Whether your company is well-established with a solid customer base or just getting off the ground, an affiliate marketing program can be a useful tool for growing your numbers. When deployed effectively, affiliate marketing programs provide a valuable source of additional customers and revenue. Good affiliates work to spread your brand and enhance your image with your target audience. To achieve the best results, it’s important to put some thought and effort into establishing and managing your affiliate program – think of your affiliates as an extension of your sales team and the effort will pay off.
That was then
Affiliate marketing has developed alongside the e-commerce industry and in both instances, the dramatic expansion has resulted in pretty serious growing pains. Early on, unscrupulous affiliate marketers adopted shady practices that seriously tarnished the industry’s reputation – installing adware on customer machines, which undermined consumer brand confidence; hijacking links from competing sources, which sometimes resulted in payments to multiple affiliates for one customer interaction; cannibalization of sales from existing customers, cutting into overall revenue, etc. In recent years, however, industry leaders have worked hard to improve the popular perception of affiliate marketing – and to dramatically improve the industry’s effectiveness as a marketing tool. Now, many merchants see affiliate marketing as an essential component of their marketing plan.
This is now
Today, well-managed affiliate programs produce valuable results and there are lots of ways to get one started. Some companies employ organizations to manage the entire affiliate process – from finding affiliates to disseminating information to affiliates, to paying appropriate commission. Others manage their own affiliate networks, handing information and payment directly. A handful of companies even work directly with affiliates and tackle all components of an affiliate program themselves (finding, informing, paying, etc.). For companies handling their own affiliate network or program, Mi9 Retail offers the Affiliate Extension to provide all the assistance you need to seamlessly integrate the process into your existing Mi9 Retail e-commerce system.
Make the most of it
No matter what type of affiliate program makes sense for your needs, here are some tips for making the most of it. These stem from the same idea: treat your affiliates like an extension of your sales team and they will produce desirable results. Your affiliates are out there representing your company, your brand – do what you can to make sure they are successful and it’ll pay back in a big way!
Communication is key
Don’t re-purpose messaging – It may be tempting to re-purpose customer messaging when talking to affiliates – you send out emails about sales anyway, right? – but that is a mistake. Your affiliates are a different audience with different questions and concerns and you should tailor your communications to reflect that. This doesn’t mean you have to send personalized notes to each of your affiliates! It means that your communication should impart the information that’s important to them – a monthly affiliate newsletter that highlights upcoming promotions or recent successes is great for achieving this.
Make information timely -Additionally, make sure your affiliates have key information on what they’re promoting in a timely manner. They should know about a sale before it pops up on your website so that they can get out and spread the word right away – driving customers to your site.
Keep it concise – You certainly don’t want to bombard affiliates with emails, but maintaining a consistent presence in their inboxes will keep you on their radar. Keep your communications brief and topical and they may come value you as a useful and concise resource.
Take time to personalize
Make a connection – Periodic phone calls to touch base or taking the time to meet at a trade event are also good opportunities to make a connection. The more that your affiliates feel like you have a stake in them, the more willing they’ll be to invest a little extra effort into promoting your company. As an extension of your sales team, they’re more than a figure on a monthly report and it’s important they feel that.
Set up incentives and goals – Providing incentives and setting goals are essential to successful sales teams – and there’s no reason not to utilize those tools with your affiliates! The Mi9 Retail Affiliate Extension allows for multi-level commission structures so you can easily reward your best affiliates. Tangible rewards strengthen bonds between your company and your affiliates and benchmarks can motivate people to exceed expectations.
Know their strengths – Knowing the strengths and interests of your affiliates will help you to target your affiliate strategy more effectively, reducing duplication of effort and improving the breadth of your audience.
Good management, good oversight, good results
As affiliate marketing has evolved, companies have taken a close look at the size, scope, and effectiveness of their affiliate programs – and discovered serious shortcomings. Many problems stem from poor oversight, which contributed to the industry’s bad reputation early on and diminished return on investment. Fortunately, an experienced manager (working from within your company using the available Mi9 Retail extension, or through an affiliate management company) can dramatically improve the performance of your affiliate program. The Mi9 Retail Affiliate Extension has all the reports necessary to efficiently and effectively manage your program.
Good management can:
- eliminate channel overlap so you are only paying once for a customer interaction.
- identify low-performing or fraudulent affiliates and resolve issues.
- identify and capitalize on long-term trends in affiliate marketing strategy.
- provide long-term oversight to maximize the profitability of an affiliate program.
Consider whether affiliate marketing works for your company
Affiliate programs still provide challenges and might not be the right direction for every company. It may be hard to find the individual or company with the right experience and skills to oversee the program you need. And, as mentioned above, effective management is key. But for those of you who do incorporate an affiliate program into your marketing strategy – and think of them as an extension of your sales team – the potential to grow your audience, client base and revenues are worth the effort.