Affiliate Management is the process of building and growing a channel of marketers to drive traffic to your store, business or offer. Affiliate programs, networks and managers are the three major components of affiliate management.
What is the difference between affiliate management and affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a marketing channel where partners promote a store, product or offer on a revenue sharing basis. The term refers to a marketing channel as opposed to a program or one of the key pieces. Affiliate management is the process of making the channel work.
Now that the definitions are out of the way, below you will discover:
- what the different roles are
- what good affiliate management consists of
- how to tell if your Affiliate Manager is good, competent and what their skill levels are
- best practices for having and managing an affiliate program
Definition: Affiliate marketers are independent partners who send referrals to a website or business in exchange for a commission. There are 3 types, high value, mid-funnel and low-no value partners.
High value affiliates or top-of-the-funnel partners are the most valuable. They have their own traffic which is independent of the store or offer. Without them you do not have access to them as easily. These can include bloggers (not all), social media influencers and resource owners.
Mid-funnel affiliates help end users to make a decision. It could be a review site that is combating negative reviews for you or showing you have the best price and sending a visitor back before they get to the shopping cart. They can also work as top of the funnel if they show up in search engines for terms like 55″ 4K TV Reviews or questions like What is the best Blue Widget for XYZ. They are not affiliates that show up for your URL + coupons or only intercept at the checkout stage of the shopping process.
Low and no value partners do not have their own traffic. They rely heavily on you to have traffic that they can intercept and set a cookie on. This typically includes adware, browser extentions, apps that activate once someone is inside your retail location (activating outside the store can add value), coupon sites (that only poach your checkout) and monetization tools that only monetize existing traffic without getting you new exposure.
What Are Best Practices for Working With Affiliates?
Affiliate marketers are not your employees and they are not a sales force that you can control. They are independent and should be treated differently than you would treat your sales staff. Each type should be treated differently.
Top of the funnel (they have their own traffic) should get exclusive commissions, custom promotions and always be given priority. Without them you’ll need to find another way to reach these potential customers and it will probably cost a lot more money. The influence they provide and trust from their referral can normally help increase the conversion rate of this traffic. This is especially important for smaller and newer brands.
Mid funnel partners can help to close a sale. They can also fight off unfair or bad reviews left by angry customers. If they are acting as top-of-the-funnel like I mentioned above, they should also be given a priority with custom commissions.
Low value and no value affiliates tend to be the ones networks recommend the most since they are high converting and many networks get paid on affiliate conversions. They rely on you to have your own traffic and intercept that traffic to earn commissions. Good affiliate managers remove them from your program and bad ones allow them in.
What Makes a Good Affiliate Manager?
A good affiliate manager or an affiliate management company that has your best interests in mind, can give you examples of each of these. To know if your affiliate manager is good, type your brand + coupons in Google or Bing. If the sites showing up are active affiliates, you probably have a bad manager or someone in the department who is giving them bad advice. If you have questions about this, use my contact form and I can help you determine if you have this issue and help you fix it.
The next test is to ask the manager about the adware or software on the network and which ones they’ve removed. If you have an affiliate program on a network, there’s a 99% chance an adware affiliate has applied or been approved in or declined. Every network that I have worked with or done affiliate program audits on has adware. I have yet to see one that is currently active that does not allow it 100%. So what is a low-no value or adware affiliate?
Software companies that use browser extensions or toolbars to show ads as someone hits your website or offers your current visitors cash back/coupons for clicking on their links are an example of low value to no value adware affiliate. They are some of the highest recommended affiliates by the networks which is one of the main reasons you should never trust the networks. The software or affiliate adware provides a great user experience for the user which is the pitch the affiliate and the network gives, but by intercepting someone who was already shopping on your website, you may now be paying commissions for sales you would have had regardless.
Monetization tools enable sites that are already sending you traffic to turn their links into affiliate links so you now have to pay for the traffic or sales. By allowing them into your program you may find double dipping by some bloggers and media sites if you already paid them for a media buy or a PR company for the coverage. They can also potentially cause damage to your SEO since you’re now paying for the backlinks and they may still be do follow links. Many monetization tools will allow you to block specific sites. Some may be able to get new content published and turn into top of the funnel or high value affiliates. Proceed with them cautiously, especially if SEO traffic is important for your company.
Definition: An affiliate manager is the person or affiliate marketing company that manages the affiliates within your program and the network or software used. They are responsible for making sure tracking is working, recruiting new partners and also ensuring compliance so that your company can gain from the channel.
Good affiliate managers are hard to find but you can easily train a top affiliate manager. If you’re looking to hire one and do not want an agency, here are the things to look for to help ensure they have the proper skill sets and to list within an affiliate manager job description.
What Skills Make a Good Affiliate Manager?
- Read and understand HTML and CSS
- A basic knowledge of attribution and timestamps
- A mid-level knowledge of popular email and newsletter software
- Familiarity with basic SEO principals like backlinks, copy and onsite attributes
- A passion for creating copy that can pre-sell a product and solve a problem
- Enthusiasm for sales and business development
- A strong temperament and customer service skills
- Being a creative problem solver who can explain complex situations to people across departments
Definition: Affiliate networks are tracking solutions that record click, sale and sometimes impression data for an affiliate program. Many handle payments, 1099’s and financial information to alleviate additional work for accounting. Some provide tools for affiliates including video, datafeeds and storefronts.
The networks are not equal. It is your job to pick the right one for your company. It is not their job to have affiliates, so if the decision is being based on them saying they have 1,000,000 affiliates, you should probably avoid them as this is a very misleading statement.
How to Pick the Right Affiliate Network?
- Do they offer tools that you need
- Is the network fee and are the annual/monthly fees in your price range
- Are your competitors on the network (this is a good thing if you’re a smaller brand)
- Do you have to sign an exclusivity agreement with them?
- What advertising options are available within the network
- Can you have access to all of your affiliates’ contact information
- How can you see which state they live in for nexus laws
- Which services are they using to help you look for and enforce FTC advertising disclosure compliance
- Ask if they recommend working with all of the coupon sites (if they say yes or most, move on as they do not have your best interest in mind)
If you still have questions about what affiliate management is, what it takes to manage a program or anything else, you can leave a comment below or click here to use my contact form and ask privately. I also manage affiliate programs for other companies, do affiliate program audits, training workshops and work with in house managers as a coach or team-member so feel free to contact me if you’d like more information on these services.