At Schaaf-PartnerCentric, one of our favorite things about the affiliate marketing industry is the fantastic partnerships we’ve been able to form. FMTC is one of those, and today we are excited to have OPM and Agency Liaison, Larissa Feuerstein, guest posting on our blog. Continue reading to find out program management tips and tricks for the upcoming back to school season!
It’s time for families to gear up for back to school, and time for affiliate managers to gear up for Back to School sales and promotions. Students and parents will be shopping soon (if they aren’t already!) so make sure they know everything you have to offer. Here are a few tips to help promote your back to school deals and get an A+ on revenue!
Get Creative on Your BTS Deals
Even if you don’t have “school supplies” necessarily, many products can be used for BTS promotions.
Here are a few examples:
Household – College students are preparing move into their dorms, so they need household goods to make it feel like home. You can promote bedding, decor, kitchen supplies, microwaves, mini-fridges, and anything else for their new place.
Clothing & Accessories – Everyone wants the trendiest clothes, shoes, and accessories for the new school year! Highlight fashionable pieces for kids and teens. You can even put together outfit ideas.
Glasses & Contacts – Make sure students can see the board and read their books without eye strain! Offer new contacts or stylish glasses for the school year.
Computers & Electronics – Students may need a laptop or tablet to take notes and work on assignments, or they may want a new phone! Put together some of your must-have electronics.
Gifts – Loved ones can send gift baskets and care packages to students to brighten their day. Pick some examples of great gifts for students and mention why they’ll love it.
The sky is the limit on what you can include in your back to school offers! You can also create a back to school code for the season, even if you don’t have school specific products, like BACKTOSCHOOL10, BTS20, or COOL4SCHOOL.
Make Your Offers Stand Out
Codes – Catch the eye of customers and publishers with fun codes, like the ones mentioned above. Don’t forget to include Back To School in your deal info, especially if your program is integrated with FMTC. Data engineers will select Back To School as a seasonal category, which will help affiliates searching for BTS specific offers.
Free Shipping – Any offer with free shipping is always a hit – so don’t forget to either add a free shipping or flat rate shipping offer. Promos with free shipping or a code attached to it will be picked up by more publishers using FMTC.
Short Term Deals – Want to create a sense of urgency? Have your offers only last for a few days or a week max. Don’t forget to put an expiration date on your deal.
BTS Posts & Pages – Another great way to promote all your Back To School products is to write a blog post that highlights your top items, linking to each product. Create a whole new Back To School page with all the items already in one spot, making it easy for shoppers. Have all these products on sale or limit it to a select few. If you’re adding a coupon, make it valid for everything listed on that page and readily visible. Shoppers don’t like hunting for deal eggs all year round!
Once you’ve created all of your awesome BTS offers and posted them on the network, be sure to include them in your newsletters to spread the word!
We’ve mentioned on more than one occasion how much we love our clients. There isn’t any greater feeling of accomplishment than successfully growing our client’s programs, saving them money and increasing ROI. When we find a way to do this that is both innovative and scalable, we want to share it – which is exactly the case with our most recent case study.
Check it out to find out how the Schaaf-PartnerCentric team helped elevate the success of a reputable water filtration company in only two months.
And don’t forget, if you’d like us to produce similar results for you, click below for your free audit!
Ever wondered about incrementality within your affiliate program? Of course you have, it is one of the industry’s hottest topics and something that brands are understandably very concerned about.
In our latest whitepaper, we analyze this growing concern and cover topics like the problems with the traditional affiliate model, key pieces of data to analyze incrementality and technical implementation strategies.
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.
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!
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.
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.
With Valentines Day right around the corner, you’ve likely seen more than a few gift guides floating around the web. Top bloggers and publishers leveraging holidays to promote their favorite products and brands is nothing new; and lately more advertisers have wondered how to get in on the action. This whole idea is called “influencer marketing” and its effectiveness has brands adjusting their marketing strategies to ensure they are adopting this powerful channel.
Influencer marketing is simple, really. Instead of a brand seeking out an entire target audience (say, in the way a television commercial would), they seek out those who have purchasing influence over a group of individuals. In the case of retailers, these influencers often look like top publishers who write a blog with a highly engaged audience and/or have a large social following. Because the influencer is trusted by consumers, their recommendations and advice directly impacts the purchases their audience makes. The effectiveness with influencer marketing stems from the message coming from a trusted middle man who has vetted the product thoroughly versus a brand flaunting it’s own products.
How Do I Find These Influencers?
