By Geno Prussakov
Affiliate program management and managing
individual affiliates can often get in the way of
the actual success of an enterprise. But there are
powerful tools and methods that will dramatically
cut down on time spent on day-to-day operations,
and bolster overall performance.
Start by grouping your program management tasks into the
following three clusters: (1) affiliate recruitment and activation;
(2) affiliate program support; and (3) affiliate policing. While
many other tasks are involved in affiliate program management,
these three groups can be effectively automated to save time.
One way to accelerate the recruitment process is to use software
applications to find prospective affiliates who either work with
competing affiliate programs, or run websites that target your
desired traffic. Arelis and LinkCapture (which are more frequently
used for link exchange and website promotion purposes),
can be excellent for affiliate recruitment when used wisely.
They can be used to search for partners by topic, keywords or
by a competitor’s name. They also help automate the processes
of finding contact information, sending e-mails and follow-ups.
However, improper use of these applications can ruin an affiliate
recruitment campaign. Personalization is the key so you
don’t appear as though you are spamming those who should be
treated as potential business partners.
Once the software obtains the contact information of prospective
affiliates, perform a careful pre-screening to eliminate those
who are not a good fit for your program. Next, personalize your
e-mails or approach prospects via snail mail. And take the time to
craft your messages thoughtfully — innovation always pays off.
Finally, remember to follow up by sending a reminder e-mail (or
postcard) one week after your initial contact.
The best way to support your affiliates is to give them tools to
succeed. Focus on keeping affiliates informed on the happenings
of the program, and tools to help affiliates
market the merchant’s brand, product or service.
Keeping affiliates up-to-date and excited
about your affiliate program is best
done through online methods like
blogging, microblogging, and participation
in online forums. Sites
like Twitter and Facebook are also
good platforms to communicate with
existing and prospective affiliates. In addition, affiliate managers should have accounts with all major
instant messaging (IM) tools for good communication and support.
The most frequently used are: AOL Instant Messenger
(AIM), Google Talk (GTalk), ICQ, Jabber, Skype, Windows Live
Messenger (MSN Messenger) and Yahoo! Messenger. Desktop
chat applications such as Miranda IM and Trillian will also keep
contacts across an array of IMs in one place.
To further empower your affiliates, advise them to use available
third-party tools, depending on the tasks they wish to
accomplish. For datafeed import, look into GoldenCAN,
PopShops, DatafeedR, and Webmerge; for coupons —
ForMeToCoupon, as well as coupon feeds from GoldenCAN
and some affiliate networks; for video — YouTube and Viddler;
for PPC — WordTracker and KeywordDiscovery.
Paid search is one area that requires a close watch for unacceptable
affiliate behaviors. If you are protecting trademarks or
other keywords from affiliate bidding, there are a number
of tools for ongoing automatic monitoring of affiliate PPC bidding.
Some of the most effective ones are: AdsSpy.com,
AdGooroo.com, iSpionage.com, HitWise.com, PoachMark by
BrandVerity, KeywordSpy.com, SpyFU.com, KeyCompete.com,
and The Search Monitor. Google Alerts is a good free tool for
content monitoring across newly created Web pages.
New tools and applications are constantly emerging, so keep
a sharp eye out for those that can help your business. Using
those detailed above is a good place to start. With any of the
available methods, however, be sure to not over-automate the
process. Personalization of messages and offers are still vital to
a successful program. A targeted, personalized offer leads to
conversions. An offer made to nobody in particular is often
viewed as SPAM.
About the Author: Geno Prussakov is a graduate of the University of Cambridge,
author of “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing” (2007)
and “Online Shopping Through Consumers’ Eyes” (2008),
popular speaker and affiliate marketing evangelist.
Prussakov is the founder and CEO of AMNavigator.com.