Agency vs. In-House: It Comes Down to Results

Over the 18 years that JEBCommerce has been in business, we’ve gotten one question more often than any other: “How and why can you get us better results than hiring an in-house team?”

It’s a valid question. There are pros and cons to both arrangements. Still, we know what we know: JEB has delivered greater results through the affiliate channel than our clients’ in-house teams time and time again. So when businesses ask why they’ll get the best results with us, we’re happy to engage in a transparent, honest dialogue that highlights the benefits we bring to the table.

(One note: I started out on in-house teams at Netivation and TeamOn, and then was in-house at Coldwater Creek. If you’re an in-house team of one or running an in-house team, this is in no way baggin’ on you guys at all. Keep pushing!)

Putting in the Work to Build Affiliate Relationships

I’ve personally been in the industry since 1999. (Yes, kids, we had internet back then, though my slog to school wasn’t uphill in the snow both ways. We had figured out that part way earlier.) But I’m far from the only experienced marketer on the team. Combine my experience that with our seasoned managers, and you get a team with nearly 40 years of time on the track.

Why does all that experience matter? Because we put it to work for you. Our experience allows us to easily identify partners that will work for our clients and ramp them up quickly. Because of our unique and deep experience, we can also identify placements, promotions and products that will be successful without having to test as much as someone who just took over the channel. We’re also able to identify problems before they happen because we’ve pretty much seen it all.

Many of our affiliate relationships go back beyond a decade. So oftentimes, we can bend an affiliate’s ear more easily than an in-house team. We’ve worked with them for years, building trust with them across more than 200 affiliate programs. It’s incredibly difficult to build a strong track record and history with an affiliate any other way. And at the end of the day, this industry is still about relationships. They matter. People work with people they trust and are more likely to be flexible for people they’ve worked with successfully in the past.

Replacing Top Performers Without Sacrificing Results

In certain cases, there’s good reason to replace a top-performing affiliate with another affiliate publisher that can hit those same revenue targets. Your top performer might have broken terms and conditions, for instance, or went out of business. Maybe the affiliate was slapped by a Google update. Or perhaps your goals and sensitivities have changed, requiring you to remove said affiliate. When this situation occurs, you still have goals to meet and rarely are you allowed to reduce your goals. This, combined with the difficulty of finding a suitable replacement, can leave a less experienced team reeling.

At JEB, we work with tens of thousands of partners across multiple advertisers. It’s much easier for us to identify a prospective replacement than a single advertiser team. We also know that to meet your goals despite the transition, you need to be able to either grow an affiliate into that performer or bring one over from another program. We do this quite efficiently and effectively.

Analyzing Data from Multiple Programs, Identifying Trends and Pivoting

I’ve mentioned the benefit of seeing into multiple programs a few times—and for good reason. I can’t stress enough how effective this is.

JEB has access to more than 40 programs’ worth of affiliates spanning retail categories such as electronics, travel, outdoor and gear, fashion and apparel and beauty. This allows us to see retail trends, affiliate publisher trends and industry trends way before an in-house team with access to only one data point (i.e., its own program). We review channel data not only by advertiser and partner, but also analyze all our programs to determine—and often, anticipate—what’s coming down the pipe. Because of this larger data set, we see further into the future than an in-house team. This vast amount of data also gives us the power to pivot and draft strategies more quickly.

I remember managing the Coldwater Creek program years ago. One of my biggest frustrations was trying to determine if an affiliate was down only in my program or on a downward trend overall. “Should I invest in bringing them backup? Should I unhitch my wagon and spend my time, money and resources on the next “up and comer?” These were critical questions. But while my network partner provided some data, it never seemed to be able to provide honest feedback like this: “Hey, Affiliate X is not doing well in any program. Consumers are moving away from their model; let’s spend time on this affiliate instead.” We all have limited resources—agencies included. Being able to determine where to spend those resources can mean the difference between success and failure. By analyzing data across multiple programs, we can see those things so clearly.

There’s also one other big reason why access to and through multiple affiliate programs helps build strong and profitable relationships more quickly. That factor is leverage. When JEB negotiates with a publisher, we leverage not just one client’s spend, but multiple. We can take spend from multiple advertisers and get better rates, increased exposure and unique opportunities that a single advertiser just isn’t able to get. You have the power of 40 brands behind yours in our negotiations; it’s tough to beat that in-house. Leverage can take your program further and faster than an in-house team.

Delivering a Team’s Worth of Coverage

Typical in-house teams are one-person strong. Go get ‘em, affiliate manager! Here’s the downside to that: People get sick. People have personal appointments. People take vacations.

In a typical in-house arrangement, when the affiliate manager is unavailable, either the channel is on autopilot or an intern or another department watches over things. Rarely does the ball keep moving methodically down the field. Most often, it’s just kept alive during those times. And we don’t have to tell you that simply “staying alive” isn’t going to meet your performance goals.

On our accounts, you have a team working on them. At no time is your program on autopilot. You have coverage every single day—and not just any coverage. Our knowledgeable affiliate managers know your goals, know your strategy and can execute on that. There’s no downtime and no sloppy handoff.

Implementing a Process Proven to Deliver ROAS

We’ve fine-tuned our six-step process over 20 years and more than 200 affiliate programs. The result of all that hard work? Our process allows clients to realize ROAS from 100X to well over 1000X. This process utilizes best practices we’ve discovered through broad experience to ensure rapid ramp-up, fraud protection and profitability.

Want to learn more about all the ways that JEBCommerce can help you reach your channel goals rapidly and profitably? Let’s talk!