Great Expectations

One of the biggest benefits of the affiliate marketing channel is that it is all performance-based. This is very attractive because there is very little risk — payout costs are directly correlated to results. But just because it isn’t risky doesn’t mean it is easy money. As at the gym, you get out of it what you put into it.

Many new advertisers have misconceptions about what it takes to have a successful affiliate program. I field concerns all the time from new advertisers who are worried that they have not seen the results they were expecting. When I ask how long the program has been running, it’s usually only been a few weeks.

This is where I feel there is some confusion about what performance marketing is, what one can expect to gain out of it, and how quickly one can expect measurable results.

If you opened up an affiliate program because someone told you could make a quick buck with minimal effort, you have been misguided. It is very important to have realistic expectations when setting up your affiliate program so you not only know what to expect, but also so you know what is truly successful and what is not.

Managing Expectations

Affiliate marketing is not intended to be a get rich quick advertising channel. It is built on steady growth and that slow steady growth will convert into solid sales that you can depend on over time. In order to obtain steady growth, your affiliate managers need to develop a rapport and build relationships with your publishers over time.

When they do, program sales will steadily increase. It takes some time to develop a strong affiliate program, so don’t be frustrated if you’re not seeing sales in the first day, week, or even month of your program start or launch date.

Upon going live with your affiliate program, you may see an influx of publisher applications, but no immediate action as far as traffic or sales referred or even links being posted.   It is not uncommon to have publishers apply right away for a program, but they will not necessarily activate immediately.

For many publishers, they may see a product or advertiser site that sparks a marketing idea in their head, but they may not have the time to develop that idea at the moment. In many cases, publishers will join programs with the intention to build a website or page in the future.

Do The Work; Results Will Follow

The best way to assist your publishers with getting started is to provide them with the in-depth knowledge about your product or service and have marketing tools available that they can put right to use.  The effort that you put forth in this area will be reflected in results seen — “Help me, help you.”

One way to think about your affiliate program’s success is to correlate it to the effort it takes to achieve a fitness goal. When you are looking to get into shape, you may join the local gym to help you reach personal goals.

The gym by itself will not make you fit, but it has lots of tools and resources on hand that will help you get there. The results you see all depend on consistent dedication on your part, and how well you take advantage of the tools and resources provided.

Let’s break this analogy down a little bit. How exactly is an affiliate program like getting in shape? Let’s look at all the components that come into play when you start a new fitness routine.

Personal Fitness Goal Your affiliate program goal and the success you hope to achieve is like a personal fitness goal one might create. There will be target dates set as well as performance metrics. How many affiliates are actively driving clicks, increases in conversion rate, number of sales generated per month, etc.

The Gym Affiliate networks have tools and resources available to assist with finding success with your affiliate program. Networks house the tools you need such as tracking technology, performance data and reports, servers for storing creatives, and a pool of publishers for you to partner with.  The tools within the network represent the workout equipment needed for your affiliate program.

The Trainer There are a variety of “fitness” experts that affiliate program managers can call upon for guidance and resources. This would include network representatives, outsourced program managers, industry professionals, blogs and forums.  Trainers can provide knowledge and expertise to help get your program on the right track.

Workout routine Perhaps the biggest indicator of success is the program plan that is laid out in advance or during launch. When we need to lose a few pounds we know that we won’t reach that goal unless we hit the gym for a set period of time several times a week. The only way to see results is by putting in the sweat. The body doesn’t get into shape simply by joining a gym or grabbing the trainer pamphlets.

Just as personal fitness goals are not achieved overnight and without effort, affiliate programs goals will only be reached when there is dedication and hard work leading to positive changes and results that can be measured.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Affiliate Marketing | Affiliate Marketing Column | Channel: Content Marketing

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About The Author: is the Sr. Manager of Merchant Development for ShareASale.com’s Client Services Department. She is responsible for providing strategic guidance and educational resources to Merchant partners that can be used to optimize and grow their affiliate program.




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