February 18, 2016

How To Create A Successful Relationship with your OPM

Author : Kristine Kirschke

Schaaf-PartnerCentric OPM

With over 10 years offering outsourced program management services, and a collective experience of over 100 years amongst our seasoned team, we felt we might have a tip or two about what makes the client/agency relationship tick! Building meaningful relationships is a core value at Schaaf-PartnerCentric; so cultivating and nurturing the relationships we have with both advertisers and affiliate partners is at the heart of what we do, every day.

Communication
To ensure I was representing Schaaf-PartnerCentric as a whole, I decided to conduct a survey with our affiliate management team about what they felt makes a great relationship between an OPM and a client. The feedback had an underlying theme…communication. We often hear that good communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship, but typically associate it with what is needed for a romantic relationship to thrive. Turns out, it is equally important in the professional realm. But, what is it exactly that we should be sharing and how do we do it within the OPM and client setting?

An Open Book
We widely accept that honesty, sharing, and trust are needed for a healthy relationship. As an OPM, we consider being candid and forthcoming a necessity, so that issues, should they arise, can be laid out on the table before they fester.  For us, this is the only way to discuss real strategy and adjust accordingly. Along these same lines, transparency about the work an OPM is doing across a client’s company, especially with key decision makers, is critical. Regularly sharing the performance of the program including wins, losses, and how the affiliate channel stacks up against other marketing channels will proactively answer questions from ‘higher ups’. An OPM never wants to be in a position where decision makers begin questioning the value an agency offers their company. It’s also important to keep in mind that an OPM wants to be an expert on a client’s business. Tell them about new product launches, explain why your product or service is better, and send samples if you can.

Ultimately, the ongoing dialogue between a client and OPM should educate and create visibility, which creates trust, which leads to a deeper level of ‘professional’ intimacy where sharing is easy!

Attention, Please
Oh, how spectacular the courtship phase of a relationship is! We hang onto each others’ every last word and the rest of the world falls away with our full attention. We can’t wait to see each other again, and wouldn’t dare miss an opportunity to spend time together. While this analogy may be a bit over-the-top, the point is a client and agency need to continue to show up and stay engaged, even when the honeymoon phase is over. This is fairly straight forward in the affiliate world: respond to emails in a timely fashion, ask questions when you need further clarification, show up for weekly meetings and deliver the information and assets needed to move initiatives forward. Keep the spark alive! Otherwise, stagnation sets in and we become disillusioned with where the relationship is headed.

Heads Up
Change is inevitable, even in the best of relationships. Being notified of upcoming changes means being properly equipped to handle the change, and this translates into a smooth, seamless transition. Otherwise, it translates into a major strategy upset!

For example, no one wants to be faced with the dreaded D word….Down Tracking! It is critical that a client provide advance notification of web site or platform changes which can impact the tracking of affiliate transactions. Tracking tests will undoubtedly need to be placed to ensure there is no interruption. Equally important are changes to an advertiser’s discounts and offers, which requires lead time for an OPM to properly communicate to affiliate partners. Outside of technology and offer changes, personnel changes are never fun to hear about after the fact. Receiving a bounce-back to an email sent to your current point of contact happens more often than you’d think!

Better yet, is the company headed in a new direction? Have the goals of the affiliate channel changed? Every OPMhas been blind-sided by these types of big changes at one time or another…after the client has decided how it will play out in their affiliate program. While directional changes may be necessary and in the best interest of a client, it’s important to leverage your OPM to develop a strategy on how to best implement the changes before all the decisions have been made, instead of leaving the OPM on the sidelines.

The ultimate relationship between an OPM and client really comes down to being in-step and on the same page, so that you can work together toward a common goal. Communication is key! At Schaaf-PartnerCentric, our goal is to be your trusted advisor, and both the transfer of knowledge with full disclosure is needed on both sides to make this happen.