As a student of performance marketing, I enjoy keeping up on industry publications and forums. One of the many things I love about this industry is the insight and sharing of information that takes place. Anyone smitten by affiliate marketing knows the daily challenges that often accompany the rewards of working in such a young industry. These same challenges have resulted in a cohesive online marketing community that genuinely strives to move the industry forward, making it easy to find many useful articles published online about strategies and methods of improving your affiliate program.
For those of you who may not know me, I admittedly have a short attention span and prefer initiatives that are actionable and will yield results quickly. Given that, I thought it would be helpful to provide a few things that you can do today to improve the health of your affiliate program. While these action items may not generate incremental revenue for your program this week, they will help invigorate your affiliate partners and, if you commit to these practices, will help you recruit and retain top publishers in your program — all important piece to increasing affiliate program revenue.
1. Send an email to your affiliates. How often do you communicate with your publishers? One of the first things I learned from a mentor when I first got into affiliate management was that you’re always better off over-communicating with affiliates. While there is a “spammy” line that can be crossed, consistent communication with your affiliate partners is one of the easiest things that you can do to engage and activate your program’s affiliate base.
According to the 2011 AffStat report published by Affiliate Summit, email continues to be the preferred method of communication for affiliates when it comes to receiving information from affiliate managers. That said, being respectful of your affiliates’ time (and inbox) is essential — sending information that is important and relevant to them is always best. One method to ensure you’re sending relevant information is by creating “publisher groups” or categories that segment your program’s affiliates by website type or marketing methods.
2. Poll your affiliates. How do you know as an affiliate manager what are you doing well and where you may be falling short? You’ll receive some of the most valuable feedback about your affiliate program when you ask your publishers. Creating a simple survey online or via email can provide you with valuable information you might not otherwise get. Asking affiliates what they like most about the program and inquiring about any challenges they have not only shows your commitment to improving their experience as an affiliate partner, but can be a nice segue into learning more about their business and what their goals and initiatives are for the coming year. This is especially helpful if you have recently started managing the affiliate program and are looking for new touch-points and ways to engage with your publishers.
3. Audit your creative & links. What are your top performing creatives and how much of your program’s revenue is being generated through them? The beginning of the year can be a great time to go through and audit your link and creative inventory. The fourth quarter is the strongest for sales for most businesses, which likely means your affiliate base drove more traffic — providing you data points and insight into which creatives converted well and which did not. Optimizing current creative and refreshing old inventory is a great touch point with your affiliates. Ensuring banners that affiliates already have on their website will automatically be updated with the new creative also eases the pain of publishers, so they don’t need to manually update their site any time you upload new banners.
4. Add your personal touch. Do your affiliate communications and newsletters come across as stale and boring? While you’d like to think that affiliates are waiting for your email to reach their inbox, that is not always the case. In fact, most top publishers in affiliate marketing get bombarded by emails and calls from merchants wanting to work with them on a daily basis. How do you break through the noise and clutter? Make your correspondences unique and personal.
While email is less personal than meeting in person or even calling on the phone, there are ways to make them more personalized and captivating. Sharing a personal story as it relates to the topic of your communication or having a signature sign-off at the end of each communication are great ways to connect with your publishers and keep things interesting to read.
A great example of this can be found in the Groupon affiliate program. Carolyn Tang Kmet, Director of Affiliate Marketing for Groupon, ends every email or newsletter to affiliates: “With Undying Love and Affection”. Carolyn’s unique signature, in conjunction with relevant stories she shares, makes for captivating reading that engages her audience.
5. Show affiliates some love. When’s the last time you did something nice for one of your publishers? Taking time and making the effort to do something special for your publishers is a great way to improve affiliate relations and make your program stand out from the rest — including your competitors. I’m not talking about running an affiliate contest and sending the winner a prize, I’m talking about doing something thoughtful and genuine. Sending a book you think one of your affiliates would enjoy based on what you know about them, or scheduling time to take an affiliate out to dinner at an industry event or conference.
Some of the most valuable time I spend at conferences is at breakfast, dinner, and social events. While we talk business for a bit, the conversation that follows is an opportunity to learn more about what they enjoy doing when they’re not in front of their computer. After all, affiliate marketing is based on relationships and making new friends along the way is an added bonus.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.