A mistake many affiliate managers can make is that an affiliate program can run itself, that it can all be outsourced and automated – Don’t fall into this trap! This is not the case, it takes a lot of energy, creativity and hard work to turn your program into a success.
Econsultancy provided a good summary on the common reasons for why marketers fail at running a successful affiliate program in which the majority of reasons come down to the simple act of communication.
Below are 20 quick tips to consider when launching your affiliate program:
1) Buddy up with your affiliate manager – Presumably your organisation has already completed some initial research into the viability of launching an affiliate program but what may have not been researched is a competitor analysis and the current affiliate marketing landscape – these are the types of questions you should be asking your affiliate manager within the network – who are the competitor sites operating within your sector, current performance levels, relationship they have with affiliates, reputation, incentives offered
2) Can anyone hear me? Brand Presence – An advantage of launching an international affiliate program is to begin to build up revenues from an international market without the risk of launching an office and employing personnel within the country. However the chances are that your brand may not be known or recognised either by customers or affiliates. You’ll need to ensure your affiliate program communicates in the right way your business reputation and how you wish to position yourself within this international market.
3) Eyeing up the Competition – Ensure you know who you’re competing with in an international market. Your affiliate account manager should be your first contact to understand the competitive affiliate landscape but there are a number of free tools you can use to identify your competitors through keyword research – here is a useful post on 10 free keyword research tools that can help you identify competitors.
4) Talkin’ my Language? – For an international program, make sure you’ve translated your site to the language you’re operating your international affiliate program. If you haven’t, it could result in poor conversion to sale and eventually turn off affiliates from joining your program. Ensure all product descriptions have been translated as well as customer service and company description pages.
5) Know your Products – Research your product inventory to make sure you’re promoting these products to your affiliate base that you already know are in demand with your customers. Analyse your competitors that are already operating within your sector and territory – sign up as an affiliate to their programs and receive your competitor affiliate newsletters to get a flavour of what products they’re promoting to their affiliate base.
6) Product feeds – Created a product feed for affiliates to provide them with the opportunity to segment by their own requirements. Make sure the product feeds are updated regularly daily and up to date with stock inventory levels and price-points to ensure affiliates can promote the right products that are in stock.
7) Currency – Your affiliate program success rate is in part determined by how you convert affiliate traffic to sales so make sure you test, test and test again to ensure you set up relevant funnels to test visit to purchase rate from affiliates. For an international affiliate campaign, if a customer purchases an item, the item is displayed in the correct currency
8) Delivery prices – Research your competition on their delivery prices. If you’re operating an international affiliate program, you’ll need to ensure you’re offering a competitive price point on the delivery charges or alternatively, look to offer an incentive (free delivery?) as a welcome introductory offer to kickstart your campaign.
9) Commission structures – Sign up to your competitor affiliate programs to understand the levels of commission, incentives, vouchers/coupons being offered as part of their programs – These should provide you with insights into your own affiliate program and how competitive you are going to be. Are there opportunities you can differentiate your affiliate proposition ?
10) I love Customers – Treat your affiliates as your extended workforce. Not only should you be providing them with an incentive to drive sales for your affiliate program but ensure you’re building long lasting relationships with them, answering their questions, concerns and keeping them in the loop on any new developments for your business and changes to the affiliate program.
11) Sign them Up! – As new affiliates sign up to your program, ensure a brisk approval rate of new affiliates wanting to join your program. There is nothing worse than a new affiliate having to wait to be approved! You can opt to auto approve new affiliate but this is something not recommended, you don’t want to be opening up your program to any affiliate!
12) Communication – Once an affiliate is signed up, it’s essential you have a communication structure in place. Create automated welcome emails introducing your organisation, USP’s and any specific terms and conditions the affiliates may need to be aware of. Keep the relationship tailored to the affiliates need if you can e.g. some affiliates would appreciate phone calls, social media interaction or even face to face conversations so get yourself away from your desk and start to build relationships
13) Slice and dice – To gauge the success of your affiliate program, it’s essential you have a good understanding of how your program is delivering results – look to segment your affiliate database by sales/leads generated so you can identify the affiliates generating the majority of performance but also to identify affiliates not performing!
14) Negotiating placements – Ask your affiliate account manager for marketing e.g. How to get featured in the networks communications plan, put yourself forward to promote a case study on your affiliate program, offer exclusive promotions your network would be keen to promote, any seasonal offers through Christmas, Easter and bank holidays?
15) In the news – An editorial calendar is essential for any successful content marketing strategy in order to plan in advance in what content should be delivered at what time throughout the year. It helps deliver the right types of content and schedules content production. Without an effective editorial calendar, you don’t have a platform to launch and measure your content in targeting your online audience so it’s essential there is an understanding of the communities you’re looking to target and interact with. Share this with your affiliates so they are aware of any campaigns and promotions you are looking to be involved in through-out the year.
16) Research and recruitment of affiliates – Building your affiliate marketing network is a central component to ensure you’re maximising opportunities in generating incremental revenue streams through a network of publishers. There are a number of free tools available to help with your prospecting which this blog post covers in more detail
17) Tracking – Test, test and test again all your tracking codes set up through your affiliate program. You should look to be as transparent as possible with your publishers. There is nothing worse in having to deal with a lack of trust in the data! Each month you should be looking to run test orders to ensure everything is being tracked correctly and reported.
18) Maintain relationships – Just because an affiliate has signed up doesn’t mean they are going to hang around and be loyal to just your program so ensure you retain a healthy on-going relationship with your affiliate base during good and bad times.
19) Here’s the news – Monitor, measure and manage (MMM) everything! As part of your affiliate strategy, KPI’s should be in place that tie back into your overall digital marketing strategy so ensure you’re reporting on performance back to your marketing team and the contributions the affiliate channel is making to your organisation.
20) Program Building – Don’t be afraid to actively promote your program on affiliate forums (links) as well as social media accounts to build your personal and brand profile.
I would be keen to hear any more advice tips and thoughts to add to this list so feel free to add your comments and feedback