At last, after much planning and re-aligning of calendars, the day has come for you to have that discovery call with an affiliate. You are excited for the partnership opportunities, as there seems to be a lot of potential synergy between the client you represent, and the media partner in question. After you log into the call, the affiliate contact joins. But alas, your mouth goes dry, and your mind goes blank. What were you supposed to ask? Panic settles in as you mentally scramble for questions.
Admittedly, this was a rather dramatized version of what could happen when you are underprepared for that affiliate call. But in all actuality, it can be difficult to know exactly what questions to ask in those initial conversations. You have the goal in mind, which is to forge a mutually-beneficial partnership. But the way to navigate through these discussions and convey that goal can be somewhat nebulous.
Fortunately, I’m here to help. After many calls with media partners across a wide spectrum of categories, I’ve come up with some great questions and topics to steer the conversation in your direction (and perhaps create a solid friendship along the way!).
Find Common Ground
Your affiliate contact may want to get down to brass tacks right away, and that’s totally fine. Be prepared to read the room and react accordingly. But on a broad scale, most that dial into the call are like you and I – people with specific interests and specific circumstances.
To kick things off, rather than dive right into business, I oftentimes find myself asking the person on the other end about their life and their week. Some common questions I bring up in in the initial stages would be:
- How is your week going so far?
- Where are you dialing in from today?
- Tell me about the weather from your location?
These inquiries may seem very rudimentary, but I find that just taking the time to get to know the voice on the other end can open the conversation up a bit. After all, one of Dale Carnegie’s core tenets is to “Become genuinely interested in other people.” I myself am more likely to respond positively to someone who cares about more than their sales pitch.
Bonus points if you do a quick background check on their Facebook or LinkedIN, arming you with topics that you can casually bring up with the affiliate and build that common ground.
The High Level
learn about each other’s business and establish a partnership if appropriate.
After shooting the breeze for a bit, eventually the conversation will land on what the goal is for the discovery call: to learn about each other’s business and establish a partnership if appropriate.
Ideally, I will have done a bit of homework on the affiliate’s business model and familiarize myself with what they do. But due to the craziness the marketing week can bring, I don’t always have that luxury. Regardless, I always try to have the media partner give me the high-level scoop on what they do, and what value they can bring to a potential partnership.
This is the learning stage, where I take notes, and pen any clarification questions I might have after their spiel. If possible, I also try to have the media partner share their screen so I can visualize how their platform works.
Here are some of the most common questions I will pose on the call during this part of the conversation:
- How does your platform/site/channel work?
- Do you have examples you can share so I can visualize?
- What verticals or products perform best with your channel?
- What are your most popular demographics?
Once the affiliate goes into the summary of what they do, I usually have a list of clarification questions I’ve compiled. Especially for some of the more sophisticated tech partners, I may need more information to help wrap my head around their business model, as well as how they operate on the back end.
Note: The follow-up questions will largely vary depending on the type of business you are speaking with, but here’s a few types of questions I tend to ask in seeking to understand more:
- Your platform offers feature “X.” Can you break this down a little further for me?
- You mentioned “verification” and “confirmation” at checkout. What’s the difference?
- The network you provide gives us access to influencers. Are these influencers on just Instagram, or do they have a presence on other social media sites?
- How does the platform track through the affiliate channel?
Additional Ways to Partner
In many cases, there is a “standard” onboarding and integration process with affiliates. For loyalty and coupon partners, this usually entails a store page. For influencers, this usually boils down to having them join the network and attach deep links to their page.
But on top of the standard partnership, there are almost invariably going to be additional ways to optimize. Perhaps you already garnered this information in the “High Level” step above, but I always like to get as much data as possible on the opportunities we have available to us:
- What opportunities do you have available to optimize?
- What is the cost associated with these options?
- Can you share any metrics around how these placements generally perform?
- What opportunities can we try for a commission/CPA increase?
Sometimes, the onboarding of a new affiliate partner is as simple as pushing them an offer through the network. Alternatively, there might be some changes that have to be made on the back end, such as on the client’s site or datafeed.
In either case, it’s a good idea to determine what is required to partner and set up calls between the client and affiliate tech teams if necessary. This way, expectations are properly managed up front, and there are no unwelcome surprises.
- What are the next steps required to integrate Client X into your platform?
- What assets do you need for onboarding?
- Exclusive Codes?
- Other creatives?
- Should we run test orders to ensure everything is tracking correctly?
Approach the call with the affiliate’s best interest in mind.
By this point, you should have almost everything you need to determine if a partnership is appropriate or not for your client.
But what good is this newfound information if you don’t do anything with it?
Construct a loose battle plan to determine next steps. Map out any action items that you or the affiliate contact need to follow up with. This might include requesting a summary of what they do (which you can share with your client), media kits, integration information, etc. I’d also give the affiliate a final opportunity to ask any questions about the clients you are representing. There might be some additional details you can provide that would help them in determining if your client(s) are a fit!
Lastly, and very importantly, you also want to approach the call with the affiliate’s best interest in mind, as you are there to help them succeed as well. This might be a question best posed at a different time in the conversation, but something you will definitely want to ask: What can I do to help you succeed with this partnership?
Needless to say, there is no hard-and-fast rule for discovery calls with affiliates. Between different personalities and business models, there will be a lot of variables on these first-time calls that may shift the direction of the conversation. You will have to navigate those seas as they come up, and determine what questions are worth asking.
However, the questions above have served as a tried-and-true template for many a call. They help ensure I have all the information I need, as well as establish the start of a potentially fruitful partnership. Affiliate marketing is all about relationships and asking the right questions initially can help set you up for success.