This can be the tricky part, at least according to 73% of advertisers. While almost all merchants buy into the idea of influencer marketing, finding the key individuals can be difficult. There are several things to consider, including:
Market Reach- How big is the influencer’s circle? Advertisers should be looking at page views, Facebook friends, Instagram followers, etc.
Engagement – Once you know how big the influencer’s audience is, you should consider how engaged they are. If a blogger has 500,000 monthly page views but a dismal comment rate and click through rate, they may not be the best fit.
Relevancy – Does the rest of their content seem like it would be a natural fit for your brand? Influencer marketing is a partnership, so when aligning yourself with an individual it is imperative to make sure they are a good match for your company as a whole. This is arguably more important than any other factor when selecting an influencer.
Expertise – Is the influencer going to take the time to become a product expert? Influencer marketing thrives on authenticity, so you will want a commitment that whomever you work with will truly get to know the features and benefits of your product line so they can accurately represent them to their audience.
How Does This Fit In With My Affiliate Program?
Believe it or not, influencer marketing and performance marketing go hand in hand. Often times influencers make fantastic affiliates, but because of their reach they are less likely to find your program on a network and sign up directly. Proactively seeking out these individuals and partnering with them at influencer level lays the perfect foundation for recruiting them as an affiliate later down the line.
Similar to other marketing channels, there is power in numbers. When consumers read about a product on an influencer’s blog, then see an affiliate link on another website they visit – your product, brand and messaging are all front of mind. For this to be successful, you have to ensure that the messaging is consistent among all channels – internal, affiliate and influencer.
How Schaaf-PartnerCentric Can Help
You may wonder where SPC fits into all of this. While we are proud affiliate management experts, we also recognize the need for strategic influencer marketing support for our clients. Last year, we took that need and turned it into a product offering we call REACH. REACH essentially covers all of the elements of influencer marketing for you: determining an appropriate offer, contacting and partnering with influencers, monitoring results and comprehensive reporting on activity. Interested in learning more? Let us know here or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out some of our awesome REACH results. Nearly 60% of advertisers are increasing their influencer marketing budget this year, don’t get left behind!
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on influencer marketing and any questions that you have in the comments. And because no blog post is complete with out an infographic, continue reading on to see some impressive Valentines Day spending stats put together by another company who loves influencer marketing just as much as we do, The Shelf:
Unless you spent 2015 living under a rock, chances are you’re well aware of adblocking and the shift it is causing in the digital marketing landscape. But what does adblocking really mean? And how does it affect you as a performance marketer? Let’s explore…
Break It Down Adblocking, in the simplest sense, is selectively choosing content when visiting a website or an app, in turn ‘blocking’ the content the user would not like displayed. Most of the time this is done through a browser plug-in, which checks against a blacklist of domain names/ companies and removes sponsored images and ads before they are displayed on a given page.
But Why? There are a few big reasons consumers choose to use adblockers. The first is privacy. Often ad networks are collecting data on each impression, click and page visited – which can then be matched on the back end with user data. Understandably, many consumers would like their online browsing and purchasing history to be private and install adblockers accordingly.
How Does Adblocking Impact Affiliate Marketing? Bloggers, website owners and publishers produce a large chunk of free content that utilizes ads to generate revenue. As adblockers continue to rise in popularity, the way in which publishers are compensated for the content they produce will have to change accordingly. Websites, advertisers and publishers will all have to prioritize the consumer experience and truly consider how ads are best received. Influencer marketing and native ads will continue to rise in popularity. As we’ve seen in the past, affiliate marketers tend to be at the forefront of digital trends and this will be no exception.
Whether you are an advertiser or an affiliate, we’d love to help you as you navigate the changing performance landscape and figure out how to best approach adblocking. Whether it is through REACH or simply adjusting your current affiliate marketing strategy, we’re here you to help.
Whether your affiliate program is large or small, you have probably put some thought into your Q4 paid placement strategy. If you’re selling a niche product, this can be particularly complex, and a limited-to-no budget makes it even more difficult. Don’t worry. There are options available. But before you get started, here are a few things to think about:
Know your budget, and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.If your budget is $2,000, consider four placements at $500 each or ten placements at $200 each.
Publisher inventory is limited, so only certain publishers are willing to negotiate. Offer what you can, and try to cover the difference in a commission increase as a show of good-will.
A placement that is right for one merchant may not be right for you.Different placements perform better from one merchant or product to another, however, if you have deep pockets, we have seen great results from Brad’s Deals in just about every Q4 placement across verticals.
Be prepared to offer your best deal of the year.Customers have extremely high expectations on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Don’t let them down.
