Season 03 / Episode 013
9 Often Overlooked Affiliate Management Basics
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Join our host, Jamie Birch, as he expertly guides us through the often-overlooked aspects of affiliate program management. In this episode, Jamie transforms the discussion into a fundamental checklist, ensuring affiliate managers establish a robust foundation for success.
Key Topics Covered:
- Rotation of Creative Assets: Learn the importance of keeping creative assets fresh and engaging.
- Datafeed Management: Assess the status and relevance of your datafeed – a crucial yet commonly missed component.
- Consistent Outreach: Explore the significance of regular and effective communication with affiliate partners.
- Continuous Learning: Embrace the value of staying informed and utilizing available educational resources.
- Affiliate Partner Approvals: Streamline and optimize your affiliate partner approval process.
- Promotional Strategies: Avoid the pitfall of a lackluster promotional approach by incorporating diverse strategies.
- Commission Strategies: Ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and tailor commissions based on performance.
- Channel Ignorance: Address the detrimental impact of neglecting the affiliate channel altogether.
- Publisher Development: Cultivate lasting relationships through consistent efforts in publisher development.
Jamie recommends exploring relevant articles on the JEBCommerce site here and highlights the invaluable “Affiliate Marketing Strategies to Survive and Thrive” ebook available here, offering 19 actionable strategies for navigating the current business climate.
Tune in for an episode packed with insights, strategies, and a roadmap for affiliate marketing success!
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[00:00:48] Jamie: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast. I am Jamie Birch, your host and founder of JEBCommerce, your award winning affiliate management agency. Today you got me. We’re going to be talking about some of the basic things in affiliate management that often get missed.
[00:01:09] Recording this just as Q4 starts. So if you’re looking at 2024, you’re trying to figure out what to do. There’s going to be a great podcast for you to listen to, to make sure you’re not missing the fundamentals.
[00:01:20] Before we get started, just want to send you over to jebcommerce.com/elements. We have done a bunch of work this year to make sure our service levels were easy to view, were transparent, and you can get pricing pretty easily. So go over to jebcommerce.com/elements and you’ll be able to see all the different packages we have. That’s one thing that’s really been missing in the agency world is transparency into what work is being done for what price. We’ve solved that now and have that available. So head over to jebcommerce.com/elements for more.
[00:01:54] Okay. So let’s talk about the top affiliate management items missed. The basic stuff that people miss. There’s been so much talk about new and exciting things coming to the affiliate space, and what advanced things you can do. Those are all awesome but just like any endeavor, you really have to focus on the fundamentals first.
[00:02:15] So I think of my son played basketball, he’s now twenty two, but he played basketball and was on a state championship team and what their coach focused on every single week wasn’t amazing, crazy, sexy plays. It was the fundamentals. Dribble, pass, block after the shot, block out, good defense, and those kind of things.
[00:02:38] And that’s important. If you go to any sort of activity, the basics are always where people focus on. And I saw something yesterday that a beginner wants to focus on what the intermediate person is working on. The intermediate person wants to focus on what the advanced person and the advanced person focuses on the beginner stuff.
[00:02:59] That’s what this is about today. I’ve got a few here that I want to talk to you about. So the first thing is rotation of creative assets. Every single month we get into and have new clients come in and they want us to look at their program and find out what’s going on and what needs fixing and things like that.
[00:03:19] And every single one, a hundred percent of them, what they are missing every single time is creative assets that are up to date. These are text links. These are banners. These may be product links, a data feed, every creative asset you could possibly offer the affiliates, what we find in every single audit of new clients and prospects is that, they either don’t have a full set of affiliate creative, it’s super, super old or just completely out of date and doesn’t reflect the products that they have, the season and anything like that. So the rotation of the creative assets is super important. Could you imagine a TV commercial that’s talking about something from five years ago? I’m not lying, many of these have creative that haven’t been updated since pre pandemic. And that is text, textual banners, data feeds, all that sort of thing.
