June 14, 2012

Ten Things to Know When Selecting an Outsourced Affiliate Program Management Agency

You want to entrust your affiliate program to an outsourced affiliate program management agency – and there a lot of options out there. How can you make sure you choose the right path?

We at Schaaf-PartnerCentric obviously have a vested interest in the decision as we are an outsourced affiliate program management agency (OPM) – but you should know that the decision of which affiliate programs to take on is just as complicated for us.

That’s because affiliate marketing is a partnership. The success of the program will depend on the relationships that we forge – not only between the OPM and the merchant (you) – but also between your program and its affiliates.

Making the right choice is so important – and we’ve found the following questions
to be very helpful for merchants as they evaluate our affiliate program management services and our ability and capacity to drive success for your business.

1) Do the People Associated with the OPM Listen to Me and Ask About the Needs of My Business?
This is the first question you need to ask when you’re evaluating an outsourced affiliate program management agency. Is the OPM listening to me? Are they asking about my goals? My pain points? Do they want to know what we’ve tried in the past and how it went? Do they care enough to ask about our business model – our best-selling products – and the things we want to do in the future? Above all other considersations – if you feel you’re getting a pitch that doesn’t take into account your business and its specific needs, you need to take pause. If the OPM isn’t in touch with my business and its goals – how will they meet and exceed them? You need a true marketing partner who will become an integral part of your organization. Don’t settle for less.

2) Does the OPM Have Experience Where It Matters?
As a merchant you’re naturally going to want to work with an OPM that has experience in your niche. You may or may not find that – but the experience you really want to look for is experience in key functions of an OPM – which includes affiliate recruitment, affiliate activation and affiliate program optimization.¬† Look for case studies and client testimonials that demonstrate expertise in these areas.

3) Does the OPM Have a Sterling Reputation?
Affiliate marketing is all about relationships – so, it’s key that the OPM that manages your affiliate program has a strong reputation in the affiliate marketing community. Ask for references and check them. Don’t just ask for a client reference. You also need to know how affiliates feel about the OPM – so ask to contact a few affiliates to get their input as well.

4) Does the OPM Set Clear Expectations and Outline the Plan to Meet Them?
Don’t trust any OPM that makes big promises because as is so often the case, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The truth is that affiliate marketing takes time, and any experienced OPM should be able to chart clear expectations for attainable, sustainable growth (along with a plan for how they’ll make it happen).

5) How Will The OPM Ensure the Affiliate Program Attains  and Retains Quality Affiliates?
Will the OPM you’re evaluating manually approve all of the affiliates that will be recruited for your program? That’s preferred to ensure quality. Allowing affiliates to automatically be approved into a program means sites that won’t perform (or that violate your terms and conditions such as gambling or pornographic sites) might be allowed to join your program.

6) Is the OPM Covering All of the Bases When It Comes to Affiliate Recruitment?
Recruitment is one of the most important tasks the OPM will perform for your program so, you need to make sure they are doing it correctly. Will this OPM leave no stone unturned in the search for strong affiliate partners, or will they simply recruit within the affiliate network(s) where the program resides? Will the OPM reach out to a variety of affiliate types (deals, loyalty, couponers, paid search affiliates, etc.?).

7) Is the OPM Capable of Managing Your Affiliate Program on Multiple Networks?
There are several big affiliate networks and many more niche networks. Any one of them (or a combination) might work best for your affiliate program. You need an OPM that is capable of managing your program on multiple networks. Look at the OPM’s client list. Is it focused on one or two networks or does it manage programs on a wide range of networks? An OPM that “always works” with one network probably isn’t the right choice for you.

8) What Procedures Does the OPM Have In Place to Protect Your Brand?
You need to be sure the OPM you select will enforce any policies you put in place. This include your trademark bidding policies and any terms and conditions. Ask how the OPM monitors a client’s affiliate program for trademark bid policy violations and make sure you feel comfortable with the answer.

9) Communication is Key: Are You Speaking the Same Language?
As you’re talking to OPM companies to evaluate their skills and services, pay attention to communication. Is it clear? Do your questions get answered? Do your calls/e-mails get returned promptly? More importantly, are the people involved listening to your needs and presenting solutions to fit that need? You need an OPM that can become a virtual arm of your business – and listening is a critical skill.

10) During Your Evaluation Process, Keep Asking Yourself: Is the OPM Adding Value?
The best OPMs employ seasoned affiliate marketers who become an essential part of your team. They help to devise and implement the strategies and tactics that drive success for your affiliate program. They hear your challenges and present solutions. Look at client testimonials and ask to interview a current client or two. Ask about this when you call.

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