As we approach Affiliate Summit West 2018, I wanted to take some time to remind friends, colleagues, acquaintances, affiliates, merchants and managers in this industry, who we are. What does Apogee stand for? Why do we do the things we do? What ten things about Apogee do I really want people to know more than anything else?
Next Tuesday morning, the Apogee team will be waiting to hear the results of the annual Pinnacle Awards, in which we are represented in three categories. The agency is up again for OPM/Agency of the Year (our third nomination, with one win). I’m up for Affiliate Manager of the Year (my third nomination). One of our favorite clients, Snake River Farms, is up for Exceptional Merchant of the Year. Winning any of them would be a great honor. We all take pride in our work as a team and value our relationships with merchants and affiliates. If I can take a few moments and share with you our strategy, please help us tell others.
We chose a favorite network. ShareASale is the exclusive network for all 20-plus of our programs. We aren’t opposed to taking over programs on other networks but we will do whatever we can to migrate to ShareASale. No other network gives us what we need or what we want like ShareASale does and we don’t believe in any multi-network strategy. Unless something drastically changes with the fundamental infrastructure at ShareASale over the next few years because of AWin, my opinion will not change. If we choose to launch a program, it belongs on ShareASale only.
The conversion line advanced attribution rules in ShareASale work to protect content affiliates from losing commissions to loyalty or coupon sites. We have these rules established in all of our programs and we see conversion line splits each month. If a content affiliate influences a sale and a coupon site closes that sale, the content affiliate will receive the majority of that split commission. The coupon site will receive its fair share for doing its job. The merchant pays no more than they would have in the beginning and two affiliates share the commission. This is the fairest way to deal with attribution.
There are no more than a dozen coupon and loyalty sites approved in our programs. We started limiting the number of affiliates with these models, during the application process, many years ago. There is little value in working with any templated domains that offer coupons. We chose the top domains with the most traffic and with humans we have personally met. If we need a code cleaned up, they need to be responsive. The problem is, they always need to be cleaned up. But at least they do what needs to be done to maintain the relationship.
Ebates is not allowed in any of our programs. They refuse to accept our conversion line rules. They demand only last click attribution. Well, my content affiliates that work hard on reviews and spend extra time perfecting promotions are much more important than a loyalty site. We do work with other loyalty sites, even if they use a toolbar. As long as they agree that if they close on a content affiliate, they receive nothing.
We do not pay for placement and we generally do not give out free stuff for reviews. First, we need to see how an affiliate performs. We need to make sure your audience is willing to buy, not just look at your words. As affiliate managers, we are responsible for sales, not eyeballs. I understand the chicken-and-egg conundrum. Influencer-type affiliates put a lot of work into promotions and their time is valuable. But when you work with affiliate managers, understand you should probably buy through your own links or try the promotion without actually touching the product. Sometimes you need to ask yourself, do I want to make money? You can recommend products in a genuine way. We can help.
The infrastructure of a program is the key. We utilize almost every bell and whistle available in the ShareASale network. It is my mission to optimize my checklist of more than one hundred items each quarter in every program. It starts with the metrics affiliates can see before joining a program and ends with trigger emails and internal creatives. Programs evolve. Logos change. If a manager doesn’t slap new paint on the exterior and put WD40 on the door hinges, the program starts to look aged.
On the business front, we turn down the majority of business leads that come in the sales funnel. We are brutally honest in the sales process and we need to make sure we are offering the best chances for success to our affiliates. We don’t want to offer false hope to merchants that do not have adequate conversion statistics or marketing plans. It’s also a personality thing. We need to understand each other immediately. I’m not going to fake a smile just to make money. I don’t need 200 nameless clients. I want 25 great clients. Categories we are interested in this year include fashion, crafts, notebooks/pens/pencils and pets. I pay healthy, yet reasonable, referral fees for new business.
We are apparently good at managing food & gourmet programs. It just seems to be the right fit for us. I’ve already mentioned Snake River Farms but I can’t leave out The California Wine Club, listed as the number 18 program in the ShareASale Top 100 PowerRank as of the time of this writing. About 60% of their sales all year came from content affiliates. I guarantee they have one of the largest percentages of content sales in the entire industry. Sure, there are programs that are pure content but this is a strong, balanced, growing program. We have also had great success with Flirty Aprons, our oldest client of more than 8 years. Many of our best content affiliates are foodie bloggers that love the aprons and kitchen products. Collin Street Bakery was a whopping success during its launch and so was Grill Masters Club. Lobster Anywhere had one of its best years ever too.
I answer emails immediately. It’s my quest for good customer service. I know, I’ve read the time management books. I’ve heard the gurus. But I just can’t handle letting an email sit in my inbox. If an affiliate emails me overnight, I’m itching to answer them as soon as I get up and check my phone. But the reverse is also true. I have to meditate and relax when others don’t answer me immediately, or within a day, or a week or months. I send really awesome reports and analysis along with thoughtful replies that are educational and helpful. Then I wait.
Our team is small but nimble. I am the lead affiliate manager. I’m in the foxhole on a daily basis. Christen takes care of newsletters, recruiting and social media. She talks with affiliates and helps them find their way in this world. Daniel cranks out the highest quality reports and helps us present our analysis better than any other agency. Jen keeps the lights on and supports the team. We are underdogs compared to the bigger agencies and we like it that way. Watch what we do in 2018. Make sure you subscribe to our Youtube channel.
Recruiting was our theme in 2017. We have that under control and demonstrated success in all of our programs. Our theme for 2018 is Education and Activation. Win or lose next week, we have a solid strategy in place to help our merchants grow through the affiliate channel.