[00:04:15] You gotta make sure you’re rotating your creative. So how often should you be rotating your creative? As often as you need to is the short answer. But it should be at least seasonally. Most advertisers, most businesses will have a reason to change creative every season. So that’s the minimal. Now, every week you should be looking at what you’re offering via text links and looking at what your site has to offer affiliates, and be focusing on that.
[00:04:43] That rotation of assets really should be happening way more often than it probably is right now. And also search our podcast episodes, because we have a few on creative assets. But really, if you’re not putting new things in every week, you’re really going to find yourself behind the curve with everyone else.
[00:05:03] The next top affiliate management item missed is a data feed. Do you have one? Has it been updated? Almost every client we look at, it’s either been updated once, it’s programmed to only update manually or they don’t have one at all. So what is a data feed that is a file that’s a list of all your products and the information that an affiliate would need to present them and to market it to the client name, image, description, price, availability, color, and other options.
[00:05:34] Affiliates use that. They use it for a number of reasons. It’s also how you get into services like FMTC and others. So the data feed is wildly important. Affiliates need to know what products you have, so do you have a data feed? When’s the last time it’s been updated? I would say probably 50 percent of the clients that come to us that first two weeks, when we look at their program and do an audit and our strategy session with them, we find that that data feed hasn’t been updated since the first time they uploaded it.
[00:06:05] What happens a lot with integration is the tech team will see that they need a data feed, and they upload a data feed, but they forget the part that it needs to be updated frequently. I say those things need to be updated again, as often as they need to.
[00:06:19] So do you have products change price and new products come into play once a year? Then maybe once a year is adequate, but a lot of retailers and advertisers have new products every week. Every time there’s a new product, a product change, anything like that, that data feed needs to be updated. So I just like to do it every day. Just have your data feed updated.
[00:06:40] If your tech team can create the process to create the data feed, upload the data feed, all you got to do is do that daily. And that’s what we’ve seen really work. That data feed is used in so many different ways for affiliates. And if you don’t have it again, you’re missing sales. So that’s number two.
[00:06:58] Number three is consistent outreach. We’re now, I’m 24 years into my career running JEB for 19 years affiliate marketing has been around 26 years. We still have to talk about this basic fundamental thing of outreach, consistent outreach. Your partners need to hear from you, partly because they’re hearing from everybody else.
[00:07:24] And if they don’t hear from you, they’re going to move on to something else. You have to put yourself in the position that, of looking at the affiliates as sales professionals. They’re out there reaching your audience and marketing for you. They need to know what they should be doing. You need to be talking to them.
[00:07:41] This is still very much a relationship based business. So when’s the last time you sent a newsletter out? When is the last time you reached out to your top partners? When is the last time you reached out to any of your affiliates, whether they’re producing or not?
[00:07:57] And that leads into the fourth one of just: lack of communication to partners. You need to have consistent outreach and you need to communicate. And those are two really big problems with most affiliate programs is they’re not reaching out consistently and they’re not communicating to the affiliates. They’re not letting them know what new products are available, what promotions are available, what they shouldn’t be promoting, what they should be promoting, what products have fallen off. What’s gone into clearance. What’s popular in the upcoming season. What creative do you have that has a high conversion rate? Those types of things. Share that with your partners. That consistent outreach, and just you can’t have lack of communication. They need to hear from you.
[00:08:38] It isn’t like an SEO campaign or an AdWords campaign. These partners need to be spoken to. They need to hear from you. So that’s three and four. Consistent outreach and then just lack of communication completely.
[00:08:50] Another is failure to learn and use educational resources available. You need to always be learning and all the networks, all the agencies, most of the agencies, have resource centers. The PMA has a resource center. That is a great information. JEBCommerce, our blog has 20 years almost of content, and we have a special series available to you that talk about every single issue.
[00:09:19] We try to write about everything as if everyone out there was an employee of ours and they needed to learn how to become a great affiliate manager. Many of the networks have training sections. Impact has a great one. I know Web Gains has a huge resource center as well.
[00:09:35] Commission Junction, LinkConnector, Rakuten all have amazing resource sections as well as a lot of bloggers out in the space. We have three seasons of our podcast. We have 20 years of a blog content. There is a ton out there and you need to be reading about new things coming up, but also connecting with those content producers to learn more from them and using all those resources.
