Optimizing in Q4 Without a Paid Placement Budget

How do I optimize in Q4 without a paid placement budget? This can sometimes be a difficult question to answer when some VIP Affiliates will only give you prime real estate on their site in exchange for a flat fee. Luckily there are several optimization tactics that can be used to gain additional exposure in Q4 when competition for shopping $’s is typically the most competitive. 

The most important tool you have to optimize Q4 without a paid placement budget is simply putting in the time, and being proactive/diligent about following through with partners to ensure you are optimized in Q4. Some may say, hey..that’s not useful, what on earth does that mean?! First let’s put ourselves in a theoretical scenario that I heard from my Director of Accounts, Jon Goodwin. 

“Let’s say I’m the Director of Digital Marketing at Company X. I know everything about all of the online marketing channels, and I have a meeting with my Affiliate Manager to see what their game plan is for Q4. My manager mentions that since they don’t have a flat fee budget for placements they won’t really be able to optimize the affiliate channel in Q4 because top partners are only accepting flat fees for placements during this time.” “Really?!,” is the response this Director of Digital Marketing gives. “You mean that you (the affiliate manager) cannot secure one placement without a flat fee budget because it’s Q4?! Well maybe I need to find a manager who can.” 

While it’s true that some partners have company policies that they will only accept flat fees for Q4 budgets, it’s a mistake to just throw your hands in the air and wait until Q1 again before you can continue securing placements without a flat fee budget. 

Of course optimizing an affiliate program IS highly dependent upon the amount of tools you have to work with and most affiliate programs will have (most) of the following optimization tools. The majority of affiliate programs I have managed do not have any flat fee budgets allocated for placements. 

  • Rev Share increases
  • Exclusive Coupons
  • Vanity Codes
  • Co Branded Landing Pages
  • Free Product in Exchange for a Review 
  • Product Giveaways

Once you have the optimization tools you can use for your program defined, reaching out to your top partnerships well in advance of the peak shopping holidays in Q4 is absolutely vital to securing placements. Also don’t be too picky and only want to optimize with your top 5 partnerships (such as the RetailMeNot’s, Ebates, and Cartera Commerce’s of the world.. who are VERY difficult to secure additional exposure without a flat fee / hybrid option even when it isn’t Q4). 

Taking the time to plan out who you’d like to try and secure additional exposure with, (and see what is available with the tools you have at your disposal) needs to be done well in advance (especially in Q4 when prime real estate is the most competitive). 

To start, take a look at your top 20 partners and reach out 1 on 1 to set up calls to discuss additional exposure they have available during peak shopping seasons in Q4 (calls are much easier and more time effective than 20 + different back and forth emails). This will allow you to discuss different optimization tactics you have with these partners, and negotiate placements to help increase your brand’s exposure. As with any time of year, following up with partners and placement opportunities to “keep the ball rolling” is crucial to success, as often times there are multiple steps required in securing additional exposure during Q4. 

When talking one the phone/email with one of your top partners don’t be surprised if they don’t have a HP Cyber Monday placement available without a flat fee (likely the case), but discuss other options. Maybe the same HP placement (or a newsletter inclusion) is available in the week leading up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday if you can get them an Exclusive Coupon, increase their Rev Share, and provide a Vanity Code to go along with it. Combining the tools you have at your disposal helps to increase the value and bridge the gap between the exposure you want and that all elusive “flat fee requirement” many partners are wanting. In my experience most of your top partners will be able to provide additional exposure in high traffic areas on their sites that doesn’t cost you a flat fee, because of the additional value your other optimization tools are able to provide. It’s just all a matter of putting in the time and effort to locate and secure these placements. 

Bottom line — securing placements in Q4 takes TIME and due diligence. Starting well in advance to get these conversations going is vital! I’d recommend starting initial conversations at least 3 months in advance, as there will be an initial phone call followed by several back and forth emails to get all of the details ironed out. Now let’s utilize all of the optimization tools you have at your disposal and go crush it!