By Rob Israch, CMO of Tipalti
In the competition for ad revenue against Google, Facebook and Amazon, every network has to vary its approach to its publishers. The Goliaths have too much demand volume to contend with, so networks need to champion service to their publishers and find ways to differentiate themselves. At the same time, they must scale efficiently so they’re not losing profitability in the attempt to deliver the world-class service that publishers expect.
The good news is that larger networks do have weak points where publisher and affiliate payment operations can offer significant advantages. The majority of publishers are dissatisfied with the network payment experience, and solving this can help attract and retain valuable partners. In our recent global study of publishers and affiliates, 70 percent say they’re likely to leave a network because of a payment issue, so removing that possibility would be a great start. Here’s how.
1. Strengthen the onboarding experience
Many smaller networks cheapen the onboarding experience with basic web forms or email requests to vet and add partners. For staff-strapped businesses, this can lead to an operational quagmire. When you look at Google, Facebook and Amazon, their onboarding processes are simple and relatively frictionless. Gather the information you need to make a publisher payable from a single portal: contact information, payment details, and tax forms. Then use that portal to be a primary communication gateway for all future exchanges with your partners. This simple step reduces data-entry errors and frees up staff from manual onboarding as well as service inquiries.
How important is visibility to the publisher? Publishers are in the media business and operate under tight constraints, so they want to know when their payments have been executed or if there are any issues with payments. Ninety-four percent of publishers said being updated on payment status was important and 92 percent said they wanted to be able to view their payment status and history on their own. Making that information readily available alleviates a key stress point.
2. Offer multiple payment methods
Would it surprise you that the Big Three are actually fairly limited in the payment methods they offer? This can be used as a strategic advantage for your network, particularly with international partners where ACH isn’t an option, a wire transfer may be too costly, or a paper check adds risk. And while PayPal and other e-wallets can provide ease of implementation, our own internal data has shown that for amounts above $2,500, publishers start opting for wire transfers. Incidentally, Google, Facebook and Amazon don’t offer PayPal as an option so adding it can immediately provide greater reach. And in some countries where PayPal is not available or limited, you may look to employ prepaid debit cards or EFT to a local bank account (a.k.a. Global ACH / eCheck).
No single payment method is ideal in every situation, and offering more choices can endear a network to its publisher base. Eighty-one percent of respondents stated that offering multiple payment methods was important for ensuring loyalty. Giving the partner an option, and even guiding them to one that would be most optimal for them demonstrates that your network appreciates their value.
3. Make payments on time
Ninety-four percent of respondents indicated that being paid on time is important to ensuring loyalty. This can be a problem if you haven’t onboarded them properly, because you won’t know who to pay or how much. You may also be exposed to fraud if you don’t verify the identities of your payees. To make payments on time, it’s imperative that you have a performance tracking platform (e.g. HasOffers, HitPath, Cake, etc.) to determine payments. Even a homegrown mechanism would be better than relying on a pure web analytics package.
The next step is rescuing the person who has to make payments. Without a direct software integration with the multiple bank accounts needed to make payments, someone invariably will need to log into bank portals, set up transfers, process payments, and reconcile accounts. Often because of the risk involved in releasing funds, that person is usually a senior staff member (e.g. controller, CFO, etc.). Processing payments is not only a terrible use of their time, but it can also be a frustrating and error-prone process. The key is to automate the execution of payments as much as possible.
4. Offer early payments
Assuming you have done all of the above, there’s still a benefit you can offer publishers. Cash flow in media is a temperamental issue. Publishers must pay their staff and operations. Let’s assume that happens twice a month. Google pays 21 days from the end of the month. Facebook pays twice a month. And Amazon can be as long as Net 60. Networks often try to meet the Net 15 cycle, but it’s getting harder. Networks may have to shift to Net 7 or even real-time. In addition, advertisers are also pushing for longer payback terms (30 to 60 days) to the network. This can cause major issues with your own cash flow.
It’s not surprising that 79 percent of publishers indicated they would like to be paid earlier. What was surprising, however, was the discount that they said they’d be willing to accept in order to get that earlier payment. A 1 to 3-percent discount was favored by 36 percent, while 23 percent favored a 3 to 5-percent discount. Even when the discount was as high as 7 to 9-percent, 22.7 percent would still opt for it.
By offering an early payment program to your entire publisher base and keeping it making it easy to adopt, networks could earn enough revenue to offset the costs of running such a program. Everyone wins with partners getting paid sooner and networks extending their liquidity.
About the Author
Rob Israch is the Chief Marketing Officer at Tipalti, the leading global payables automation platform. He previously served as VP, Global Marketing Programs at NetSuite where he led global branding, demand generation and international marketing over the span of 8 years.