If you do not have a paid placement budget, opportunities are still available. Many top publishers offer holiday placements in exchange for a commission increase and an exclusive offer or vanity code. Take advantage of this.
Mr. Rebates has commission-only inclusions for their holiday event, and loyalty publishers like Mr. Rebates typically offer a portion (if not all) of the commission increase to the customer in the form of cash back. Goodshop includes merchants in their “Goodshop Sunday” event (following Black Friday) in exchange for either an exclusive offer or double commission, which doubles the donation to charity. In 2014, Goodshop donated a portion of nearly every sale to the customer’s choice of one of over 110,000 participating causes.
When planning for Q4 placements, have patience with your research and negotiations and you can uncover a few diamonds in the rough.
If you’d like to see the our roster of 27 affiliates picked to perform this Q4, check out our Affiliate Draft Picks.
Looking for the right affiliates to get the job done? Preparing for Q4 is no small task and if you’re a smaller merchant that doesn’t have much wiggle room for paid placements, it’s a good idea to make a favorable impression with some of our top Q4 affiliates before it’s too late. Take a moment to review your affiliate list and see who your current top performers are. Reach out to them with new and exciting offers that are specific to each upcoming holiday. Provide exclusive promotional codes and semi-exclusive offers to ensure you’ll make sales this holiday season.
RetailMeNot is one of the whales in the space, and you’ll want to make sure they’re joined and active in your affiliate program. Once a relationship is established, you may be able to negotiate a holiday placement or two with strong commission increases and exclusive vanity codes.
Other top performers include: Savings.com, ShopAtHome, and CouponCabin, who offer special, seasonal placements for a more effective reach. But don’t wait until the last minute to recruit or negotiate deals, as these affiliate sites fill-up quickly and placement comes at a price.
I’d also like to suggest a few more noteworthy affiliates for you smaller merchants. Goodshop.com provides the shopping deals on the internet, and also makes a donation to the nonprofit or school of your choice for almost every purchase you make.
Offers.com is a leading online destination for consumers to save time and money. Offers.com serve up the top coupon codes, product deals and other offers from more than 8,000 stores and brands. Offers also strives to help the community through events like volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and awarding a $2,500 scholarship each year to deserving, savings-minded college students. Be sure to check out their Holiday Savings Centers and savings tips on the best ways to save, a few of their more popular holiday content pieces.
Also look into adding UltimateCoupons to your program. UltimateCoupons’ team of veteran bargain hunters is committed to hand-testing and delivering the latest and best coupons to their audience on a daily basis. They partner with thousands of top retailers, and have one of the largest collections of coupons on the web.
Take the time to create a memorable relationship with these top performing publishers and make a statement! You’re still a growing company building a name for yourself, so offer the best savings and biggest deals and beat your competitors’ prices. Drive traffic and increase revenue for your affiliate program this holiday season!
As the affiliate industry matures, concerns about the value of the affiliate channel, and of specific affiliates, are coming up. Advertisers are questioning their capabilities in driving incremental traffic to their site. Technology and tracking developments in the past five years have given us access to the data that allows insights into the click path of a customer, which, in turn, enables us to understand the value of each online marketing channel. The use of this big data is still in its infancy, but allows senior online marketers to question the value of the sale that each affiliate brings to an advertiser’s website.
How to measure incremental traffic depends on a variety of factors: the program’s business model, brand presence, consistency in offers across marketing channels, available tools to measure and collect data, in addition to other considerations.
Incrementality is not solely related to new customers. Incrementality is about being included in the consideration set when the customer is shopping, as well as when they are purchasing.
A sophisticated marketer will use company and affiliate program goals, coupled with thorough attribution data, to effectively measure incremental sales in an affiliate program.
How To Determine Affiliate Channel Incrementality
The first step to assessing the affiliate program’s contribution to incremental sales is to define what incremental means to your company. Depending on business priorities, it could mean attracting new customers, clickstream placement, a correlation to internal reports, or any combination of the above. We recently spoke with a retailer who understood that incremental traffic for them was not a new customer, but related more to the life-time value of that customer. For them, a new customer garnered through steep discounting did not equal an incremental sale. What they were looking for through their affiliate acquisition strategy were more customers reflective of the LTV of their core.
Once an incremental sale is defined, put parameters in place for measurement. You can do this by leveraging tracking software and affiliate network features to gather the relevant data. You’ll then want to analyze the accrued data to direct program strategy. Look at the average touch points across channels, the typical initiators, and the typical closers. Work to define an average cost-per-sale across all channels by assigning a value to each touch point.
