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AMDays Live Blog: 10 Lessons Learned as an In-house Affiliate Manager

Guest Contributor

Joanna Lord of SEOMoz shared her biggest mistakes and the lessons learned during her session this morning at AM Days Fort Lauderdale. As Joanna points out in her closing, you’re going to make mistakes along the way, but there are several important lessons you can learn from her own challenges.

Lesson #10: The Lead Isn’t Usually a Lead

The In-house affiliate manager is wearing many other hats. Be more upfront with affiliates and other in-house team members so they know that you aren’t spending 100% of your time on the program (unless you are).

Lesson #9: Nail Down the Company’s Philosopy

Find out how the CEO or CMO views affiliate marketing. 50% of time spent on affiliate program is evangelizing the affiliate program. Not everyone sees the value of the affiliate channel the same way you do as an affiliate manager.

Lesson #8: Assess the Resources (or lack of) Early

What’s available when you takeover the program? What do you need? Assess the resources early in the process to know what you need. Are there resources available to assist with the program? If you don’t have the resources, this can be communicated early on to solve the issues around getting creative, landing pages, etc.

Lesson #7: No One Gets Tracking

People don’t understand the value of tracking. Constantly explain why affiliate tracking is important and how it works.

It’s important to communicate which company resources impact the program and why they are important. For example, one of the in-house developers inadvertently changed the tracking domain redirect as they were testing something which caused all tracking to break. If they understood the value, that redirect would not have happened.

Lesson #6: Get Friendly with Finance

Explain to your finance team both how the standard payouts work as well as how you may want to modify the terms on a case-by-case basis. Working with finance would have helped retained some great affiliates who were frustrated with a lack of flexibility that could have been solved with better communication around finance issues.

Lesson #5: Legal is Harder Than It Should Be

Joanna is regularly amazed by how hard it is to layer legal protections. Finding ways to avoid being reactive to legal issues will protect you far better. If your program is a liability it won’t matter how well the program is doing. Don’t do the bare minimum, be extensive.

Lesson #4: Make a Case for Schmoozing

Set the groundwork for relationships with people who are experienced affiliates. Plan to budget for attending events where affiliate will be.

Lesson #3: It’s the Red-Headed Step Child

There’s a constant battle for why the affiliate program should exist. It’s compared to other channels.

Sometimes removing yourself from the conversation can be the most beneficial.

Lesson #2: Accepted Processes Win Every Time

Demonstrate that something is operationalized so that it takes less time now than it did when you started.

Look at what’s already working at the company. For instance, if you need a last minute creative, you need to know the procedure in your company that gets around red tape to get that creative.

Lesson #1: Passing the Baton is Hard

Know when you are the bottleneck, so you can let go and allow the affiliate program to flourish. The risk is also that starting the conversation raises new questions about HR requisitions.

Among the important lessons learned in passing the baton was to make it clear that during transition from In-house to OPM that there would not be ramp up for the first 90 days as the transition was taking place.

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