Karen Garcia of GTO Management and Liz Gazer of Growthspurt Media join Merchant ABCs Training Podcasts host Deborah Carney to discuss how many merchants treat the affiliate channel as the “red headed step child” of their marketing efforts. Building on what you learned from Merchant ABCs Training Podcast #17 with Sarah Bundy of All Inclusive Marketing, this podcast goes in depth on how you need to treat your affiliate channel to be able to grow it. Below is a *basic* outline of what we discussed.
Whether you are considering opening an affiliate program or already have one running, it would be helpful to you to spend the time to listen to three experienced OPMs (Outsourced Program Managers) that want to help you be sure you are giving your affiliates what they need to help your company be more successful.
YOUR AFFILIATES ARE A TARGET MARKET TOO!
• Today’s e-commerce marketplace is saturated; affiliates have a lot of choice
• It’s not always about how great your products/site/offers, it’s about the service and the total value experience you provide – to AFFILIATES.
The Painful Truth
• YOU might think your product/website/business is the best thing since sliced bread (and it may well be!) but to Affiliates, unless you’re offering them something different than your competition is, you’re just another merchant. With your Affiliate Manager or OPM, you need to strategize on how you plan to differentiate yourselves. The best way is by providing your Affiliates with a total service experience that is both interesting & rewarding
• Just like you need to be concerned about your total customer experience, you need to worry about the total affiliate experience – put some thought into what kind of “feel good” factors you can offer that might set you apart from your competition.
Cardinal Rules of Affiliate Loyalty
Loyalty is hard to come by in an industry dominated by dollar signs. Affiliates need to be kept:
▪ Educated & Informed – What/Where/When/Why/How
• Product knowledge/Pricing Changes
• Customer service policies (shipping, returns, etc.)
• Distribution Channels
• Promotional Campaigns (on site, seasonal, coupon, etc.)
• Unique Selling Proposition & Brand Positioning (what makes you stand out amongst your competition?)
• Communication – timely, relevant, to the point & consistent
◦ Keep your program top of mind – Affiliates often have hands in multiple projects /merchants at once – a friendly touch base can instill confidence & encourage them to bump you to the top of the priority list
• Request feedback and accept suggestions/constructive criticism positively. Be flexible to make additions/changes where need be
▪ Motivated & Inspired
• Training & Support
• Timely responses to inquiries and requests
• Get to know them, and touch base regularly with encouragement and positive feedback about their efforts.
Affiliates are like your online sales team – only they don’t work for you exclusively. Empower Them. Make them feel like they’re a PART of something. If they have a sense of ownership they are more likely to be loyal to your brand and promote you above or in place of your competition.
◦ Provide the tools necessary to help your affiliates make the most of their promotional efforts (coupons, banners/text links, video, widgets, data feeds, etc.)
• Commission structure should be competitive
• Leave room for incremental increases either as part of a bonus structure based on performance volume/sales, on an individually negotiated basis (i.e. For better placement, exclusive terms, etc.) or ideally, both.
• Timely payments
• Flexibility – custom creative in some cases where requested
• Keep the reversal rate as low as possible – remember, if affiliates are confident they’ll actually receive proper payment for their efforts they’ll be more likely to increase ad spend and time/effort allocation for your brand
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Thanks to Geekcast.fm for hosting our podcasts, check them out for lots of other great podcasts about affiliate marketing and marketing in general.