[00:10:00] We have MyAffiliateCoach.Net, the first affiliate management, manager training video series. That’s also out there as well. There’s so much out there and that really leads to stagnant programs when you are not consistently learning. So I like to say, take your Friday, take a half day on Friday or maybe a half hour every day and devote to continuing education. Many of the other fields have it. Lawyers, doctors, CPAs, I know they all have to have continuing ed. You should treat your education the same way.
[00:10:33] So that’s number five. And here’s one we see all the time. A fundamental affiliate management thing that doesn’t get done. I would say probably every single affiliate program we take over and every prospect we look at.
[00:10:48] Their partner approvals, the affiliate approvals aren’t done. The applications are sitting in the queue, some of them for years. You can’t have an affiliate work on your program if they’re not in there. So you need to go through your approvals every day. What are the characteristics of affiliates you’re looking for? What are the characteristics of the ones you do not want in there? Make sure you know what that is and spend time every day getting to those approvals, clear out that queue every single day. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, pretty much guarantee you have a really long queue to get through and you need to go do that.
[00:11:25] New affiliates are the lifeblood of what you’re going to achieve. They’re going to help you get there. And if they apply and never hear from you, one, they don’t want to work with you. If they get an approval or denial very quickly, you’re going to get a better chance of working with them. Even if you deny them, they may come back. Monitor those emails too in the networks and outside of it. So affiliate partner approvals, everyone misses this almost, and it really, there’s no excuse for it.
[00:11:52] Are you enjoying the show so far? We cover so many different strategies and stories on the podcast. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up. We get it. It’s why my team and I compiled the very best strategies in affiliate marketing programs and put them together for you so you can assess the health of your affiliate program.
[00:12:13] and be able to optimize it for the best possible results. You can get that guide at jebcommerce.com/strategies. In the guide, we go over how to address your commission structure, your coupon strategies, 10 questions you need to ask to identify strategic opportunities, the many ways you can utilize your affiliate partners to react and pivot rapidly to our ever changing ecosystem, and so much more.
[00:12:38] Now, I want you to be able to access these strategies. A hundred percent for free, simply for being a listener of the show. Get access to them today at jebcommerce.com/strategies. Now back to our show.
[00:12:55] Okay, lack of promotions is the next one. This is a huge area where people aren’t doing this kind of goes into the realm of the creative assets and the data feed.
[00:13:05] But what promotions do you have? Do you have none? I’m sure you have some, and you may not want to be very promotional, but there is an audience out there that will not shop without a promotion. And there are affiliates who will not promote you without one. So you really need to get that, get those promotions out there.
[00:13:23] Now, where you can start is you can just start with what’s site wide. What are you offering right now? And then you can work on exclusive ones for the affiliate channel and exclusive ones for each partner. And you can negotiate with those. So if you don’t know when you’ve done a promotion for consumers in the past, then that’s going to be a problem.
[00:13:43] The next one: commissioning everyone the same. This is a big issue that the channel is working through right now, the industry is working through, but if you are paying everyone exactly the same, you’re leaving money on the table. You’re paying too much for some sales. You’re probably paying for sales. You shouldn’t be paying for anyway, but different partners require different things.
[00:14:03] If you want content partners and you want them because they bring new customers and top of funnel customers, you can’t pay them like an affiliate that closes. Every affiliate they hit different parts of the consumer journey in that funnel, you need to commission them. If you search on our blog for new to file commission strategies, you’ll see there’s a bunch of different ways that you can go about this and make sure that the affiliate is getting compensated for what they do, what you want out of them and their commissions are being protected.
[00:14:36] So some affiliates should be at a low commission because they’re only closing at the end. Others should be high commission. That’s very protected because they’re bringing you new customers you would never have gotten into this funnel without it. Just commissioning everyone exactly the same is really a missed opportunity.
[00:14:52] Definitely go to our blog and look for some of those links. I’ll try to include all of those in the show notes as well.
