April 22, 2015

5 Common Mistakes New Affiliate Marketers Make

Affiliate Program Management

Affiliate programs have a lot of moving parts. It’s easy to not realize anything is going wrong until the damage is done. That damage may come in the form of financial loss or affiliate relationship loss. We often speak with merchants who launch programs in-house without the proper resources or skills, and wonder why the program is under-performing.

Here are 5 common mistakes new affiliate marketers make:

Not understanding affiliate budget. Budgeting for affiliate marketing programs can be complicated. There are the initial set-up and integration fees, monthly minimums, the tracking platform’s fees, your program’s default CPA payout, and any custom CPA payouts that you set. In addition, you often have to pre-fund the account properly or you risk harming your relationship with your partners. If you don’t plan properly, your affiliate program could turn into a negative-ROI venture. Take time to understand all costs, create a forecast, and update it regularly. And don’t forget to fund your account!

Not testing. It’s hard to know what works for your specific brand, product, or niche, in the affiliate channel so testing is necessary. Test different types of campaigns in the affiliate space, including view-through, display, and email. Testing these in affiliate is low risk as you pay only on a completed action. Because of this, some merchants find the affiliate channel a nice space to test retargeting and search strategies as well.

Focusing on quantity over quality. Many new affiliate marketers focus purely on volume, which is a valid strategy in some cases. When you launch a program, determine if gross volume is more important than cost-effectiveness. These goals lead to two separate channel strategies. If you’re solely pursuing quantity over quality, you risk casting too wide of a net and may over-extend your program. If your goal is to recruit new publishers, activate inactive joined publishers, optimize revenue generated by those with more potential, develop a strategic plan rather than trying to do everything at once. Nurturing important affiliate relationships, requiring opt-in for optimization campaigns, and setting a strategic plan for the year ahead, are just a few simple ways to set a solid foundation for long term quality.

Not nurturing affiliate relationships. Affiliate relationships take time. Advertisers should treat affiliates as an extension of their own sales force. After all, affiliates are your brand ambassadors, and seeing them as your employees will go a long way in ensuring that your brand is represented appropriately. When it comes to compensation, this relationship should be handled delicately, as you would treat your own employee.

Unclear terms for publisher engagement. Since affiliates are an extension of your brand’s sales force, ensure they know the rules to abide by. Set clear terms and conditions and communicate those to the affiliates to maintain program quality. If your product or service requires affiliate education, provide an introduction in the program description with resources to learn more. Make sure terms are clear for what types of actions are commissioned, what types of products are not commissioned, and what the search bidding rules are. Don’t allow affiliates to “get by” with violating your terms; other affiliates who work hard to abide by terms will notice.

In closing, launching and maintaining an affiliate program comes down to thoughtful relationship-management and planning. Take time to formulate a larger strategy and work on diligently executing it. If your affiliate program gets in a rut, it may be time to consider professional management.

If you’re interested in determining how Schaaf-PartnerCentric might help your affiliate program, please request a consultation.

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