Affiliate Help Wanted
By Peter Figueredo
How to find the right affiliate marketing management solution.
The saying, "It's so hard to find good help," certainly rings true in the affiliate marketing arena. The number of programs seems to grow at a disproportionate rate to the number of skilled affiliate managers.
There are an estimated several hundred affiliate programs in existence today. Twenty to 30 new programs launch each month according to the number of clients working with leading affiliate-tracking technology platforms. Most of these marketers will underestimate the skills required to run a successful program. They'll make the common mistake of devoting only a portion of a person's time, or a full-time junior staffer with little to no experience, to managing their program, when they should choose staffing resources based on goals.
This brings to mind another saying: "You get out what you put in." If you fuel an affiliate program with insufficient resources, you'll get insufficient results. While there are a few skilled affiliate managers, they seem not to stay long with companies either because they a) get wooed away by other companies who realize their value or b) get tired of feeling underappreciated and overworked, and switch to a more glamorous channel like search marketing.
How can you maximize your return from your affiliate marketing channel? Well, one thing is to make sure you choose the right management resource. This isn't as easy as it sounds.
The size and scope of each affiliate program will vary based on each marketer's goals. Therefore, the staff level and experience necessary also will vary based on advertiser goals. For example, aggressive volume goals may require additional staff to focus on recruiting and optimization, while brand-sensitive marketers may require more quality assurance staff time. A marketer will find it difficult to hit its goals if it chooses the wrong person(s) to manage its affiliate program. Determining the optimal staffing solution for your affiliate program management requires a good deal of research.
What You Need to Know
Since many online marketing directors have little experience with this particular channel, I've provided some questions that will help evaluate a management solution.
Typically, the two main options are to hire internally or to outsource these management efforts. While only some of these questions can be used for internal hire interviews, all can be used for interviewing an outsourcing agency.
1. How long have you or your company been managing affiliate programs? Look for someone with at least three years of affiliate management experience.
2. What affiliate tracking technologies do you have experience using? If you have a live program, weight higher those candidates who are experienced in using your technology platform.
3. Do you have a formalized relationship with tracking technologies that will benefit me? Leading affiliate management outsourcing agencies have partnership deals that can provide deep discounts and enhanced service levels.
4. List all affiliate programs you have managed. Look for programs in your category (travel, books, etc.) or with similar business models (retail, subscription, lead generation, etc.).
5. List all affiliate programs you currently manage. Make sure it isn't running programs for your competitors.
6. What industry conferences have you spoken at on affiliate marketing? If you're hiring "leaders in affiliate marketing," this will help to prove an agency's boast.
7. Can you provide references from affiliate clients and technology partners? Affiliate and tech relationships are only valuable if they are strong.
8. What is your experience in coordinating corporate and affiliate search efforts? His or her response and experience should match your philosophy on affiliates performing search arbitrage.
9. Within your company, how many full-time staffers work on affiliate marketing? Many affiliate management companies outsource key responsibilities to free agents. You want a company that is serious about your business and can ensure a competitive advantage. Free agents tend to come and go, and they will take your strategies with them.
10. How many staff hours do you plan to spend on my affiliate program? Please break out hours by staff position. Know what you are getting and make sure it's sufficient. Don't get swayed by performance pricing and cheap labor.
11. Can you provide employee profiles, including role and experience, for each person you plan to put on my account? Get to know your potential team.
12. Do you plan to recruit affiliate Web sites using e-mail? How? This question will give you insight into his or her ethics and legal sensitivity. Anyone using e-mail to recruit affiliates must follow Can Spam guidelines. Be sure he or she asks for things such as suppression lists.
13. How will you gauge affiliate satisfaction and industry perception of my program? Savvy people know the affiliate community must be monitored through message boards and conferences.
14. Will you commit to not working with affiliates who:
- incentivize or reward users;
- have dead links;
- have pornographic, obscene, illegal, defamatory or discriminatory content;
- have hate messages;
- have religious or political propaganda;
- are casino/gambling sites;
- facilitate illegal or obscene products or services;
- have unrelenting pop-ups or pop-ups that talk about virus warnings;
- don't have substantial business in the United States or North/South America;
- do not speak/use English;
- are using e-mail or newsletters to promote affiliate offers;
- do not deal in U.S. currency;
- mislead the user; and
- are/use adware/spyware.
Brand controls must be established early on.
15. What potential do you see for my program? Why? Make sure potential hirees provide a clear picture of where they want to take your program. If projections are included, scrutinize the logic to make sure they're not just selling numbers that justify their costs.
This isn't an exhaustive list, but it should provide a good starting point for your affiliate management interview process.
Peter Figueredo is co-founder and CEO of NYC-based NETexponent, an online direct response agency. He can be reached at (212) 981-2700 or peter@NETexponent.com.