In my previous article for GetResponse Blog, I gave an overview of how marketing automation can contribute to your Affiliate Marketing program success, and of how to set your goals. I started with the goals, so you’re not bounded by any current limitations, and you can aim to what really matters for your business.
Today, I move into assessing where you’re now with affiliate marketing and marketing automation. This process is going to be very intuitive, as long as you and your team let it go of any defensiveness. Assessing the current situation isn’t about allocating merits or blames, it’s about understanding where you’re in an objective manner.
Best practices to assess your current automation
Think and act like an affiliate. That’s what you really need. Forget what you know about your company, business, and customers. See everything with fresh eyes. Think what an affiliate would do to find your site (using industry name + affiliate program? Reading an affiliate forum? Etc.). Are you found there? If not, take note and put your SEO team on it.
Then, go through the affiliate program application. Ask for the info you really need (name, payer, email, website, area of expertise), and make the rest optional. The name, email, website and area of expertise are the necessary pillars to start automating your affiliate program. They allow you to customize emails based on what each affiliate needs to know, and not necessarily what you'd like to tell her/him.
How long will the approval process take? If more than 1 or maximum 2 business days, then you have a problem. The most successful affiliate programs assess applications within the day, sometimes even during weekends. And before they turn down an affiliate, they often ask for clarifications if they still see there’s some potential to work together. Now, while it’s a good practice to automate as much as possible your affiliate program, applications assessment has to be done manually. This is one of the very few tasks you want your team to do manually. Why? Because that’s the very start of the conversation.
What if it takes ages to assess your application?
You’re testing your own affiliate program as a mystery customer. To be more precise, as a mystery affiliate who doesn’t know if applications always take many days to be processed, or if today there was a delay because your affiliate manager is away. As soon as an affiliate applies for your program, send an automatic acknowledgement. State how long it will take to process the application, and stick to it. If your team is away for a week to an affiliate conference, update the automatic email accordingly.
If you see your team takes a very long time to access applications, help them with some tools. Can you embed a script in your platform which calculates automatically, based on the URL, the expected number of unique monthly visitors? The most popular countries? How this site would fit within your current mix of affiliate types?
You can provide your affiliate team a score from 0 to 10 of how desirable this affiliate seems, and then let them decide. I’ve assessed affiliate programs as a mystery affiliate myself, on behalf of my clients, and I’ve noticed many differences between one program and another. Some even took months to assess applications. That’s a recipe for disaster.
What happens after approval?
You’ve applied as an affiliate, you’ve been approved in a timely manner, awesome! Now, what happens? Are you getting practical, bullet-list style steps you can put in place to promote the program? Are they customized to the affiliate type you indicated in your application? If not, take note, this is something you need to work on.
But we’re sending a newsletter!
Newsletters are a great tool to remind each and every affiliate that you’re always there for them. However, if your partnership management strategy is based on your newsletter, or you’re offering a truly unique and extremely well-converting product, your affiliates will promote you no matter what, you’re fooling yourself. Newsletters are like generic shouts-out, people may listen to them from time to time. But if you want to get your affiliates' ongoing attention, you need to mix manual communication with automated, customized communication with each and every affiliate.
Bringing good B2C practices into affiliate marketing
Almost every e-Commerce site has a clear CRM strategy, shaped on the customer's behavior to make her/his journey effortless. Very few affiliate programs have that in place for affiliates. That’s a massive lost opportunity. One affiliate can bring you hundreds or more of buyers, so it’s important to consider her/his behavior. If you have your in-house affiliate program, monitor if an affiliate signs-in within one day from being approved. If not, send an email with some additional info and ask if there’s any question you can address. Do the same after seven days.
Set emails to thank your affiliates for the first sale they brought you. And for the other milestones which will make your partnership successful. From time to time, add a bonus to your email, so the affiliates will keep reading them. This is where automation can make your program, and a lack of automation can break it: in facilitating the affiliate's journey.
Assess the arsenal you are providing
I’m presenting this last, because it goes well beyond affiliate marketing. But it’s one of the most important pillars of your relationship with affiliates: the tools you are providing them with. Your banners need to be tested and well-converting. The same applies to your landing pages, offers and – of course – products and services. Do that with your own budget, don’t expect affiliates to waste their money and time to do testing for you. If affiliates see your site isn’t converting into commissionable sales, they’ll just move to another program.
Automation is vital here, too. Do you have a good lead-gen funnel in place, to give to - and get the best from - each and every lead that your affiliates are bringing you? How do you cater to your potential customers? These elements, which require Marketing Automation, will determine if an affiliate stays and grows with you, or not. As you can see, automation for affiliate marketing goes beyond the affiliate program itself, it requires a culture of automation across the whole Company.
What can you do now?
I’m already half-way through my series of posts for GetResponse Blog devoted to marketing automation and affiliate marketing. After the first post about setting goals, we moved into assessing our current situation. While we’ve already seen some vital best practices that we need to have in place, we’ll get more detailed actionable items in our upcoming third post about marketing automation and affiliate marketing.
Back to you
If you want the last post to keep your needs and wants in consideration, please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below. Also, from time to time, I'll keep coming back here to read comments and answer some questions, so your ongoing feedback is valued. What are the main points you discovered about your assessment? Are you running an in-house affiliate program or are you benefiting from the services of an affiliate OPM? What is the level of automation in your affiliate program?