While attending Affiliate Summit West this January, one of the most informative sessions I sat in on was on the topic of “The Top 5 Affiliate Management Myths Debunked”.The candid advice flowed from these top producing affiliate managers (quite a powerhouse of a panel) as they dispelled 5 myths about affiliate marketing management during their 60 minute session. Whether you’re new to affiliate marketing management or need a reminder about best practices, I think you’ll find their guidance on what to expect from affiliate management, along with tips for best practices, very helpful:
1. Launching an affiliate program equals instant revenue
Don’t expect to make revenue right away, and be forewarned that launching an affiliate program is a lot of work. The affiliate marketing industry is based on relationship building, so you’ll need to manage your expectations accordingly. To get started, develop a solid affiliate strategy with realistic growth goals where revenue is reachable but realistic.
Also think about your recruiting strategy to attract the right partners to your program. This includes setting aside the time and resources needed in order to target them effectively. Consider setting up a schedule of promotions so you know when you want to launch things, including contests and incentives. Take time to educate your affiliates about your products, categories, and promotions. Always keep in mind that it’s the affiliate’s job to send traffic and the merchant’s job to convert.
With that said, set yourself up for success by offering a top notch product and offer. Recruiting affiliates on a constant basis is also a smart idea to keep the relationship and traffic streams healthy. Lastly, if getting a program started seems a little overwhelming, scale back what you are doing instead of giving it a fair chance at success.
2. Affiliate marketing is risk-free
You may hear stories about affiliates looking for easy money or trying to “game the system”. Examples of this are forced clicks (browser auto-loads affiliate link), pop-ups, etc. If you’re not agreeable to this, make sure you have clearly described expectations to affiliates and monitor their activities. Protect your program by reviewing changes in performance as soon as you identify them, and manually approve affiliates as an extra layer of security. Use monitoring tools, run your own tests and leverage all available support such as call centers, interns, and network reps.
To ensure that your affiliate program stands the best chance at success, it’s critical to understand that the product and offer shared with affiliates is YOUR responsibility. The offer should be non-gimmicky, and the site must instill consumer confidence with clear and easy navigation. Once affiliates join and are approved, provide them with accessible and responsive support, marketing materials, and demographic data. In addition, be sure to review the creative you’re supplying. Does it have deep links? Is it converting as expected? Does your product or service truly appeal to the affiliate site’s audience?
3. It doesn’t work for small businesses
A big brand name is not required for success. However, beware that it can be expensive to get into affiliate networks. Make sure you are budgeting for those costs and look at sales margins closely while still keeping revenue goals in mind.
To put your best foot forward, be cognizant of what you currently have that can be mutually beneficial to your affiliate channels (ie marketing materials, graphics, etc) because you should consider your affiliate program to be a component of your total brand marketing strategy. The more you can give your partners, the better. Address poor converting links and banners, and conduct audits on a regular basis. Keep your links fresh and pay close attention to promotion end dates or let your affiliates know if a promotion is ongoing.
Finally, manage your affiliate marketing program costs wisely and build accounts deep before going wide. You can’t be certain of who your next HUGE affiliate will be, so give each affiliate the same amount of attention on a consistent basis.
4. Affiliates don’t add value
Affiliate marketing can be a powerful source of new customer business. This infographic illustrates numerous examples of the power of affiliate marketing and quality affiliate marketing management. For example, Forrester Research, is reporting that U.S. affiliate marketing spending will reach $4.1 billion in 2014, up from $1.6 billion in 2007. Affiliate marketing also impacts so many other marketing channels that its presence can’t be ignored.
5. You need paid placements year round
Placements are not a requirement to grow revenue, so explore your options. Test performance with and without placements. Audiences are another area to test. Balance your goal in conjunction with your advertiser’s goal.You also have room to be selective, opting for top performing placements at times when extra visibility is needed. Also ask about which placements are top performers in order to gain some great insight and advice on what may work best.
What other affiliate marketing myths have you heard of? Do you have any other affiliate marketing management tips to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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.