Five ways to make your Affiliate Program a success
Set your objectives
Whether you’re an experienced veteran of affiliate marketing campaigns or a total novice, there’s always more to be done to make your affiliate program a success.
We’ve condensed some top tips on running affiliate programs into a handy, jargon free guide, gathered from the decades of experience we have here at Silverbean.
Before we begin, the first question you need to ask is ‘Why?’. Why are you looking to launching an affiliate program? What do you believe the affiliate channel can offer your brand? The answers to these questions will provide you with an idea of exactly why you’ve chosen to launch an affiliate program for your business. Once you have reached the point where you are totally confident an affiliate program is right for you and your business, chosen your preferred platform on which to launch, and determined whether the program will be run in-house, or you will be utilising the services of an affiliate marketing agency such as Silverbean, you can begin to utilise our top five tips for ensuring the affiliate sector will elevate your business.
Your business needs to be appealing to the publishers you are looking to work with, and your business also has to be appealing to the customers you are subsequently looking to target through the channel.
Just as you need to check affiliates are right for your brand and business goals, affiliates also must weigh up your suitability for their target market. Affiliates are also extremely keen to work with businesses that have attractive websites, where the customer experience will be enjoyable, and the path to conversion will not be complicated. With more and more customers now also shopping on their mobiles, affiliates will be keen to see that your website has excellent usability, and is fully mobile optimised to maximise potential revenue streams.
As the ecommerce manager, you will need to demonstrate a good level of knowledge on the business, which can then be communicated to prospective affiliates. For example, make sure you are clear on:
- The challenges and opportunities of the industry sector you operate in
- Who your customers are
- What motivates customers to make a purchase
- Which products are your best-sellers and why
- Your key selling periods are
- Your USPs
Ultimately, affiliates are also looking for longevity and consistency in the brands they work for – they do not want to spend 12 months building up your reputation and gradually increasing sales for your brand, only for you to cease working with them or completely alter your affiliate marketing strategy. If you can show to affiliates your company is in it for the long-haul, you will receive a large amount of goodwill in return.
Affiliates also 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.
Provide high-quality content
Content is king in the affiliate world, and it can come in all shapes and sizes. If you are able to provide high quality content, such as articles, press releases, imagery, videos and products to the channel, it will make life so much easier for affiliates to promote your business. Providing content such as this also ensures that you are reaching a wider audience through the affiliate, but you are still controlling things such as the tone of voice and brand image you are wishing to portray, and this will ensure your branding is consistent.
Refreshing content regularly is crucial. For example, if you are in the fashion industry, ensuring your articles, imagery and videos are seasonally appropriate will ensure that the content being pushed through the affiliate channel is highly relevant, and will be well received by potential customers. Serving Autumn & Winter themed creatives, or pushing coats, hats and scarves throughout the summer months is a sure fire way to turn potential custom away!
In addition to providing your own content, there are an abundance of high quality affiliates in the sector who love to produce their own content, so providing these affiliates with things to write and post about is key. These things can be products to review, new collections to preview, or giving them a chance to visit your business – anything that will engage the affiliate will be very well received, and will ensure high quality content can subsequently be produced.
Providing affiliates with exclusive content is also key. For example, if you choose to work with voucher code affiliates, be sure to offer them exclusive promotions. In doing this, you can ensure these promotions to do not clash with anything you are currently running from your own website. This will subsequently provide affiliates with a genuine reason to post about your business, and will be greatly appreciated by them.
Communicate well and often
Good communication is essential to the management of a successful affiliate marketing program. Ensuring you are in regular contact with the affiliates on your program will ensure your business will always be in their thoughts, build trust and confidence that they will receive regular correspondence from your business, and will subsequently build strong relationships between yourself and the affiliate. Ensuring offers and promotions are sent out from your program is key, however communicating on a personal level is also highly advised, whether this be via email, over the telephone, video chat, or through a face to face meeting.
Staying in regular contact will also ensure you can learn of any potential problems quickly, be on hand to answer any queries affiliates may have, and also give you the opportunity to coordinate the quick release of any strategic information.
