Back in Q1, a Pepperjam survey showed that 40% of the marketers we polled on the Ascend™ Affiliate Cloud platform indicated they would be increasing affiliate spend through Q2. This data continues to be supported as seen in Pepperjam’s Affiliate Marketing Sales Index, where marketers’ spend continues to remain strong in the channel week after week. This all signals to that fact that that now more than ever, brands are leveraging the performance-based affiliate channel as a cost-effective means to generate revenue. Yet, in addition to supplying additional investment, these same marketers also understand that the most successful affiliate programs don’t simply run on auto pilot but frequently employ proven tactics to drive more traffic, increase conversions, and lower costs.
One of the most practical and effective means to optimizing your affiliate program lies in strengthening your partner relationships—both existing and new. So right along the lines of building and fostering partner relationships, let’s take a closer look at 3 simple and effective steps that you can take to optimize your affiliate program:
1. Effective Publisher Recruitment: A 3-Phased Approach
Phase 1: On a regular basis, marketers should be recruiting, or extending invitations to new partners as well as reviewing their application queues to approve (or reject) any incoming applications from partners. Recruitment can take the form of pushing offers to partners already on the platform (internal) or a more grassroots approach of reaching out to non-affiliate sites (external) to encourage them to join a brand’s program as a monetization source. If you haven’t already, you should begin your recruiting efforts now to ensure you’re peak-holiday-shopping-season ready.
Phase 2: After a partner is joined to a program, they will progress to the activation phase, where they are promoting a brand’s products and offers. Advertisers should routinely reach out to joined partners directly to encourage them to build out store pages, add relevant branded content, and include the brand in articles or social media shout outs.
Phase 3: Once a partner is active, meaning generating traffic and/or conversions, there is the opportunity to optimize, or incent them to drive more revenue and traffic. Marketers should contact partners directly to negotiate commission rates, exclusive offers, paid placements, etc. to gain additional incremental exposure.
2. Communication: Getting Relevant Content and Information in Front of Partners
As we enter the predictable chaos of peak holiday shopping season, keeping open lines of communication with your partners is critical. Your communications should include useful information regarding relevant content and timing that can help their promotions. Some tips on what to communicate include:
Uploading new promotions: Partners can only advertise offers or sales if they know about them, so it’s essential that marketers regularly add new promotions to the platform through coupons, text links and banners.
Direct partner outreach: For top partners, a personal email alerting them to any new product lines or upcoming offers affords the best chance of exposure. This is especially true for content-oriented publishers who craft their editorial calendars weeks, if not months, in advance.
Partner newsletters: While nothing beats one-to-one partner outreach, the next best thing is to establish a regular affiliate newsletter cadence to alert partners to your new products and offers. This is also the fastest and easiest way to message your entire partner base.
If you haven’t already, you should aim to begin this partner communication immediately—before peak season officially kicks in at the beginning of October. Communicating well in advance helps ease the burden of having to discuss promotions—or any changes in promotion—in real time. While partner outreach should be done on as-needed basis, during peak holiday shopping season, the more advanced notice they receive, the better. Newsletters can be as frequent as daily if there are relevant daily offers/price changes, etc., but weekly communication is still a best practice especially during the holiday season.
3. Make the Channel More Profitable Through Reconciliations and Commission Analysis
Reconciliations: Most advertisers will want to set up a reconciliation process where they are regularly reviewing partner transactions and reversing any commissions for returned or cancelled orders. Doing this weekly will not only provide you with a more accurate view of program sales but will also give partners insight into their true performance and corresponding commission payments.
Commission Rate Analysis: Marketers will want to periodically review their commission structure to ensure they are properly compensating their partners. A great way to do this is by looking at what competitors are offering for commission rates in the channel. Some marketers also elect to pay varying commission rates based on the value a partner brings to a program (for example, paying coupon sites a lower rate than content partners).
Performing reconciliations or cancellations and commission analysis on a weekly cadence throughout the holiday season will ensure operational success for the quarter and beyond.
Follow these 3 simple tips to strengthen your affiliate program and partner relationships now and glide easily and profitably through peak holiday shopping season. For more information on how you can strengthen your affiliate program, visit us here.