We have been asked multiple times over the last week about planning for Q4 and what you should be doing to make it successful. You’ll see in the words that follow, planning before November is one of the first things. But it does bring up a good subject that I thought would be a great opportunity for two of our most experienced affiliate managers to drop some knowledge and enter the discussion for themselves. So I gave them 5 questions, locked them in a room, and told them I’d let them out when they have their best answers for me.
I’m glad I did, and wasn’t surprised when it only took about 15 minutes for them to write down what follows. Maryellen and Jon have been with JEBCommerce longer than all but one employee and have led some of our most successful retail programs.
They say that eventually the students surpass the teacher, and this is definitely the case with these two. So allow me to let them answer some of the most important questions regarding Q4 planning and retail programs.
- As much time as possible. I mean it! It’s NEVER too early to plan for Q4. Some affiliate partners book their top spots by June.
- A promotional calendar complete with start dates, end dates, coupon code, restrictions, landing page url (if applicable), creative – in other words, EVERYTHING your partners will need to promote your offers.
- Budget and increases in rev share. Most partners aren’t willing to give top placement in Q4 in exchange for a vanity code or exclusive offer. They are aware of the value of their real estate and take best advantage of it in Q4. Budget is ideal, but some affiliate partners might be willing to provide placement in exchange for increases in rev share. Not always, and those placements might be remnant (if they have it available), but if you’re hoping for homepage or prime categories, be ready to hand over the Benjamins.
- Promotions (Merchandising Calendar) – Gotta have products to promote and push with affiliates during Q4
- Budget / Strong commission rate – It’s very hard to secure prime real estate on affiliate sites if you don’t have budget or a VIP rate to offer/entice
- historical data. If you have historical data, on top promotions, products that have worked/not worked in previous times, then you will be well prepared to communicate those products/offers to affiliates, and chances are, they will perform better during the holidays if it worked before.
- Not giving themselves enough time
- Not understanding their clients’ goals
- Not understanding their affiliates’ goals
- Not thinking ahead or anticipating situations. Understand if a promotion doesn’t work well, the client may at the drop of a hat, change everything. If you have a paid adv running and not performing well, think ahead, and talk to your clients internal team to market the best product in place of the current promotion. Anticipate peak selling weeks, and secure additional exposure to go along with promotions. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Eastern Mountain Sports – UYG.
- Preparation – You need to do your homework, and understand goals and projections for Q4. If they have a huge goal to hit, prepare. What placements would work well during Q4, what products work well. Allow yourself self lead time right before the mayhem of Q4. An ideal affiliate manager needs to be thinking about Q4 in July if not earlier. If you have a program and know its a big program, you need to be doing your best to build relationships throughout the year, so when Q4 hits, and you time it right, they will be optimize and educated on your program you manage.
- Understanding affiliates – Q4 is a big time of year for affiliates. And affiliates work with hundreds of other merchants and are busy if not more busier than you. You need to allow them enough lead time on promotions, links, newsletters, paid placements, etc. Best practice – If you have a promotion that goes live on Wednesday have the newsletter go out the Friday or Thursday before. Affiliates will appreciate that, because you are honoring their time, and working with them to be efficient as possible.
- Gotta have Patience and time – It takes time to build relationships with affiliates, and optimize them to promote your clients. It doesn’t take a day, a week. On some cases, yes it does, but most of the time, it takes awhile. Everything you are doing today, will reflect on the affiliate program in the coming weeks.
- Patience in promotions / exclusive coupons / placements – Majority of the time, the placements are not just going to drive significant amount of sales volume over night. You will have to test, test and test more to pinpoint the best placement for your Client. It can either be email, newsletter inclusion, category or homepage.
- But you have to be patient to get in the groove of things, get acclimated to your clients products/business model, and most importantly build on those relationships who will be promoting your client.
- When October hits, the sales start driving substantially. I guess its not surprising but more of an eye opener, when you clients double in sales from September to October. The amount of sales volume in Oct, Nov, and Dec, is mind boggling as compared to prior months.
- It can get rather crazy and at times stressful, because things change at a drop of a hat and you have to adapt to the clients needs. You must be prepared for all scenario’s, and work diligently to strive for a successful Holiday Season, and not stress too much but do the best you can when situations arise.