ADOTAS – Affiliate marketers are flooded with information each day, receiving email, social media messages, phone calls, and more. Capturing their attention, providing relevant and concise information, and opening the door for two-way communication is key. Equally important, an affiliate should be recognized as a promotional partner, rather than simply as an echo of a company’s PR team or an extension of the advertiser’s site. Here, we’ll provide guidance to advertisers on how and what they should be communicating to their affiliates, and the potential pitfalls they should look to avoid.
How should I communicate with my affiliates?
1. Take a personal approach: Many mature programs include thousands of members, so addressing affiliates personally, wherever possible, would be appreciated. Your network should give you some way of personalizing any bulk emails, and it should supply direct contact details so you can send a custom message to select affiliates. Further, instant messaging tends to be a resource utilized more heavily than the phone in the affiliate community, with many affiliates preferring it to email. Embrace this approach by signing up for a messenger service and adding it to your program description with an open invitation for affiliates to contact you.
2. Have a presence where affiliates hang out: Forums, round tables, trade shows and other industry events all attract high-quality affiliates. Try to make sure that you, or your network contact, monitor affiliate forums and blogs, as affiliates are a valuable news source about how your brand is performing.
3. Reach beyond your program: The network’s communication suite is not just a glorified email system. When you need to make a big announcement, use the network’s own promotional resources. Any reputable network will have its own newsletter, blog, Twitter and Facebook presence, and this can help amplify your message beyond the network, bringing in new affiliates.
4. Request feedback: Don’t be afraid to solicit information from affiliates. This will allow you to make smart decisions about which partners are suitable for specific campaigns, and how much to compensate them. Ask affiliates about how they intend to promote your program and get vital stats on their number of monthly visitors, page views, email database size, etc.
What should I communicate?
Affiliates will expect regular (but not constant) updates on new campaigns and promotions. The golden rule here is that when you do send affiliates new marketing material, do so in a way that cuts down on the work for them. Deep link everything that is promotional and avoid sending general information about your brand strategy. The place to provide an overview of your company is the program description or within introductory materials.
Beyond regular promotions, ensure affiliates are fully informed on any changes to these six crucial aspects of an affiliate program:
1. Changes to Terms and Conditions: It is particularly important to communicate any changes in the paid search policy, cookie length or kinds of affiliate activities you permit. A reasonable notice period should be given before the changes come into effect, and feedback should be welcomed.
2. Changes to the commission structure: Changes in commission, whether up or down, should always be communicated, as this might require affiliates to change their forecast or budgets. Many affiliates work their campaigns back to an EPC and commission (along with conversion rates and rejected or returned offers) impacts this calculation. Where it is necessary to lower commissions, solicit input from your network contact to identify and address any potential problems.
3. Site downtime: Everyone recognizes that potential for site downtime is unavoidable. However,where it is scheduled, make sure this news is communicated to affiliates in advance. These actions build trust and allow affiliates to plan accordingly. Avoid making affiliates feel like an afterthought if other channels are made aware and they’re left in the dark.
4. Affiliate suspension: Affiliate links will break if an affiliate is removed from a program without any warning. This causes a poor user experience and will stop potential customers from reaching your site via that affiliate. Suspending an affiliate from a program should only be carried out after contacting them, explaining the reason for their suspension and inviting feedback.
5. Modifications to the site structure: Similar to affiliate suspensions, making changes to your website might impact affiliate links and could cause error messages. Aside from damaging affiliate relationships, this could cause your company to lose customers and revenue.
6. Offer start and end dates: It is increasingly important to ensure affiliates are advertising the correct information on their sites so that consumers do not feel misled. Providing start and end dates for discount codes, sales or special offers are not only helpful for the affiliate, they prevent detrimental action from unhappy consumers.