Running a well-oiled affiliate programme is no mean feat, with a stream of constantly moving parts to simultaneously juggle – quarterly planning, meetings, internal pushback, ever-changing promotional calendars and competitor analysis, to name a few. After six years of experience working both network and affiliate side, I wanted to share my top five tips to enhance your programme’s processes and get more time back to focus on what matters – optimisation.
1. Book ahead, and block book.
Affiliates have limited capacity when it comes to exposure opportunities and many brands secure spots months in advance, so getting in early with your booking is the best way to secure prime placements and give yourself peace of mind that your programme is set up for success.
As much as a good affiliate partner will always endeavour to create the ideal packages, even at the last minute, it’s a shame when brands with great content miss out on some of the most exciting opportunities due to timing issues. Block booking exposure for the whole month, quarter, or even year (if possible!) unlocks big commercial discounts with publishers and also means less day to day admin.
Something we hear a lot when we suggest this approach is that brands are concerned about block booking when promotional calendars are subject to change. I’d stress that you shouldn’t let this put you off this approach. We know plans can change and can always shift placements or promotions after sign off if needed.
2. Even if you have a hectic schedule, make sure to carve out time to get to know your affiliate contacts by prioritising meetings and networking opportunities.
This may feel like less of a priority when you’re snowed under with emails, but it’s where working relationships really grow and some of the best ideas are formed. Life is easier for all parties when you really know each individuals’ style of working, their passions, and their vision. With this in mind, publishers can then come to you first with new opportunities tailored to your KPIs. With many industry events and networking opportunities set to return in person this year after a long hiatus, personal connections have never been so important!
3. Transparency is valued and encouraged.
It may feel uncomfortable to share information on financial plans or internal challenges, but being as open and honest as you can with budgets and business pushback helps publishers work with you to accommodate these changes. It’s really helpful to get context into why changes may be necessary and how long they may last, so your affiliate partner can ensure that your programme will still be optimised in the interim.
A reciprocal relationship is vital for success. When there are unexpected changes to plans, a publishers’ internal stakeholders will understandably ask for clarification on the reasoning, therefore we always appreciate as much context as possible.
4. Don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks.
Just because a new publisher opportunity may not immediately seem relevant to your brand, this doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a trial. It’s important to remember that the user base of each publisher can vary hugely and will respond differently to certain content. A good publisher will have a wealth of data and case studies available to demonstrate this.
Some of the biggest brand wins I’ve seen have come from trialling initiatives with new content or customer bases, and it’s a breath of fresh air to meet brands who are excited to experiment with new options. But you don’t have to jump in blindly – ask your affiliate partner for forecasts, case studies or trials that will equip you with enough information to ensure you’ve done your homework first. This experimentation is vital to stay fresh and relevant in an ever-changing market – sticking to the same strategy that was defined five years ago may not have the same effect in today’s digital space!
5. Bring your publisher in on internal conversations.
Struggling to get sign off internally on a new exposure option? Publishers are usually happy to talk directly to your internal stakeholders if you need help pitching a new idea and are often even able to bring other internal team members with specific expertise along e.g. PPC Managers, Engineers, or Designers to share their direct insights too. This can really take the pressure off pitching internally and saves time going back and forth between three or four different people in order to get a trial underway.
My take-home message is that transparency, an open mind, and a keenness to bond with your clients will go a long way. Productivity comes in many forms and, with the market constantly growing, we always want to help you stay ahead of the curve. These tips can not only lead to instant improvements in time-saving and revenue growth, but they will also help to nurture your affiliate relationships for years to come, because let’s face it – the affiliate market isn’t going anywhere!