Streamline Your Affiliate Program Management
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.
AFFILIATE RECRUITMENT AND ACTIVATION
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.
AFFILIATE PROGRAM SUPPORT
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.