After seeing together how to set your goals for Affiliate Marketing and Automation, and how to assess where you stand now, we are moving into how to design and implement your Automation for Affiliate Marketing. This third article brings practical steps you can take to get started, and also summarizes some of the most important aspects already covered so far.
Follow the Affiliate’s Flow
The key to success is to focus on the affiliate, and not on yourself or your products. For some affiliates – who are also advocates and users of your products and services – Affiliate Marketing may be a way to make some pocket money, using their knowledge of the services and products you offer. However, for the majority of the top affiliates, your Affiliate Program is just business, a mean to an end, to make serious profits. A successful Affiliate Program focuses on all the points of interaction with affiliates, and the traffic they bring.
Invited vs. Spontaneous Visitors
Recruitment is an important part of your Affiliate Program. While recruitment should never be fully-automated (you need to know who you are inviting etc.), it can be streamlined. Some affiliate networks allow merchant to short-list affiliates by certain criteria, and then invite them to join the program. You can also use Business Intelligence tools to see who is bringing traffic to competitors, and see if/which sites can be contacted. Make sure to track which affiliates came from your own recruitment effort, by using specific signup urls or putting them in a dedicated group. That will help you to understand what works with your recruitment, and what does not.
Other affiliates come from search engines (they can search for “affiliate program + your industry” and similar keywords), others follow the “Affiliates” link in your website footer, etc. Again, track where affiliates came from.
Usually, affiliates you invite to join need something special to become active now. You can give them some incentives, like a limited time commission increase. Affiliates who came proactively to your site may be more interested in joining now, but they still need a reason to join your program instead of the ones they are likely browsing at the same time. Show them data supporting you can offer a competitive conversion rate, if you are indeed converting well.
I try to keep signup fields to a minimum. Name, surname, email, website or promotional methods, plus optional ways to contact them through instant messengers, that’s all you really need to start with. After the affiliate has been vetted and approval, at her/his first login, prompt a form to add payment info and other details
Now multiple scenarios arise. An affiliate registers, and is declined. In this case, give a way to explain why their site should be approved. If an affiliate has been approved, did she/he login? If not, setup automatic emails which trigger on specific events, or the lack of them. An affiliate may have logged in, but no traffic is coming from the tracking links, in this case you can resend the tracking urls by email.
You need to plan for success. Some affiliates will start to generate substantial sales for you, and some may be growing a lot in terms of percentage on their own previous months performances. Put in place some automatic rules which at least notify your affiliate team when some milestones are reached. While affiliates do not like the feeling of being watched, they do love to be recognized for their works and achievements.
Emails can be triggered on the first sale ever, when sales go above a certain amount, when the first international sale is brought, etc. If you notice one affiliate tend to bring very satisfied customers – in terms of what they tell you and what they do in terms of being loyal users – mention that to the affiliate.
At the same time, put some defense mechanism in place. Automate your reports to track refunds and cancellation rates, especially if you pay a flat CPA. If an affiliate is bringing an usual high number of customers who stay one month and then leave, get your affiliate managers notified. This should not trigger an automatic message to the affiliates themselves, but someone from your team would need to look into patterns and understand if the affiliate can optimize the promotional methods used, to bring a more loyal audience.
Growing Affiliate Partnerships
Your relationship with the affiliate is already blossoming: the affiliate joined and is producing good results. There are many aspects you can automate, including standard promotional codes. Suggesting content and specific promotions, based on the type of customers your affiliate is bringing you. Asking some questions to your customers, maybe with an optional short survey after they register with you, will help.
It should go without saying that all the basic automation tools, like product feeds, should be already part of your arsenal. Affiliates do not always have time to repost your offers and new products. Each and every opportunity to automatize the process through a push technology that the affiliate is happy working with, that’s something you should be responsive to.
Stable or Declining
Even the best partnerships may have their own challenging moments. Your affiliate team will surely spot a top affiliate who stops growing or starts declining. However, that becomes harder with mid-tier affiliates. Track in your reports the monthly changes in performances for each affiliate who delivers a statistically meaningful number of sales (let’s say, at least 5 sales for at least $500 in revenue, but that varies from industry to industry) and if there is a major change, trigger an email with advices about improving conversion rates or asking what you can do if their traffic is declining.
What can you do next, to grow your business with Affiliate Marketing? The best scenario: you already have in place all or most of these approaches to automation and Affiliate Marketing, plus some specific to your industry. The second best scenarios: or you haven’t started yet, so you have a blue ocean of opportunities. Or you have already started, and even if you have quite some work to do, you have a revenue stream and a business case to support the changes you need to implement to grow your affiliate program.
These is also a worst case scenario: you are already running an affiliate program, or you plan to start one, and you are not willing to consider automation at all. In the first case, you are losing on a lot of opportunities. In the latter, you are going to spend way more than you plan, especially when the program starts to grow. But you wouldn’t probably read so far, if you belonged to this category.
As usual, your comments are welcome. Thanks for being part of this conversation!