Time for another Affiliate Marketing Best Practices article, but this time it’s an article for merchants. Disclaimer: It’s been a while since I’ve managed an Affiliate program, so correct me if I need it. But I think the primary concepts and techniques for effective Affiliate management may just be timeless.
Just as Affiliate marketing has evolved and matured, so has the roll of Affiliate Manager (AM). Today’s managers (and the merchants they work for) have to understand the process of building a quality program. And a process it is, especially if the program is new. It takes a lot more these days than launching in reputable networks. There is too much competition among merchants for the top Affiliates. Retailers, maintain a program that’s more compelling and higher converting for Affiliates, and you win. You attract the most talented marketers who consistently bring you new customers and large sales volume. But how can that be done? And what resources are available?
Over the years one thing that has remained the cornerstone of effective program management is consistent communication with Affiliates. So email your Affiliates. Email them collectively with big news or with a monthly newsletter. Email them one-to-one and support them, offer ideas, talk shop. Over time effective communicators build solid relationships and get honest, constructive feedback. Both of which empower Affiliates to drive more sales.
Options for program management include hiring in house, hiring a management firm or using a network. AvantLink recently rolled out a very competitive Managed Solution service level for merchants. And there is a strong proof of concept in what we’re doing. The fundamentals are rooted in business and branding strategy, and any web-based business can benefit from them. Especially web retailers with Affiliate programs, and Affiliate marketers themselves.
For communication, traditionally AM’s used email, instant messaging, and telephone. And more recently Twitter. That’s all good. But consider these additional channels for engaging Affiliates, link building and growing your Affiliate program brand; all at the same time.
- WordPress. Start a blog dedicated to your Affiliate program and nothing else. Distribute your monthly newsletters as blog posts, make a post about new banners, new products, and of course sales and promotions. Think critically about the subject line, and use a good link strategy. There are many reasons why you should use WordPress for your blog, but that’s for a different article. Take a look at the Backcountry Affiliate Blog to see a working example.
- ABestWeb. Sponsor a branded, sub-forum on ABestWeb.com. This is the largest Affiliate community on the web, and every inbound link from ABW is gold. Essentially, what you post to your Affiliate program blog, you can post to your ABestWeb category. Tweak the subject line a bit, and don’t re-purpose the content exactly from your blog. The extra 10-15 minutes you take to rewrite the article is well worth the effort. Check out Altrec’s sub-forum on ABestWeb to see an example.
The reality is that the best Affiliates won’t simply take your word for it. Especially if you’re not a nationally recognized brand. Any retailer can talk up how good their program is, and how well their site converts. Likely the first thing Affiliates will do before signing up with any program is Google “Merchantname Affiliate program” and see what comes up. So make sure there is more in the results than just the Affiliate program info page on your site. The more blog articles and forum threads about you, the better. But no thin posts or articles!
A couple of other examples of distribution channels AvantLink regularly uses includes the AvantLink category at the Rocky Mountain Affiliate Marketing Association’s (RMAMA) blog. We’ve also used PRWeb.com (see sidebar of blog) consistently over the years to get important news out. These articles also include very important links to our content. We try and take full advantage of any opportunity to pump out good news!
So to conclude, Affiliate managers who are competent communicators should align themselves with the distinct branding and content distribution channels discussed above. Not only will this open up more communication mediums (your WordPress blog’s RSS feed, for example), but every bit of content being distributed will get picked up quickly by Google and the others. This is what builds your authority and positive brand in the Affiliate space.
Once prospective Affiliates get a sense that your program is an authority, and that someone is communicating effectively, it will in essence become a powerful recruitment or acquisition channel as well. The task of forming good, long-term and prosperous relationships just got easier!
Note: Visit our Solutions page for more information on our Branding Package for merchants. With this package we offer merchants the distribution channels highlighted in this article, at a substantial package discount. The Branding Package may be utilized as a stand alone service, or encompassed in our comprehensive Affiliate Management Solution. Contact us for more information.