[00:15:00] The next one is honestly what we see a lot of: just ignoring the channel completely. And that may be because I don’t have anyone to work on it. I don’t know what to do.
[00:15:09] I forgot about it. It’s not a focus of ours. Whatever that is, if you ignore this channel, it’s not going to miraculously generate sales for you. That’s a hundred percent. You need to put time in. The more time you put into it, the more successful it will be. And that’s really the case here. You have to put time into your affiliate program.
[00:15:30] Ignoring it is not going to get you anything. So where do you start? Start on this with this podcast, and start doing all of those things. We’ve done really a series on fundamentals this season. So go listen to all of those and just do what I talk about in those solo podcasts. There’s a ton of really good data there and good ideas on what you can do to get started. That’s what we’ve been doing these solos on.
[00:15:53] And so definitely go through those. You can go through these items listed today, go through the show notes and just start checking those things off, that’ll be a really, really good place to start.
[00:16:02] And the last one is no publisher development whatsoever. So what is publisher development? That’s working with publishers that are either in your program or not, working to get them in the program, and working to get them driving traffic and generating sales. Working with each one, one on one. Understanding their needs, their audience, what they do to generate sales for organizations like yours, and what others in your peer group, what are they doing with that affiliate and how that’s working, and then working through with each one, what are we going to do with this one?
[00:16:35] A lot of times people look at the channel as one big thing, and that’s a really big mistake because affiliate A to affiliate X, every one of those is different. So really diving into what, what each one needs and what can be done with each one. And that if you have none of that, you are missing half of the channel sales you should be getting, at least if, if not more.
[00:16:57] So those are the things I want you to focus on. If you’re wondering, I don’t even know what to do right now, or I got to get back to the fundamentals, make sure your creative assets are being rotated. Make sure you have a data feed, it’s in the network, and it’s updated, and you have a schedule and a flow for getting that updated.
[00:17:14] Make sure you’re communicating with affiliates and it’s consistent. Sending one newsletter is not going to do it. Sending one a week, contacting your affiliates individually, that’s going to work. Not using the educational resources available in our community. Not doing the affiliate partner approvals. Having a lack of promotions, commissioning everyone the same, flat out ignoring the channel, and not having publisher development. Those are always the common things missed that you can go through right now and make sure you have text links. You don’t need a creative department to put text links together.
[00:17:46] Go find the Your top selling product, maybe your top 20 selling products and go create text links for every single one. You could do that right now. And in 30 minutes, your assets would be rotated. You’d have new creative in there. You can go make sure that you have data feed and you can go right now and contact 20 affiliates, reach out to them, see what they need, set up time to learn more about them.
[00:18:08] So there you go. Those are 1, 2, 3, that’s about 10 things that are most missed in affiliate management services. Affiliate management managing the affiliate program. Those are the things that are missed. And I hope this was helpful for you. I think it should be a really good guide of how to get back to the fundamentals and make sure these things happen. Really the one main thing is if you’re not talking to affiliates. That’s where you should probably start. Go start talking to them.
[00:18:35] But anyway, thank you for making it this long. I think this is an important topic as we talk more about fundamentals of affiliate marketing this year and in this season and we’d love to hear from you, did you get a lot out of this podcast?
[00:18:47] What are we missing? What didn’t we put in there that you think is really vital? Let us know at email@example.com. We’re also looking for more season three guests. And season four guests. So if you would like to be on this podcast and over 99 percent of our podcast guests, it’s the first time they’ve ever been on a podcast. So if you’ve never been on a podcast, you’d be in great company.
[00:19:11] One of the ways you can help to get the word out about this is to go to your podcast player, whether that’s Spotify, Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, go there and leave us a five star review and tell us how we’re doing.
[00:19:24] That really helps and share this on all the socials. Forward it to a friend who you think would really benefit from this fundamentals of affiliate marketing podcast. So we do really thank you for listening.
[00:19:34] Go check out jebcommerce.com/elements to see how we could help you get started. And if you generally have questions at all about affiliate marketing, I’d love to spend some time with you. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:19:50] Thank you for listening. I hope this helps you position yourself for an even bigger 2024 than this year. Thanks.