With a comprehensive strategy in place, resources can now be directed to improve avenues that drive strong incremental traffic. On a per affiliate basis, determine who is driving higher volume traffic and work to optimize that relationship. If an affiliate drives low-value traffic, consider decreasing affiliate commissions to value that traffic appropriately.
A Real-Life Example
One of our clients was concerned that a category of affiliates was hijacking traffic at the last minute and getting full credit for the sale. We set out to define the traffic from this group, as well as to define traffic on a per affiliate basis. We used the client’s internal attribution reporting and compared it to affiliate network data to identify patterns in incremental value per affiliate group. Some affiliates had a high percent of orders credited to another media channel, indicating low-value traffic. Others, we determined, had high-value referral traffic. We then segmented publishers based on the quality of traffic, lowering commissions for the low-quality referrals, and increasing engagement with the high-value affiliates. After the first year, we saved the client $605,000 in unnecessary commissions, while increasing high-quality revenue 25% YOY.
Defining incrementality is a multi-faceted issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. With the right technique and the right clarity into the data, you can feel confident about the value of the affiliate channel.
If you are interested in learning more, download our comprehensive whitepaper on Creating an Affiliate Program that Drives Incremental Revenue!
For a lead-based affiliate program fraud prevention can be a daunting task that is critical to success. If done correctly from the beginning, it can save thousands of dollars in unnecessary commissions and fees. Here are three steps to ensuring your program is protected against fraudulent publishers.
Choose the right tracking platform.
One of the most important decisions for preventing fraud in a new affiliate program is choosing the correct tracking platform. There are a myriad of tracking platforms out there and they all have their benefits and drawbacks. Make sure that the tracking platform you’re considering is vigilant in vetting publishers and has a strong QA process in place for all traffic. Some of the larger tracking platforms place equal importance on fraud prevention as its merchants, which leads to expanded services to help control fraud such as real-time fraud detection and brand monitoring.
Set up program terms appropriately.
Once the tracking platform is in place, make sure that the program terms are not attractive to black-hat publishers. If you have a multiple-action program, such as paying on a lead and then a conversion to a paid sign-up, put the weight of the payout on the second conversion. In a pure lead program, keep the payout as close to the competition as possible without putting too much money out there. The bottom line is if you have a strong offer and the publisher drives quality traffic, they’ll understand that larger payouts come as private offers. A high, default-rate payout attracts publishers who may be more interested in taking advantage of the offer as opposed to converting high quality traffic.
Create a rock solid vetting process for new publishers.
All tracking platforms have their own publisher vetting process, with some being much more detailed than others. To ensure a trust-worthy publisher base, personally review all affiliate applications. It is a manual and time-consuming process, but is worth the effort in the end. To help speed up the process, put countries where fraud has a habit of originating from on auto-decline. The most common type of fraudulent publisher I am seeing lately are publishers with content sites that are related and look good for the program I am managing while having little actual traffic. If someone unseasoned was reviewing the application they would assuredly be accepted into the program. Once in the program they generally have a very high conversion ratio with bad leads. However, these sites do have a few tells that are easy to spot:
1) The banners for various programs in the tracking platform are listed on the site
2) They have low traffic scores when looking at Alexa and Google
Another type of suspect application I see are random publishers inserting extremely popular sites into the URL portion of the application. It is obvious that these people have nothing to do with the site, so that is an easy decline. But when it isn’t obvious, there are a few easy ways to gain information and put yourself ahead of the fraudsters:
1) Review the website – In many cases there will be information on the site that does not match up with the application or vice versa
2) Impose traffic restrictions – Create a minimum traffic requirement based on Alexa/Google/Anything else you want. Sites over a million in Alexa generally won’t generate any volume.
3) Make good use of a WHOIS tool – In many cases the domain information will be private, but when it’s not that information is helpful in determining the validity of an application
4) Reach Out – Any publisher that you are on the fence on in terms of acceptance or will be accepting you should reach out to in order to determine their marketing methods and begin a relationship. If it is a publisher you are unsure of and they don’t communicate back, well there is your answer. Invariably, some good publishers will be caught up in the net we’ve laid to prevent any fraud from entering the program.
This is a small price to pay for a clean program and in many cases they will reach out themselves allowing you to review everything again in a different light.
In the end, the most important way to keep your lead program fraud-free is to build long-lasting mutually-beneficial relationships with your publishers.
If you’re interested in learning how Schaaf-PartnerCentric builds highly valued lead programs, please request a consultation.