Any e-commerce merchant of virtually any size can plug into an affiliate network as an advertiser. Outside of negotiating terms, joining an affiliate network is pretty cut-and-dry. You select a network such as Linkshare, Commission Junction or Connect Commerce (Google) and put some tracking software on your site. That’s the easy part. The hard part is to successfully market your affiliate program to grow sales through this lucrative channel. Plugging into a network will get you started as many publishers are on watch for new products and brands to promote. However, this is limited; affiliate relationships need to be built and nurtured in order to have continuous growth. Follow these tips to help drive affiliate sales by building affiliate relationships.
Compare Monthly Sales
Constantly look at your sales reports and take note of which of your affiliates are performing. Consider the Pareto Principle. Also known as the 80-20 rule, this principle stipulates that 20% of your customers (or in this case, affiliates) will account for 80% of your sales. This is true for affiliate marketing – sometimes the balance is even more skewed. The bottom line is that your top affiliates should become one your frequent points of contact with you reaching out to them at least on a monthly basis. Compare their sales month-to-month to analyze whose sales are growing and whose are dropping. Also compare their performance year-over-year to discover those whose numbers have dropped. This is the low-hanging fruit that can be given new life. An easy way to build your relationship is by contacting those affiliates whose sales have significantly dropped to see what can be done to ramp sales back up again through commission deals and consumer promotions.
Send Out Newsletters
An important part of a successful affiliate marketing campaign is to keep your company on the affiliate’s mind. An efficient way to reach out to all your affiliates is through a monthly newsletter. For example, we send a monthly affiliate newsletter for Cherrybrook Pet Supplies after working out consumer promotions with them that are compelling to potential buyers. This newsletter includes banner designs matching each promotion. This gives the affiliate new information on our upcoming promotions while building the brand name but also shows versatility to uphold the affiliate interests. The underlying mentality is ‘all impressions are good impressions.’
A well-managed affiliate program should have you, the affiliate manager, contacting at least two dozen affiliates each day on average. Building relationships is the backbone to affiliate marketing and establishing relationships with your top-performing affiliates is a key component. Always leave room for negotiating higher placement in exchange for better commissions and exclusive promos. As the holidays approach, the strength of the affiliate relationships you built will truly be tested. This is a season when everyone wants the top spot on a page, but since not everyone will get that, a prior relationship might help you ease your way into higher placement. Make sure you always have deals and negotiations in place with your top affiliates so that you can continue to see an influx of sales from them.
Search for New Affiliates
Don’t wait for the affiliates to come to you, search for them! Know what kind of site works best for your company and contact other similar affiliates. For example, after analyzing a sales report, we noticed Infinity Shoes does best with price-comparison engines, so ECommerce Partners contacted a list of fashion-related web sites that list thousands of individual products pulled from merchant data feeds. Make it a prerogative to contact affiliates you wish to join your program and don’t forget to follow up if you don’t get a response.
Don’t leave it to the affiliates to run the show – analyze your data to give affiliates ideas for what works and what doesn’t. If you’re in contact with a company that displays banner advertisements on their site, let them know which banner ads have the highest click-through ratio and sales. Contact affiliates about negotiating placement – sometimes you can get this for free if it makes sense for them. For example, when Halloween season began, ECommerce Partners contacted all of Cherrybrook’s top affiliates who had a page dedicated to Halloween asking what kind of placement we could get for a pet costumes coupon.
In sum, there should never be a dull day in affiliate managing – whether you’re contacting new affiliates, negotiating deals with old affiliates, or simply nurturing a prior relationship; there are always new steps to be taken.