5 Ways to Optimize Your Performance Marketing Program

Becky Doles

5 ways to optimize performance marketing program

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New year, new resolutions (or maybe not), and you’re back at work and tirelessly thinking of ways to grow your performance marketing program. Well, you’re not alone.

It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking of getting started with a new affiliate program, looking for tips on managing one, or have moved on to find super affiliates – these tips will help improve your return on investment and justify starting a program or taking an existing one to the next level.

#1 Attract and Sign Up New Publishers

Publishers are the fuel which drives your performance marketing program. It’s critical that you continue to promote your program and sign up new publishers. Adding new publishers to your program will help expand your brand’s reach, attract new customers, drive incremental traffic and boost revenues.

Utilizing your online marketing knowledge can greatly help you get in front of publishers currently not promoting your program. Creating a PPC campaign and target keywords specific to your industry + performance marketing terms can quickly increase your publisher count.

One of the most effective ways to attract new publishers is to attend industry conferences and network like crazy. While this can be expensive, obtaining a single high-volume publisher can make it all worthwhile. You’d be surprised at how successful attending these events can be.

No matter how you do it, get in front of potential publishers. Direct this traffic to a high quality landing page with information, facts and benefits to joining your program. Don’t forget to include links on where publishers can join your program.

#2 Re-engage Your Inactive Publishers

The inactive publisher is one of your program’s greatest wasted assets. You’ve already gone through all the effort of obtaining these publishers, providing them resources needed to promote your program and then something happens; they stop delivering clicks, conversions and value.

Getting these publishers active again can deliver high value and require low effort. A great way to reengage inactive publishers is to send an email to all inactive publishers and offer a commission bonus if they begin delivering conversions again.

The amount doesn’t need to be extravagant, I’ve seen success with bonuses as low as $50 to $100. If your conversion value is high and you can offer a bonus in excess of $100, you’ll only appeal to more inactive publishers.

To ensure that your publishers don’t take advantage of this bonus, set a minimum success threshold at 2 conversions in a 30 day duration. Don’t be afraid to run this reengagement offer every couple of months.

#3 Communicate with Publishers More Regularly

Communication is definitely one of the areas I see performance marketing managers drop the ball the most. As your publisher’s point of contact, it’s your responsibility of providing regular communication with changes, new products, updated tools, promotions and anything else going on with your program.

In the New Year, make it part of your monthly schedule to send out a mass communication to all of your publishers; active and inactive. Provide them updates with what’s going on with your company, enhancements to the program, upcoming promotions, seasonality fluctuations (positive and negative), new marketing material, landing pages, product or industry knowledge, etc.

Get into a regular rhythm of sending these communications, eventually your publishers will begin looking for it. I’ve found the best results when sending publisher newsletters the week prior to the highest volume week of the month. Remember, it usually takes a few business days for your publishers to make changes and update their sites.

#4 Leverage Your Publishers to Their Fullest

Most performance marketing programs I’ve seen treat all publishers the same and creates a massive gap in efficiency. Not all publishers are the same, each of which appeals to different users and provides a different value. You must make the effort in tailoring your program to accommodate the different publishers.

Some of the most common types of performance marketing publishers include; coupon sites, cash back/loyalty sites and niche blog content sites. Knowing how to leverage each of these different types of publishers can significantly improve the effectiveness and volume of your program.

Coupon Sites:

Coupon sites attract users who are price sensitive and looking for the best deal. You may or may not offer a commodity product or service, either way, discounts will appeal to these users and increase your market share.

Offering your coupon site publishers exclusive or general promotions will help secure additional site placements, social media mentions, email newsletter spots and more. This is a win-win-win situation and can really help build your relationship with your account managers.

The publisher wins as they will have an exclusive offer to promote, increasing value to their users. You win as you’ll temporarily surge new customers and build your internal database to re-market to. You’ll win again as you’ll increase your brand exposure with the additional placements.

Cash Back/Loyalty Sites:

Cash back or loyalty sites offer their members a very unique value proposition; they actually pay their members to shop through their sites. This ingenious idea is so simple and creates a very loyal member base. The cash back or loyalty site (usually) split their commission 50/50 with their members from each purchase. For example, if a retailer pays their cash back publisher a 4% commission, the cash back publisher will take 2% for themselves and pass back the other 2% to their member for shopping through their affiliate links.

Cash back and loyalty sites belong to all performance marketing programs, setting yourself apart from your competitors can be easily done by increasing your commission to these publishers. Assuming that your cash back value is at the same level as your competitors, increasing your commission will draw in more customers as they’ll get more cash back by shopping through your links as opposed to your competitors.

Niche Blog Content Sites:

Performance marketing managers love their niche content publishers and the value they deliver. These publishers are typically experts in the industry; they often provide detailed, unique and valuable information to their readers.

As a way to monetize their traffic, bloggers will promote products and services from their advertisers. They don’t just promote anything, they have to believe in the products/services or they’ll lose the trust of their readers. Because of this, these types of publishers refer high value, motivated and loyal customers. They often convert at very high rates and remain loyal to the merchant and not the coupon or cash back site, resulting in much higher life-time value.

To increase your program’s exposure to these niche publishers, seek out the most influential bloggers in your industry. Reach out to them directly and begin building a relationship. If possible, offer them a free product to test and write about – reviews can be very powerful. Provide these publishers with opportunities to interview you or someone at your company, unique content is valuable to them and will result in increased brand awareness.

#5 Run Monthly Competitions for Your Publishers

Publishers are competitive by nature, so running a competition will get them excited and increase the performance of your program. I’ve seen great success with increasing volume when programs engage their publishers and invite them to compete with one another.

While not all publishers are created equal and volume can vary greatly, make sure to structure your competition based on a percentage growth, month over month, for all publishers who have delivered a certain amount of conversions. You don’t want a publisher who drove one or two conversions the month prior to unfairly skew the contest by driving five or 10 conversions.

Offer a valuable prize and make sure to promote the publisher who won in the next month’s publisher newsletter and make them feel special. Changing up the prize monthly will keep publishers interested and engaged. If you can’t get creative with prizes, offering cash or gift cards will suffice. The cost of the prize will greatly be outweighed by the gains in additional revenue from the incremental conversions.

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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