Maybe you’ve heard it from a parent, significant other, team member, or co-worker: “We need to work on our relationship.” In any partnership, it’s vital that both parties maintain regular communication, respect, and an open mind. But when you’re in a relationship with an affiliate marketer, keeping it healthy is even more crucial to mutual success, and it requires constant work.
The partnership between you and your affiliates isn’t a synergistic relationship where both parties are independent but do better together. In affiliate marketing, the relationship is actually symbiotic; each depends on the other for survival. Acknowledging this fact is the cornerstone to a successful affiliate marketing partnership.
How to Make the Most of Your Relationship
From your perspective, the affiliate represents a sales channel where compensation is based entirely on performance. The affiliate is making a prospective investment in your business’s success, and it’s important to recognize this. Below are five tips for improving the way you manage your affiliate marketing relationship:
Take charge of testing. Before affiliates start sending traffic to your site, it’s important to test how well your site performs in converting visitors into customers. This is known as “conversion,” and it depends on how compelling your sales copy is and how well you answer visitors’ questions about your product. Testing conversions from Web traffic is called traffic testing, and it’s good to share traffic test results with affiliates. Without testing, it’s impossible to predict how well a product will convert from site traffic. Plus, each affiliate has different traffic sources, such as email lists, Facebook advertising, banner ads on high-traffic websites, or search engine advertising, which means products might convert differently for each traffic source. By sharing the results with your affiliates, you’ll improve conversion rates and build affiliate loyalty.
Empower the affiliate. No one knows how to promote your product better than you, so it’s important to take control by creating tools and resources for affiliates to use. Providing affiliates with well-designed tools (such as analytics or marketing materials) that allow them to increase a promotion’s effectiveness will encourage them to promote your offer. I’ve seen product owners with very good products and excellent sales pages provide affiliates with absolutely nothing. This forces affiliates to develop their own creative, from banner ads to email copy, which pushes the product down to the bottom of the affiliate’s list of priorities. When this happens, promotions never happen, or they aren’t successful. On the other hand, when affiliates are given good tools like attractive banners, the likelihood of a successful promotion increases dramatically.
Hone in on the target. Describe your target buyers and their motivations clearly to affiliates. Arguably, you’re in the best position to understand the market and its demographics, and providing this information in clear, understandable terms helps affiliates better target their promotions. In one instance, when a product owner provided his affiliates with clear information on the exact demographic to target (urban males, aged 29 to 59, with income over $65,000 and an interest in cars), the affiliates were able to target that demographic with laser-like focus and generate significant sales numbers. In another instance, sales were modest despite the excellent product and the compelling sales page because the affiliates weren’t given good targeting information.
Never stop testing. The fact that your product has launched and is doing well doesn’t mean the time for testing is over. Products get fatigued, and marketing messages become overexposed. Be sure to continually refresh and reinvigorate your messaging, taking care to test the sales page each time. Making even small tweaks — including the font, background color, and color of the buy button — can significantly increase your conversions.
Chat up affiliates. Maintain an open dialogue to build trust and learn more about the market. Affiliates have valuable, actionable intelligence on what does well and why. They can provide need-to-know information on the status of buying trends.
Ease into the Partnership
It can be hard to get started if you’re new to the affiliate marketing game, don’t have connections in the industry, or have found that affiliates prefer to promote more established products. Consider investing in a good affiliate management company. It will provide the industry connections you need and can recruit a number of high-performance affiliates to promote your product. In addition, a strong affiliate management company can act as a trusted third party to verify your product’s value and overcome the skepticism some affiliates have toward product owners.
When vetting management companies, you should look for organizations that have:
1. A wide range of contacts in the affiliate marketing industry
2. Well-defined processes for managing promotions
3. Breadth and depth of manpower within their companies
Be wary of one-man operations where most (if not all) of the work is done by one person who holds all the contacts. If that person falls ill or becomes too busy, your business will suffer.
Working on a Foundation of Trust
As with all partnerships, the key to success is reliability. Before you make a commitment, you need to make sure you can deliver, meaning you should work to build the best product possible and test different traffic sources before committing to affiliate marketing relationships.
Nurturing trust on both sides is the best way to ensure the partnership runs smoothly, and it makes “working on the relationship” much more rewarding.
Dush Ramachandran is the founder and CEO of The Net Momentum, an affiliate management company. Dush was most recently Vice President of Sales and Business Development at ClickBank, the world’s largest retailer of digitally downloadable products. During his six-year tenure at ClickBlank, he was responsible for growing revenues of the company significantly and making it the digital product powerhouse it is today, mainly through building strong, trusting relationships with the largest affiliates and vendors in the industry.