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Keeping Affiliate Tactics in Check

Posted on 12.13.2012

Affiliate marketing is a reliable method in the sophisticated retail enterprises’ promotional strategy on the Web, but it’s not without its challenges, risks and limitations. Supporting affiliates and providing them with opportunities for success (strong creative, incentives, and flexible terms and conditions), while managing the most aggressive members of a publishing team, requires near constant attention and an equal amount of care. Keeping affiliate marketers in check is the only sure-fire way to keep time and resource costs down and profits up, but how?

It starts with an epic debate: quantity (more affiliates) versus quality (fewer, but higher-performing affiliates). The answer often depends on the business’s objectives. Choosing quantity over quality means greater brand awareness, but perhaps also fewer sales and definitely more management support. Focusing on quality over quantity, however, has as many advantages as disadvantages. The highest quality affiliates, super-affiliates and premium publishers, are much harder to come by. This is because they are fewer in number and may already be promoting competitors. A reliable group of affiliates/ publishers/partners that are capable of driving sales by their mere presence, however, is hard to ignore. Ultimately, there should be a balance.

Rewarding the Best Performers

Shelving the quantity/quality debate, consider this: 80 percent of sales will likely be driven by 20 percent of affiliates. It’s called Pareto’s Principle, an accepted paradigm in the marketing world. And, any savvy business owner will confirm that it’s easier to retain than acquire. Therefore, much of one’s energy and resources should be spent developing programs that reward the 20 percent. This could include implementing higher commission rates, extending cookie durations or adding bonus payouts. These rewards won’t go unnoticed and are often reason enough for high-performers to continue promoting a program.

Training & Support for the 80 Percent

Even though this underperforming 80 percent won’t drive much in the way of actual conversions, they’re incredibly useful in helping merchants raise awareness. For this reason, it is often suggested to offer some formal training, education resources and live support. Without these efforts, merchants are left with a virtual stable of affiliates who have never done anything to promote their product (e.g. no reviews, no banners, no text links — nothing). A better way is to commit to providing training and further support for the 80 percent. More active affiliates mean greater potential to raise awareness with potential prospects and helps move a merchant closer, on the whole, to generating conversions.

Affiliate Monitoring Benefits Everyone

There’s much more to operating a successful affiliate marketing program than rewards, training and support (see sidebar below). In fact, there’s a lot required in terms of monitoring the affiliates that are sending traffic and conversions. Affiliates are only human and the tendency to cheat on the Web is great, as we often don’t have personal relationships with the businesses being promoted. It’s also rare that merchants take more than a passing interest in affiliates. This can be problematic when it comes to affiliates that aim to pull a digital fast one. To avoid this, it’s essential to monitor the performance of affiliates by exploring their methods, traffic sources and level of validity for leads generated.

Affiliate marketing is, without question, important to the success of all Web workers. It can drive an immense amount of traffic to a website and even increase conversions. To keep the checks coming in, however, it’s important to keep affiliates in check. Do this by rewarding the most prolific promoters, supporting those upwardly mobile affiliates with useful educational and training resources (as well as ongoing support) and monitoring affiliates to ensure they’re using approved promotional methods.

5 Essential Info Points to Share

Don’t overthink affiliate management, as successful recruitment often comes down to the message’s clarity and a conviction to remain in-line with enterprise marketing objectives. If affiliate member numbers matter most, then there are several key information points that must be addressed on your recruitment pages: detailed program description offering an informational review of the company and its products, the commission rate, the cookie duration, the conversion rates and sample creative (along with any ongoing deals/promotions). Learn more about developing the Ultimate Affiliate Recruitment Page.

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