All of my clients have complete transparency into my daily activities and they all use it. But I also need them to be responsive. The affiliate channel needs a certain amount of attention and a merchant can’t turn it on and walk away. We need exclusive coupons, better landing pages, fresh creative and newsletter content. Results will come if you let us do our job and give us what we need.
Contact me to manage your new or existing affiliate program in ShareASale or Commission Junction.
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