Tips for managing an Affiliate Program



So you’ve come up with an awesome product, and you truly believe that there is perfect special someone out there who wants to purchase it right now. Therefore, you’ve launched your online store, set up Google advertising campaign, and in no time millions of customers have come to your website and started to buy.
Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, too good to be true. In reality, there are tons of advertisers, just like you, trying to reach their target audience via the Internet. The digital competition skyrockets, and the Internet users are bombarded by the ads anywhere they click. Relying on paid advertising only, if you’re brand new to this, may turn into a total disaster as well. Why? Because you can lose all your marketing budget in a matter of minutes if you mess up.
That’s why handing over your advertising activities to the affiliates might have sense. Your partners will be promoting your product online and receive monetary compensation for each lead, and you can concentrate on the main point of your business – the product itself. However, in order to get the most out of your affiliate marketing efforts here are some things you should consider from the very beginning.

Attracting affiliates

Attracting affiliates is challenging, regardless how awesome your products or services are. Basically, there are two major ways to acquire affiliates: finding them on your own or partnering with an affiliate network. The first option is not the easiest one, and the cost may vary from zero to infinity. Provided you have limited budget for promoting your affiliate program, you can simply try to find relevant publishers by doing keyword search and checking which website will be perfect for your product placement. It is also crucial to be a part of relevant forums and communities to interact with actual and potential partners. In case your budget allows you a bit (or way) more, you can start promoting your affiliate program online or visiting relevant affiliate events in order to recruit more publishers.
What concerns affiliate networks, partnering with them may completely change the way you perceived affiliate marketing. First of all, you don’t need to recruit affiliates, because the network team does it on their own. They review publishers who join the network and ensure they meet certain criteria. Affiliate managers know their affiliates very well (which offers they work with, what traffic sources they have) and keep a watchful eye on potentially problematic ones. It makes identifying the right publishers an easier task for advertisers. Network team also evaluates for concerns such as cookie stuffing, black hat SEO tactics, and checks whether the traffic is fraudulent or not. Affiliate managers make monitoring easier because they’re dedicated to that role. They check and verify traffic sources from a publisher, evaluate potentially questionable actions, and, in some cases, terminate publishers for their violations.

Budgeting

Determine your commission structure in advance having found the variant good for both selling and attracting affiliates. Of course, this will require a little bit of math. But if you know what your profit margins are, you can easily calculate how much of the percentage you can afford to pay your affiliates. In case you work with an affiliate network, bear in mind that they also take a percentage of your sale/commission. If you are selling subscription product, you have to know the average time the subscriber stays subscribed and how much this subscriber pays per month. This understanding will provide you the maximum profitability.
Once you know what you can afford to pay your affiliates, it’s time to compare this amount to what your competitors offer. As publishers can choose between several affiliate programs, all other things being equal, they will choose the one with the higher commission structure.

Tracking

The success of affiliate program depends on the technical part not less than on initial investments and workflow management. Even if you work with only one publisher, you still have to track the traffic flow, conversions, and make payouts. But what if there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of partners? It becomes much harder for you to manage all the offers, creatives and publishers in the most lucrative way.
To track everything properly you may either develop core capabilities in-house or go with a ready-to-use performance marketing platform. For advertisers, it’s a decision with the direct impact on short and long-term business growth. Besides, having accurate tracking data on hand will save you from any discussions that might arise if the numbers of sales at your end do not match your affiliates’ figures.
Fortunately, there is a bulk of tracking platforms on the market. Unfortunately, you can’t trust all of them. Don’t get scammed choosing a solution for your business. I guess, you neither want to risk your business by using an unproved tracking solution, nor lose partners due to a lack of features that your partners may request. That is why you need a reliable tool, that is developed by the best professionals of the sphere and trusted (or even endorsed) by the leading companies.

Monitoring

Ask your affiliates to provide you with the information on how and where they promote your offers. You should get a complete account of what websites and promotional strategies they use. Otherwise, affiliate marketing may backfire. For example, if you’ve already invested in paid search marketing, you might have direct sales from your website. But if you do not manage affiliates closely, they may start competing with you for your own keywords, trademarks, copyrights etc. Eventually, you may find yourself at lower positions on search engines comparing to your affiliates. In this case the lead that could have costed you zero now will cost you quite a while. So, providing your affiliate with set of rules isn’t a bad idea; let them know what they are and aren’t allowed to do.
Besides, keep an eye on new affiliates and those with unusually high conversion rate. Consider at least some basic fraud protection measures to keep yourself safe from fraudulent traffic.

Building long-last trusting relations

If you want to be a reliable partner the affiliates want to work with, make sure you pay in time. It is crucial for affiliates, as their volumes depend on it drastically. Setup reasonable payment terms together with the Financial Department, and make sure that your affiliates agree with that schedule.
Spend time cultivating trusting relations. Be a friend to your partners, care about them and be attentive to their needs. In the end, if you have managed your affiliate program correctly, you will have found the very channel to reach those millions of customers who are perfect for your product.

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