It’s September. This means it’s time to get your Christmas Affiliate campaign in order…

It feels as if Christmas comes around faster with every year that passes – and with the recent trend of #ChristmasinJuly, those in both online and offline marketing have to plan earlier and earlier. For Christmas Affiliate Campaign planning, the early bird really does catch the err, customer.

No kidding, we often have Christmas songs playing in September in the Affiliate Marketing office at Silverbean HQ, we’re already that engrossed in everything Festive! After over 14 years in the game, we can run Christmas campaigns like a well-oiled machine, but it’s not so easy for retailers orchestrating everything in house, or for those just dipping their toe into affiliate marketing.

So, as planning times lengthen, just what can you be doing during the latter summer period to ensure that your Christmas campaigns are as successful as possible?

If you didn’t catch our recent #FaultFreeFestivities webinar (which you can sign up to access here), fear not, I’ve put together the essential 10-point checklist of actions which you can carry out now, helping you to get your ideas in order and ensuring you ace your Christmas affiliate campaign planning.

TASK 1 – Agree your budget and set your targets

Whether internally or with your agency, be sure to set your targets for the Christmas period and agree on a budget for this. It’s essential that you have a figure to work towards, so all objectives are aligned and you remain focused.

Premium inventory on key affiliate sites naturally comes with at a cost during this time, so once you have your budget agreed start to have a think about where will aim to spend this – and this is where your past performance reports will come in handy.

Which leads me nicely on to Task 2 on your fool-proof Christmas affiliate campaign planning checklist…

TASK 2 – Review your performance in 2015

Just how did your affiliate program perform during the Christmas period last year?

This information will be invaluable to you in planning out just where your budget is best allocated. In particular, look at:

Any key trends? Is there anything you can spot in performance last year which you would aim to repeat and better, this year?

Who were your top click active affiliates last year? Take a look at the publishers who generated traffic for the brand last year via your program. Are there any stand out sites who didn’t convert in line with your norm? Start to think about how you can work with these affiliates to improve conversion rates (whether that be with offers, co-branded landing pages etc), and open up initial discussions at this stage.

Who were your top sale active affiliates? Who do you want to allocate budget to this year, and which types of affiliates are your focus? Are you aiming for more content affiliates, or does your brand lend yourself particular to the voucher code and cashback fraternity?

In each case, check where your top performers are and where there are potential gaps in achieving your objectives.Establishing your highs and lows from your previous year will give your 2016 Christmas affiliate campaign planning a good foundation and validate your decisions.

And if your affiliate program wasn’t live last year, don’t worry. Take a look at the performance since your program went live and see if there are any trends which you can spot.

Reach out to your network too – they should be really helpful and share their own experience and offer gap analysis, showing which affiliates your competitors utilise during this period.

TASK 3 – Create your Affiliate wishlist

Once you have completed your research above, create an affiliate wishlist to allow you to efficiently contact your top publishers and record your conversations with them.

Start to collate the Quarter 4 media packs from these affiliates. The top publishers tend to have these ready around August time, sometimes earlier, however do ensure you reach out to affiliates on a regular basis throughout Quarter 4, as some affiliates have their inventory information ready to access at a later date.

TASK 4 – Get set for key seasonal dates!

Start to factor in key dates to your planning, alongside just where you would like to spend your allocated budget. We already have the key dates of Cyber Weekend, Boxing Day Sale, January Sales etc., however there are a number of further dates which are creeping into the UK promotional calendar, which you will need to be mindful of.

First up is Chinese Singles Day, which falls on 11th November every year. This is a day where young Chinese people celebrate that they are proud of being single and purchase a gift for themselves. It’s gradually becoming one of the largest online shopping days in the world (check out this blog post from the team at Affiliate Window. They saw revenue across the network increase 172% on this day, when comparing year on year stats), so clearly an imperative part of any Christmas affiliate campaign planning.

So, if you aren’t already working with Weibo affiliates (which is effectively the Chinese version of Twitter), you should ideally be focusing upon building a relationship with these affiliates super early in the year. Look to offer them a strong offer for this particular day.

It’s also worth noting that health and beauty products tend to be the most successful in terms of revenue on Chinese Singles Day – so if this falls within your sector, do ensure you aim to make the most of this additional shopping day.

