19 Nov Dear Advertiser, Affiliate Networks aren’t the same as Affiliate Managers
I was chatting with a prospect the other day about MadrivoOPM’s services and he told me he didn’t need an OPM (Outsourced Affiliate Program Manager) because he was already using in one of the big networks. I asked him if he was paying their basic rate or the high fees for Account Management Services. He admitted he was only paying the basic fee and didn’t even know about account management. And how was his affiliate program doing? Not well, he said sheepishly.
This is a common misconception among retailers, if you are paying a network “all that money” for network access fees or set up fees, they must be also helping you succeed. This is not always the case. Tracking networks are primarily providing you with a tool; a tracking system with access to their network of affiliates/publishers. They do help get you set up on their system and some initial promotions. However, actively connecting you with those affiliates/publishers that can do the most good for your company’s revenue isn’t part of their standard fees.
This is where Outsourced Program Management (OPM) comes to the rescue. Once you have purchased network access, deposited your escrow funds, and signed the agreements, you officially have an affiliate program. But this isn’t a “If you build it, they will come” kind of thing. You will need to find or attract affiliates, and you need them fast. Most OPM’s have years of experience managing programs and have developed hundreds, if not thousands, of trusted relationships with affiliates of all kinds. They know what kind of advertisers they like to work with, on what network(s), promoting what kind of products and services and how much commission they expect to earn. They know what sports teams they like, what their kids names are, and what they like to drink at Affiliate Summit and because they have a known relationship, they can match and bring those perfect, producing affiliates into your program!
Your OPM also manually reviews and approves or denies every affiliate application for you. But wouldn’t it be better to just let them all in, you ask? The more the merrier? No! An OPM will be able to tell if the affiliate uses sketchy or downright banned techniques to get traffic to take advantage of your program terms. They process the necessary skills to spot a novice whose site is not only incomplete but also has no traffic to speak of. They recognize notorious cookie stuffers or toolbar loaders and won’t let them in. They will also be able to spot top super affiliate who join and immediately get them set up with anything they need. You’ve got to have eyes on these applications every single day to weed out the good, bad and ugly!
So now you’ve got a program with a lot of potentially good affiliates. I say “potentially” because did you know that a large percentage of affiliate join and then never do anything? Strange but true. But your OPM knows this and takes steps to continually motivate the non-active affiliates with communications, ad creative, tools and for the “big boys” even exclusive coupon codes or special commission rates to help them get started with you.
Things to consider:
1. Have you noticed what your conversion rate is on affiliate links? Poor performing landing pages produce low commissions and can turn off the best affiliates who will drop your program like a hot potato.
2. Do you know what the percentage of affiliate sales are to total sales? If it’s less than 10%, you’re likely not doing everything you could be to take care of your affiliates.
3. How long have you had those ads up in the network? If they are the same ones since beginning of time they are likely non-performing and hurting your program growth. You need promotional ads, text links, special offers, seasonal ads, a variety of sizes, optimized for mobile and tested for performance.
4. What about your payout and terms? A commission that is set to low with poor terms (short cookie or long time to get paid) can really hurt your recruitment efforts.
An OPM will be monitoring and proactively taking measures so that your program doesn’t suffer from this kinds of neglect that lead to lackluster performances.
If your affiliate program is not wowing you – it’s probably because it’s not being professionally and proactively managed. This entails daily attention to the program, creating inspiring and profitable promotions, contacting dozens of prospective affiliates weekly and getting them active all while also policing for any “baddies”. They protect your brand, use social media, refresh ads monthly (or at least quarterly), and report to you weekly with steps that can be taken to further improve the program based on what the analytics are showing. And your OPM will buy that favorite super affiliate a drink at Affiliate Summit and ask how their family is to build continuing goodwill and loyalty.
So do yourself a favor – hire a respected OPM! They are an extension of your own staff and worth every penny!
Linda Woods, Managing Director of MadrivoOPM, is a 18-year veteran of the affiliate marketing industry who is widely recognized as the founder of the outsourced program management (OPM) movement. Linda and her teams have managed affiliate programs for hundreds of major brands.