What Your Affiliates Want and When: Smart Communication Practices in the Performance Marketing Channel

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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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. As you know Affiliates are the backbone of any good launch or product promotion – I especially agree with your advice that you need to find places where affiliates hang out and go there and interact…this is how you will truely understand how affiliates work and choose your products. There are several places online, and the summit’s are great too!

  2. Good article and very true. Affiliates need to be kept informed of any changes, and/or additions. For example, I am an affiliate for a product on Clickbank and I have emailed the company three different times since early this past Saturday morning with some very important questions, and no one has answered me yet. This makes them look bad, and it makes me look bad as an affiliate for them because the information I am presenting to prospects may or may not be completely accurate. But I don’t know for sure because no one will answer me and I have no other way of getting in touch with them. They even say on their affiliate website the following: “Complete Affiliate Help & Support from our quick and attentive support team.” Communication is very important in this business!

  3. Communication on Affiliate suspension (#4)isseldomrespectedby the Affiliate Networks.

    I remember I was thrown out of AffiliateFuture.co.uk a year ago without any notice.

    I realized that after emailing them asking why I couldn’t login in my account.

  4. Great summary and couldn`t agree more.The best way to motivate affiliates is a package of competitive conversion rate commission and to be pro-active in terms of supplying them with a steady flow of updated offers,banners,links and promotions sufficiently in advance of campaigns.Providing affiliates with 48 hours notice on a new offer that lasts for 2 days does not provide sufficient time to add banners,texts,fire off emails and drive through on social networking sites.Most affiliates are juggling more than one site and probably holding down a full time job as well.Some merchants provide affiliates with `early bird` promotional codes to allow affiliate client bases to access deals a few days before the mass market e.g. Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Christmas Sales.This provides the affiliate with a bit of sales leverage for the relevant campaign and endorses credibility. If you are going to use affiliate marketing the key is to make your products and package attractive to them and make the adoption of your texts and banners easy and convenient.Deep linking with affiliate code inserted has already been mentioned and in the case of text links I prefer the merchant`s name to be inserted together with closing dates for any time related deals.The customer should be able to look at a text link and be able to identify to which company it relates,the specifics on the deal,a promo code if relevant and an expiry date if relevant.The competition is fierce and a well rounded affiliate program can help you to stand out from the crowd, retain affiliate loyalty and boost sales.

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