Added to this, a similar day falls on 12th December, a month after singles day, so look to mirror your campaigns where you can and get the most out of the holiday.

In addition to the above, we now have a Free Shipping Day – which this year falls on 18th December. This is a chance for all merchants to offer a delivery promotion to customers, in run up to final delivery dates before Christmas to harness those last minute purchases. Make sure you factor these additional dates into your Christmas affiliate campaign planning.

TASK 5 – Finalise Affiliate offers and promotions

With the aforementioned key dates, now’s a good time to start to have a think about what offers and promotions you can run with your key affiliates as exclusives.

Also, think about what you plan on running site-wide, which all publishers can promote for you. Aim to align these promotions with the key dates and campaigns detailed above to deliver maximum impact.

TASK 6 – Build your work plan

Now you have a list of affiliates you want to work with and know, even roughly, what offers you would like to run during key periods and dates, it’s a good time to start to build out your work plan.

Add in key industry as well as sector specific dates and then work back as to when you need to inform affiliates of your plans, when you need to have exposure agreed and dates as to when you need to provide assets to affiliates.

TASK 7 – Plan in design work

And on that note, make sure you brief your design team in now. They need to know what assets they need to create for you, including:

Your affiliate newsletters, used to communicate your offers to your publishers.

Generic and exclusive affiliate banners, to ensure all affiliates have the appropriate assets to promote your offers.

Generic and exclusive affiliate landing pages where needed – these will aim to improve conversion rates. And in particular, if you are able to offer co-branded landing pages to publishers, this will aim to further improve this metric.

TASK 8 – Technical changes

During the latter part of the Summer months (AKA NOW!) you should also start to look at the technical side of things and in particular, what opportunities are available within your affiliate program and chosen network.

Multi attribution has been a phrase long discussed, and it’s just as prevalent this year. Chat with your network as to their capabilities of cross device tracking, mobile tracking and paying affiliates based on assisted sales (rather than just last click) and discuss what may be appropriate to implement to your own affiliate program.

Run a health check on your product feed, and double check that this is being updated daily and contains all relevant fields and products for your publishers. This will ensure this tool is utilised as much as possible by key affiliates – and indeed, make sure that the correct products, pricing and information are being promoted

TASK 9 – Gift guides/gift lists

By now, you should have discussed your gift guide pages internally and with your SEO team. This can of course be utilised with the affiliate channel too, so start to have a think about which products resonate with your publishers. Are there any stand out pieces which sell particularly well via your publishers at this time of year?

Try and factor these into the gift guide pages and decide how you can successfully promote these via your affiliates.

TASK 10 – Prep your Network Interface

It might seem early, but you can also start to get your affiliate network interface prepped. If your network allows you to, create a Christmas 2016 file and share the location with your affiliates.

If not, why not create a Dropbox folder which can also be shared with your program members? They will then easily be able to locate all the assets they need in one place. Remember, it’s really important to make your affiliate’s lives as easy as possible during this time of the year. And if you do, chances are you will be promoted that little bit harder!

And that’s Christmas affiliate campaign planning all wrapped up for another year…

So, I think the clear message really is, it’s never too early to start planning your Christmas affiliate campaign. There’s a lot you can be doing now, which will really help to support the foundation of a successful festive period.

It’s key to be organised and plan as much in advance as you can. But, as always in the affiliate world, be prepared to make some last minute changes, be open to alternative inventory where it becomes available and perhaps most importantly, make sure communicate consistently with your affiliates. Good communication with your publishers will ensure you make the Nice list for years to come, going a long way for when you have to repeat this process for 2017 and create your wishlist.

I guess that last thing for me to say is – GOOD LUCK and err… Merry Christmas! (Wow, did I really just say that?!)

Should you need further guidance on your Christmas affiliate campaign planning, do give me a shout and I’ll be happy to help further. See contact details below, or head to the Silverbean Twitter profile for Q&A (or just to check out our general digital ramblings!).

If you missed our Festive Planning webinar, access it here and indulge in loads of expert knowledge about Christmas campaign planning for SEO, Paid Marketing and Optimisation (and Affiliate Marketing, of course!)