Your affiliate marketing program is a serious marketing campaign that requires diligent ongoing involvement. Unlike some may think, affiliate program management is a full-time job; and within its framework the affiliate (program) manager should be taking care of seven very specific things which I’d like to cover for you in this blog post. There are five that correspond to the key responsibilities that every affiliate manager has, and two that ensure the solidity of the base on which the five stand. It is helpful to visualize affiliate program management as a façade of a building that rests on five pillars which, in turn, rest on a foundation and a footer (as exemplified below).
There are a few good courses and books devoted to affiliate management education and training out there (including a few authored by yours truly); and while they are definitely worth delving into, the education that should be the undergirding basis of everything that you do in affiliate marketing, is your ongoing self-education. By its very nature, affiliate marketing touches every possible online marketing channel. This makes it an extremely dynamic and quickly developing industry which, in turn, calls for daily time spent on self-education.
To paraphrase the famous saying, what you know will give you direction, but it is who you know that make things moving. Too many a time we have witnessed what a difference a direct connection means (especially when it comes to the first two of the five responsibilities described below). You will hear it time and again that affiliate marketing is a business model that is founded on the idea of an ongoing relationship. Believe it; and spend time creating new connections, developing those that require nurturing, and cementing old ones.
Moving on to affiliate manager’s duties, every manager should be expected to actively attend to the following five tasks: recruitment, activation, policing, communication, and optimization.
An affiliate program manager is responsible for identifying and recruiting new affiliates. Affiliate recruitment should take anywhere between 70 percent and 85 percent of the affiliate manager’s time and is one of the most important parts of the program manager’s work. After all, affiliates are the main driving force of every affiliate program.
Affiliate activation is one of the most frequently overlooked components of affiliate program management. Activation is a step between affiliate recruitment and conversion of the recruited affiliates into producing ones. I believe that activation should be practiced in three phases: the recruitment phase (where you motivate affiliates not only to join your program but also to put up your links and refer their first orders/leads), the welcoming phase (where you motivate affiliates to get active in the very text of the application approval email), and the routine phase (where you run aggressive monthly activation campaigns to move those who are already in your program but not yet active).
Next in importance to recruiting and activating affiliates is the policing of inappropriate affiliate behavior. Whatever you prohibit in your affiliate program’s terms of service (TOS) — be it cookie-stuffing software, typosquatting, paid search bidding on your trademarks, URL, or any variations of misspellings of these — you want to constantly police affiliate compliance with these rules. Rules and TOS do not ensure compliance, but give you grounds to police and enforce it.
An affiliate manager should also be expected to support a two-way communication channel with affiliates. I believe this responsibility is threefold: maintaining stimulating relationships with the current affiliates and continually motivating them to perform better, keeping affiliates up-to-date on new products and any affiliate program enhancements, and handling ongoing communication campaigns and all affiliate correspondence.
Continuous affiliate program optimization is the final area of responsibility worth underscoring. Every affiliate manager is to be identifying and implementing opportunities to enhance your affiliate program, developing and monitoring affiliate-centered promotions (do not confuse these with promos directed at customers), reporting for affiliate marketing promotions and activity, monitoring competitors’ affiliate campaigns and promotions, and uncovering what actionable knowledge can be deduced from this data.
All of the above will be covered at great extent during my upcoming Affiliate Management Days conference, the only show dedicated specifically to affiliate management, which is set to take place on April 3-5, 2016 in San Francisco. Use code ZAC to get 25% off any full pass. I hope to shake your hand there.
This article was contributed by Geno Prussakov, who call be followed on Twitter at @eprussakov.