If your affiliates aren’t happy and getting exactly what they need from you, they are not going to put their best effort in, which sadly, will lead to a less than stellar affiliate program. In some ways, it is like hoping your employees will encourage your “best place to work” bid when your benefits consist of a few weak referrals to social services.
Quite simply, you can’t blow off your affiliates and expect them to return the favor while also putting forth their greatest effort. It is just not going to happen that way. Just how can you get the most out of your marketing affiliates? Create a real relationship, and provide them with what they want to be successful. This isn’t a dictatorship. Affiliates have no duty to promote your brand. You must provide them with an incentive to do so, which means being respectful and receptive to their needs.
Build Friendly and Professional Relationships
You treat your clients with respect, right? So it follows that you should treat your affiliates with the same amount of respect also. You know, that whole “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” thing? Show them their value to you by appreciating their efforts.
Like any good relationship, professional or otherwise, you merely get from it what you put in. Build trust and respect by being honest and upfront, keep an open line of communication, and remember, it doesn’t need to be all business all the time. Grab a pint after the conference. Ask questions regarding their personal pursuits, you know, the kind of things people do when they first meet. Get to know one another and attempt to bond from a real place. Just a little face time can go a very long way.
On the business side of things, you need to give your affiliates helpful and actionable data. How are they performing compared to their competitors? How are they perceived by your agency or brand? What’s changing about their program later on? Become a beneficial resource.
Follow your affiliates on social media and discuss anything interesting they may post. Post any applicable and helpful information you might have on your brand and its own practices. This proves that you are willing to help out them, and they will feel encouraged to do so for you.
Consider giving sample goods to your affiliates. This gives them the opportunity to participate in the customer experience and provides them with the incentive to advocate for your brand. It’s no secret that people have a better time selling products that they believe in; give them a reason to believe.
If you build an open and responsive relationship with your affiliates, more opportunities and sure to open for you. And by attending affiliates’ requests as quickly as possible, they are more inclined to pick up and promote your brand on an ongoing basis.
Keep Them in the Know and Without Want
If you are unable to provide affiliates with the best resources, or to satisfactorily communicate your policies and preferences, it leaves the impression your affiliate program, and so, your affiliates, are not a very large priority. Once this happens, there is very little you can do to incentivize growth. After all, there are a wide variety of affiliate programs from them to choose from, and likely several that not only provide a similar payout and merchandise offering, but additionally offer proactive communication and support. So make sure your reconciliation, attribution, and compliance practices are top notch, and that catalog organization, offer clarity, creative quality, tracking, and that coupon tracking codes are up to snuff.
Make sure you clearly convey your program updates—be it updated commission structures, program changes, or some other significant change—as soon as possible to give affiliates time to adjust. Attribution policies can be tricky. Bear in mind, attribution consistently has winners and losers, but everybody loses if you don’t communicate your policies. Additionally, make sure your policies are not hidden or hard to understand. And keep in mind, any excuse to reach out is an opportunity to connect, enhance your connection, and ensure high-value placements.
Maintain Consistency from the Relationship
Nobody is a fan of someone who fawns all over them, disappears for weeks, and fawns all over them again like they were never away. Consistent communication and responsiveness are crucial. Establish a communication cadence with affiliates such as weekly reach-outs via email or phone, and when possible, take time to meet them in person. Human interaction adds enormous value to any relationship. Set up a time to meet at a tradeshow, or grab some coffee when you happen to be in their city. It’s possible to offer your take on the industry, discuss trends, and also ask them what you can do to make their life simpler.
Most importantly, pay attention to and make note of your affiliates’ ideas, opinions, and needs. Show that you care and they will react in kind. A successful relationship requires healthy conversation and a constant stream of back and forth in which both parties are able to pick up the phone or hop on a conversation to go over any new tactics, approaches, or opportunities without hesitation.
Don’t fall into the habit of requesting something new every time you talk with an affiliate. You do not need them to dread hearing from you. And don’t micromanage; your affiliates are skilled marketers who work hard because of their commissions. Nitpicking details can put pressure on the relationship, therefore there’s a fine line between protecting your own interests and undermining results. Choose your battles wisely.
