Recently I was reading work by Geno Prussakov where he mentions his affinity towards the phrase “Affiliate Program Manager”, as opposed to the phrase “Affiliate Manager”. In a nutshell, he explains that by the nature of the Affiliate/merchant relationship, it’s impossible to manage Affiliates. They have their own business priorities influenced by many factors (not shared with anyone, nor should they be). Geno is absolutely correct, manage your program not your Affiliates.
If you want to compete for the best Affiliates and become the authority program for your category, you need to manage your program effectively. In this article I would like to highlight our Principles of Affiliate Program Management, which are universal mechanics for any program manager, on any Affiliate network. You might be surprised to know there are essentially three main functions of program management, yet many program managers fail to manage their campaign/ad list, communicate regularly about compelling promotions, and respond in a timely manner to Affiliate emails.
Ad Campaign Management
Actively manage a concise ad list of compelling campaigns for best results. This is a crucial component of any program’s success. In AvantLink, your ad list consists of Affiliate campaigns utilizing banner, text, html, flash or video ad types. You control the ad creative/collateral to share, landing page destination URL, start-end dates; as well as categorization and tagging mechanisms through the ad configuration. Promotional campaigns can even be “staged” to go live on a certain date in the future, as well as automatically expire when they end.
Ad campaign lists that are dynamic and update regularly with new promotions, special seasonal offers or the latest store codes are effective. Ad campaign lists that never update are not. The number of ads you maintain in your ad list is not important. What is important is having someone make sure every approved promotion your store offers is available via your ad list, at least as a text ad (which can then be flagged for inclusion in your deal feed).
Having a static, never changing ad list of 100 records is doing your program, and Affiliates, a disservice. Whereas maintaining a dynamic campaign list of say 25 records will help your program, and Affiliates, excel. The latter approach not only conditions Affiliates to expect compelling offers regularly and respond to them, but it effectively brands your program as one worth their while. Not many Affiliate pros are interested in investing time and resources in programs on auto-pilot. And a static, never changing ad list is a strong indicator of an un-managed program.
Once you are actively engaged in managing your ad list, the next logical component of effective program management is to notify Affiliates of all promotions or special offers. Be sure to embed the tracking code for campaigns you are emphasizing directly in your emails via the email tool in the AvantLink management interface. This only takes a few seconds, and often times Affiliates will disregard a promo email notification if the code they need is not available in the email. From an Affiliate’s perspective, if you consider the usefulness of the campaign code embedded directly in their email, it’s a no brainer.
Just about any reason to email your Affiliates is a good reason. If nothing else it shows that someone is paying attention to the program. In additional to promo notifications, you should not hesitate to notify Affiliates of top selling products for each season, new product arrivals, new brands, etc. If you have enough to communicate, consider sending out monthly or quarterly newsletters. Remember by corresponding regularly with Affiliates, you will be doing more than the majority of your competitors are doing to build their Affiliate program brand.
If you are not doing so already, by setting a routine of notifying your Affiliates of all promotions, you’ll see marked improvement in traffic volume and sales. This is because Affiliates need to know what promotions to feature and draw special attention to. Let them know start and end dates, the promo duration as well as special terms or exclusions. Don’t get hung up on superficial things like an ultra fancy template for your emails. A simple, branded template with your logo as the header will work just fine. The important thing is to communicate the offers in a timely, consistent manner.
How would you feel if you spent a morning analyzing and importing store data, only to have a simple email question go unanswered? Responding to Affiliates is just as important as managing your ad list, and communicating the promos. If an Affiliate emails you with a question, respond to them quickly. Even if you do not know the answer, let them know that you will work to get the answer for them. This goes a long way in retaining the loyalty of Affiliates who have many choices on where to send their buying customers. They are not in any way obligated to send them your way, and with the click of a mouse some have the power to redirect thousands of potential customers to your competitors.
If you manually review new Affiliate applicants, responsiveness also means addressing applications in a timely manner. Do not leave them pending for more than 24 hours. For one thing, your program is on their mind when they apply or that application would not be there. Channel that interest by getting them activated quickly, otherwise they might just move on. It is unprofessional to neglect new applications for days or weeks, and it sends the wrong message to potentially high-volume Affiliates.
Generally speaking the word “responsiveness” encompasses all essential management components for any Affiliate program manager. In order to compete for the best Affiliates out there, there has to be someone responsive, someone engaged, and someone willing to communicate. If you manage your program correctly, Affiliates will talk at conferences, the word will spread, and they will come. Brand your program as the authority in your category, and this will naturally attract new Affiliates and retain the loyalty of existing Affiliates. If you invest the time, money and resources to launch your Affiliate program correctly, do not sabotage the effort by disregarding program management.