Maintaining personal contact between yourself and your affiliates, you will also begin to understand the motivations, needs and wants of theirs. Each affiliate has their own particular niche, and with this comes a particular target market. Working closely with affiliates will ensure the content you are communicating to them is wanted, relevant, and likely to lead to traffic and conversions.
The affiliate industry is a notoriously sociable industry too. There are numerous online message boards, forums and information portals, such as PerformanceIN, while the list of events in the affiliate marketing calendar is almost endless. Ensuring you communicate through these platforms, and attending these events in person will allow you to develop great, long lasting relationships with affiliates. Recently we have also begun to see an increase in brands hosting their own affiliate events, where affiliates are invited to their office to meet their staff, and put faces to names – these types of events are brilliant for networking.
With many years in the affiliate marketing industry under our belts, we can’t stress the importance of communication enough!
Consider your commission structure
Awarding commission appropriately is among the biggest challenges of affiliate management, and can ultimately make or break an affiliate program.
Commission through the channel simply has to be a two way street. As a business, you have to be comfortable with the level of commission you are offering, and subsequently, the affiliate has to be happy that the commission they will earn will be worth their while promoting your business.
Before deciding on a commission structure, there are a number of questions that you should consider:
- Do you want to offer a higher level of commission for new customers, or are you happy paying a set amount for all custom generated through the channel?
- How much commission can you offer, whilst still leaving room to increase (if necessary) and also run promotions, such as sales and vouchers?
- How much commission will an affiliate require to promote my business?
- What commission level are your competitors offering?
These are the key questions that must be answered before deciding on any structure. While all businesses wish to continually bring through new customers, and therefore offer a higher commission amount for these customers, this can often complicate things for an affiliate, who believe they should be awarded an equal amount for any custom they generate.
Secondly, settling on a commission amount which still gives rooms for increases/sales/vouchers is crucial, as you do not wish to give away your highest possible commission straight away – allowing yourself leeway will give you options throughout quiet or busy periods.
Taking into account what level of commission an affiliate requires is also vitally important. An affiliate simply has to see that promoting your business will be worthwhile for them. If an affiliate is spending an abundance of time promoting your business, delivering a lot of traffic and sales, yet being rewarded with a really low level of commission, they will quickly look to increase this, or cease promoting your business.
Finally, competitor analysis has to be taken into account. If you are in the affiliate space, and competing with similar retailers, you have to be competitive. While some customers will always stay loyal to a brand, customers these days are becoming increasingly deal savvy – if they can receive free delivery, a 5% off voucher, or even something as small as 1-2% more cashback, they will take it.
Competitor analysis must also be taken into consideration when working with affiliates; if your competitor is offering a higher level of commission to an affiliate you are also working with, it is highly likely this affiliate will favour working with your competitor.
In addition to the above, you may also wish to offer different commission on different products. With different products having different profit margins, this will mean you are able to increase your commission offering on said products. This can be a great way of ensuring increased levels of promotion for certain ranges your business is offering.
Recruit the right affiliates
Without the right recruitment strategy, your program will simply not deliver results!
Before diving into recruiting affiliates to your program, you must first consider the impact that said affiliates may have, and decide which route you wish to take. There are so many sectors to the affiliate industry, with a select few being:
As working with each sector will have their own pros and cons for your business, there needs to be a clear strategy of how you wish to utilise the channel. Key considerations should be taken into account, such as
- Am I happy to offer vouchers?
- Am I happy to appear on cashback websites?
- Am I able to provide a product feed?
- Am I happy for on site overlays to appear on my website?
These are just a select few, however it is imperative that each individual sector is considered, and whether or not it is right for your business. Once you have reached a decision on which affiliates you wish to work with, recruitment can get under way.
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. Make your program as appealing as possible – advertise how working alongside you will be beneficial to affiliates or offer a sign up incentive for new affiliates.
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. You can also utilise sites such as PerformanceIN to advertise your program launch, ask your affiliate network and affiliate marketing agency (if you have chosen to 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, whilst we also then have niche GAP analysis based on vertical specific affiliates.
The world of affiliate marketing is constantly changing and updating, so it’s important to always stay ahead. Speak to us about how we can help you make an impact with your affiliate strategy today.