Your Affiliate Network: Good or Great?
I was browsing an affiliate marketing forum the other day and came across an interesting question posed by one of the participants. She wanted to know what information do affiliates commonly ask for that is not provided by the major networks? In other words, how can networks help their publishers succeed? There were just a handful of comments, and most of those were asking for clarification on her question as if the idea was a foreign concept. That got me thinking: We talk quite about the expectations networks have for their affiliates, but we don’t often address the question in the reverse.
First, networks need to make their program attractive so people will want to sign up and recommend it to others. After all, the bigger the network, the bigger the profit. Affiliates want a reason to sign onto your network. Use special offers or incentives to entice them and keep them. I’m not talking about offering a free oven mitt. The incentive must be monetary. Perhaps it’s the guarantee of an increase in commission when revenue increases. Also, as part of the welcome package, offer information about typical conversion rates, top-selling categories, EPC rates, and data analysis. Consider creating a resource page that outlines the tools available to network affiliates as well as guides on how to use them. Provide support for fledgling marketers in the form of a FAQ page. Make it clear that you want your publishers to succeed.
Second, be a reputable and trustworthy network. A strong industry presence saturated in positive reviews makes people want to do business with you. Again, the bigger the network, the bigger the profit. Pay your affiliates on time and according to your agreement. Don’t play games. Additionally, offer them authentic ideas that they can use on their end. Give them access to your tried and true marketing strategies as well as to your reporting and tracking system so they can actively monitor progress as often as you do. A monthly e-mail report no longer cuts it.
Last, build a community. This starts by viewing the affiliates in your network as partners versus employees. It involves having a team mindset. In affiliate marketing, everyone has the same goal: to make money. If you make each member of your team feel like he or she is part of the “in” crowd, then they will be more likely to actively promote your categories, which makes you more money. In line with this, merchants and networks must both strive to build relationships with affiliates. When merchant involvement is minimal or non-existent, affiliates build relationships solely with the network. As a result, affiliates feel no loyalty toward the merchants and can easily switch around within the network. Keep in mind that communication is essential in relationship building. Create an online forum in which affiliates, managers, and merchants can discuss ideas and issues. Furthermore, develop an affiliate newsletter to keep them apprised of progress, new products, and network news.
Take a few minutes to reflect on the current status of your network. Do you take an active interest in what your partners are doing? Do you know what they want? Are you supporting them and helping them succeed at every turn? Or are they “out of sight, out of mind?” Your answer could mean the difference between a good affiliate network and a great affiliate network.