Lastly, it’s important to understand how your affiliates’ businesses work and respect that they have their own best practices and KPIs. Don’t expect them to bend over backward to accomplish yours. A certain measure of compromise would be to be expected. Try to locate common ground and set common objectives.
Provide New Offers, Opportunities and Content
Nothing in business—or life, for that matter—is more boring and taxing than having to do the same thing over and over again. Variety is the spice of life. If you can provide offers with a higher commission from time to time, affiliates won’t be likely to complain. So whenever possible, take action. A benefit here and there will keep them engaged and productive.
While showing a preference is never a good thing, there are times when one affiliate or team of affiliates may be much better suited to promote a particular offer compared to others. When that is the case, make sure to go full steam ahead with exclusive offers.
Provide the most detailed, quality marketing materials you can. When it’s imaginative, make it compelling and simple to execute. Tell your affiliates that you’re willing to build custom creative assets, and be eager to produce ads that match up well with their website theme and demographics.
Be sure to provide affiliates exclusives which are better than what is on the homepage. All too often merchants make the error of giving an affiliate an offer which isn’t competitive. For example, giving CouponCabin a 10% off once the retailer’s site has 20% off. Don’t do this.
It’s also important to get a healthy staple of branded and pre-approved offers and content that can be activated at a moment’s notice if they dovetail with a particular affiliate’s focus or desire. Having the capacity to say, “Yea, we can do that right now,” is way better than having to say, “Uh, allow me to talk with my boss/client to see if we can accomplish that.”
Match your content, offers, and inventory with publisher offers. Use active attribution to give more credit to affiliates with the most referral traffic. Most often, this may mean changing commissions to introducers and influencers.
Dictating the Rules Is Not Good Enough—Compliance Can Be a Procedure
Part of operating an affiliate channel is ensuring that your affiliates are playing by the rules and guidelines you have set in place. There is nothing more annoying than finding out your star affiliate—or any affiliate for that matter—is promoting your brand in a way that is not approved.
A retailer’s first reaction is typically to remove the violating affiliate. Rather, consider adopting more of a rehab philosophy. Open a line of communication and start working with them to help ensure they understand your policies. This way, you won’t be killing off an important revenue stream in a bid to police your affiliate program.
Rehabilitation starts with a friendly reminder of exactly what the rules are and how they are breaking them. Sometimes, this starts with confirming you have the affiliate’s current and correct contact information and confirming they’re receiving your notifications. As soon as you are confident you’ve made contact, give the affiliate some time to fix their actions.
Remember, removal from a program should be your final option since it can reduce revenue-producing affiliates out of your channel. Often, the violation is much less malicious than you may suspect, and much more frequently, completely unintentional. Common examples include:
- Most of the rules are buried in the terms and conditions
- New publisher team member is unaware of your policy
- The person who signed up for the program isn’t the person who ends up working on it
- Publishers often have multiple people working in the same program
Affiliates have to move fast to be profitable. They do not have enough time to review every email or to read each line in your terms and conditions, so it may be expected that they might require some followup to fully understand your coverages.
Pay Affiliates on Time and Appreciate Them
Nothing upsets an affiliate more than having to wonder when they will be paid. Be clear on your negotiations; be sure they are clear on all your conditions, and above all, deliver on your promises.
It is also going to serve you well to inject a bit of humanity into this process. When an affiliate performs exceptionally for your program, make sure you reach out and show your appreciation. Oftentimes, this is even more significant than an on-time payment.
Just never forget, unethical payment practices will give you a terrible reputation among affiliates. Don’t go there. Pay on time, every time.
In Summary, Be a Fantastic Human Being
Like anything else in life, you get what you give. If you are nice to people, they are a lot more inclined to be nice to you. If you are helpful, helpfulness will find its way back to you. Should you meet an individual’s requirements, then your needs are more inclined to be fulfilled. If you’re conscious of your affiliates’ requirements and deliver on them, you’ll have a much greater chance of your affiliates going the extra mile to get you. Give to receive. It is as simple as that.