So, you have just hired an outsourced affiliate management agency, or are already working with one. You have spent hours of your time vetting, interviewing, vetting again, checking references, and have had 5 phone calls with each one. You have settled on the best agency for your channel goals and signed the contract. You’re done now…right?
You have a huge part to play in the success of the relationship with your affiliate management agency. When you “own” your side, your agency is going to be able to bring you more rapid success.
Here are 5 things strategies or methods that will maximize the effort, and the money, that you are spending with your affiliate marketing agency of choice, in order to put them in the best position to succeed. You have a huge part to play in the success of the relationship with your affiliate management agency.
One thing to note before we get into the recommendations: Many brands feel like adding an affiliate management agency is all that is needed to take their affiliate channel performance to the next level. But, it is crucial to consider your brand-side structure that will support the agency you have chosen. Many times, the day-to-day brand contact is the same person that hired the agency, usually a senior executive. However, this person is at least 3 levels too high and is SO busy that there is no way the agency is able to get everything they need to be successful.
“It is highly recommended to designate a person on the brand side that has enough time to be able to provide the communication and assets necessary for the agency to be successful.” – Jon Goodwin, Director of Accounts
It is crucial to consider your brand-side structure that will support the agency you have chosen. This is VITAL. Communication is the foundation of any relationship and this one is no different. Here at JEBCommerce, I have experienced a variety of different day-to-day contacts. These contacts have ranged from engagement on a daily basis all the way to the other extreme of not making the time to chat for months. It should be obvious which ones were the most profitable for both sides. But if it isn’t, the daily engager had a better performing program.
If you are unsatisfied with how the program is performing…speak up! So often, there is a miscommunication that is causing frustration by one side or the other. Be sure to communicate your concerns with your team, so that everyone is on the same page. Another must have. With proper lead-time for upcoming offers, your affiliate agency has a MUCH better chance to maximize the offer for you. All too often, the decisions are made, the planning is complete, but no one informed the affiliate agency. Now, there are times when last minute offers are created to boost sales. This happens fairly often and the agency will do the best they can. But for all of the other times, please give your agency as much lead time as possible. It takes time for the managers to reach out to the affiliates and discuss (and negotiate the lowest price) placement options – or simply to get the word out to thousands of affiliates.
Here is a good rule of thumb for brands that are heavily promotional: make sure your agency partner knows about the biggest sales of the year as soon as they are finalized. This will allow them the necessary time to reach out and line up extra exposure options in advance. Often times, they are able to secure placements at a discount if secured far enough in advance. This is especially true for Q4. The most successful Q4 performances occur when placements are secured in June (or even earlier), before the prices go up drastically and the demand is much higher. The most successful Q4 performances occur when placements are secured in June.
One thing that is really tough for agencies is when an asset or other necessary material is not delivered when needed. Try to make sure you are promising delivery at a time that makes sense. If it is going to take 2 weeks, that is OK, the agency can plan for it. Often times, the growth of the affiliate channel will be held up by delays in the delivery of necessary items. This is where a dedicated affiliate liaison will really improve the process. If the CMO is the agency’s day-to-day contact, deliverability suffers, as that person usually does not have time to track down requested assets or information. Utilizing a lower-level employee on the brand side that DOES have time is key. I don’t want to beat this one to death (too late maybe – nope, it’s still twitching), but this is so important. The best brand relationship is a result of the efforts of the brand to put the agency in touch with a dedicated contact for their affiliate efforts. One of our biggest success stories includes a day-to-day contact for the brand that was hired a few weeks before we started – straight out of college. His main job is to interface with our team and make sure we get everything necessary to be successful. He is our advocate and can track down information, assets, and coordinate decision-making efforts with his superiors – who are definitely too busy for time-consuming phone calls with affiliate agencies. But he/she has to eat at some point during the day and can usually be cornered in the break room!
Finally, make an effort to bring your agency into the fold. With our most successful relationships, we have been involved in brand-side planning meetings, been invited to meet in person, and in general included as part of the team. Face-to-face meetings are very valuable in making the agency part of the team, and not the redheaded stepchild.
Remember, you hired an outsourced affiliate management agency to increase the reach and overall success of your brand. By implementing these five key strategies you will help them succeed on your behalf.