Creating successful affiliate marketing programs require a lot of hard work and patience, and also a good understanding of how to attract the best affiliates that are going to deliver plenty of high-value conversions as well as strengthening your brand image.  We’ve condensed some key advice into a handy guide for any companies looking to manage any affiliate marketing programs in-house collected from our years of experience as an affiliate marketing agency.

Appeal

Just as you need to check affiliates are right for your brand and business goals, they’re also weighing up your suitability. Let them see that your website has excellent usability and that it’s mobile-optimised to maximise potential revenue streams.

As the ecommerce manager you will need to demonstrate a good level of knowledge on the business, for example;

  • Challenges and opportunities of the industry sector you operate in
  • Who are your customers?
  • What motivates customers to make a purchase?
  • What are your best-selling products and why?
  • When are your key selling periods?
  • What are your USPs?

In order to get the most out of your affiliate marketing programs, take time to understand the affiliate’s model and what they can offer:

If it’s a voucher site you are aiming for, ask yourself “Can I offer vouchers?”, “Do I discount regularly?” and look for weak areas. For example, Silverbean who act as an affiliate agency had an affiliate promoting UK Holiday Parks who were weak in offering Lake District breaks. South Lakeland in Cumbria was a perfect fit for the affiliate and gave the client a small monopoly over people visiting his site for Lake District holidays.

Show you’re in for the long haul:

Ultimately, affiliates are looking for longevity and consistency in the brands they work for – they don’t want to spend 12 months building up your reputation and gradually increasing sales to a peak only for you to ditch them or change your affiliate marketing strategy up. Show affiliates you’re interested in that your company is in it for the long-haul.

Create one-off promotions:

Affiliates have a good understanding of seasonality so whereas it is great to make consistent sales, they also appreciate that some verticals are seasonal and will create promotions just for them at key periods to maximise these times. Merchants or your affiliate agency should be prepared for this and make sure they are offering affiliates strong promotions during these peak seasons.

Content

  • High-quality content exclusively produced for the program is an attractive lure, as it makes life much easier for affiliates if they have articles, videos and imagery to update their site, blog or social media channels.
  • Refresh regularly. Distributing good quality, frequently refreshed content, although it may seem like an extra business expense, makes good sense as it will boost your affiliates’ SEO visibility.
  • Consistency in branding across all content provision so that no-one feels like they’re getting a raw deal, and make sure affiliates are given full details of any promotions well in advance of the launch date so they can prepare.
  • Build a relationship. If an affiliate likes to produce their own content, then accommodate them and give them things to write about. Send them products to review or invite them to meet the team.
  • Exclusivity. If you’re going to work with voucher code sites then create content and deals specifically for them so they don’t clash with any promotions you’re running from your own website. Exclusive codes will be particularly appreciated from affiliates as this gives them an edge over competitors, as well as giving them fresh content to help their SEO campaigns.

Communication

Good communication is essential to the management of an affiliate marketing program. Stay in regular contact so you can learn of any problems quickly and deal with them, answer questions and coordinate the release of strategic information. With many years in the industry and being an affiliate marketing agency; we couldn’t stress this enough.

You know your reasons for starting an affiliate marketing program, but you also need to understand the motivations of your affiliates – yes most are looking for a good way to make money online, but they also have networks of followers who they need to engage, so your strategy must incorporate the aims of each affiliate site.

There is a lot of chatter amongst the affiliate community so immerse yourself in that – contribute to forums and generally give the impression that yours is a switched-on brand that wants to establish a good working relationship with new affiliates. When Matalan launched their affiliate strategy a few years ago they had face-to-face meeting with their partners; an excellent way to start building trust.

Rewards

Awarding commission appropriately is among the biggest challenges of affiliate management. Through analytics you need to ascertain what effect each individual site has had on a purchase to avoid either paying out for sales you might have got anyway, or not rewarding enough. Setting ground-rules for commission early on is vital.

As it stands a last click model is how most programs run, so with that in mind you need to look at the following…

  • How much commission can I offer while leaving me room to increase if necessary and run promotions (sale/vouchers).
  • What commission do my competitors offer? There is no point offering a commission level that is going to mean you cannot run promotions or you end up out of pocket during sale periods. Although, having said that you need to be competitive with what your rivals are offering. Affiliates take commission levels into account when looking at who to promote, this is how they make money after all. That does not mean they will promote you just because you have the best commission, they normally need an offer too. A strong offer with slightly less commission is better than no offer and higher commission as it will give the affiliate something to promote.
  • You may also wish to offer different commission on different products. Different products have different margins so this will mean you have much more control over how much you are giving away per sale and may mean your profit levels are higher.

Recruitment

  • Utilise your social media profiles, company newsletter, blog, press releases and of course your own site to let people know your program is being launched.
  • Go to where your market is – online affiliate networks such as forums and community groups, or to 3rd party platforms where your proposition will be in front of many of the largest and most professional outfits.
  • Use sites such as PerformanceIN to advertise your program launch, ask your affiliate network and affiliate marketing agency (if you use one!) to provide you with a list of key affiliates that should ideally be added to the program. Silverbean use GAP analysis for affiliates who perform well across all verticals and that should be on any affiliate program, we also then have niche GAP analysis based on vertical specific affiliates.

The world of affiliate marketing is constantly changing and updating, its always best to keep abreast of the news through various affiliate sites and forums.

If you do want to know more about how best to go about setting your company up with a network of affiliates and how we might be able to help or represent you as your affiliate agency, please contact [email protected] or call (+44) 0191 406 1200.