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Does Your Affiliate Network Miss the Mark?

Posted on 3.31.2013

Not all affiliate networks are created equal. In fact, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of networks advertisers can leverage, and the disparity between the good ones and the bad ones only stands to widen making it more important than ever to know which provides the very best monetization solution for performance marketing publishers.

The Good

From the perspective of an advertiser/merchant, there are several areas to deliberate upon when considering a new partnership or extending a current one. While cost is certainly a major factor in the decision, it should not be the only one driving the selection of an affiliate network.

“Service is the most important consideration for choosing a successful affiliate marketing campaign,” said Webgains North America Managing Director, Ryan Gilbert. “Once partnered with the network, great communication is key to ensuring the maximum potential is exploited in the first 12 months of an affiliate marketing campaign.”

Another important consideration for advertisers, is how an affiliate network defines success and whether that definition matches theirs.

“I would also stress the importance of appointing a network who you believe to be a consultative partner seeking the opportunities that best fit your goals for your affiliate campaign rather than throwing everything at it just to hit targets,” said Affiliate Window Strategy Director, Kevin Edwards. “Affiliate marketing offers a wide range of digital channels to tap into and some will be more appropriate than others; therefore, can they differentiate between these and partner you with those most relevant to you?”

The Bad

Many affiliate networks have come and gone in the last 10 years, leaving behind a pool of best practices for current affiliate networks to work with. Quality networks learned from their colleagues’ mistakes.

“Tracking, reporting and payments are core functions that should never be taken lightly and it’s fair to say in the past that some of the networks who have struggled or indeed disappeared have taken their eyes off the ball in these areas,” said Edwards. “Service and account management are increasingly important as advertisers and retailers look to quantify the value the channel is providing and therefore this requires an extra level of sophistication that networks are having to provide for. Networks that have invested in this expertise, as well as deeper and more flexible reporting, are proving their resilience in the face of fierce competition, as more and more players seek a share of the market.”

The Ugly

Another way affiliate networks can stay competitive is infrastructure. Downtime should serve as a red flag for potential or existing advertisers.

“If downtime has been a regular problem in the past you need to question the companies backup system design and/or ability to handle a crisis,” said Gilbert. “No one getting paid is a big deal. Clients, in general, also need to look out for networks that have a poor reputation with the affiliates. Check the forums and public discussion boards and ask clients that have used the network before.”

An affiliate network’s customer service record is equally as important for advertisers.

“When a client needs help, they should be able to get that help without any hassle,” said Gilbert. “Clients just need issues resolved or information provided in a timely and amicable manner whether by phone, email, instant messenger or whatever means the client prefers.”

The Decision

Common sense goes a long way in selecting an affiliate network, which includes researching a network's transparency, service, reliability and payment practices. For example, a network’s attitude toward payment and payment collection tells a lot about its willingness to engage with its affiliates as equal partners and paying them in a timely matter is part of that package. And, due to its importance, reporting should be mentioned once again.

“Many affiliate networks will sit on a huge stack of data,” said Edwards. “What are they going to do with it? Can they offer you comprehensive benchmarking, ad hoc reporting and interesting insights based on what they're seeing across all their data? This is a valuable commodity and should be central to any decision about who you work with.”

So, advertisers in the market for a network should use common sense and do their homework before affiliating themselves with an affiliate network.

ALSO READ: Bull's Eye

Affiliates, put your affiliate network to the test with this five-step evaluation plan.

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