If you are a merchant looking to hire an affiliate manager you have many, many different options to choose from. The fact that you are looking for a qualified affiliate manager is a great first step. Too many merchants think affiliate management is something you can just have an unqualified intern do or pass off to the marketing department and those are the merchants who end up closing their affiliate program after a few months. A quality affiliate manager can show you results and will almost always pay for themselves many times over.
But have you done your research? Do you really know your affiliate manager? There are dozens and dozens of affiliate management firms out there with many different ways of running their businesses. Some are great and I would trust them with my business and give them free reign to run my program however they saw fit but others I wouldn’t trust to take out my trash.
Example: Earlier this week I received an email from an “affiliate management” agency that went to one of my client’s emails. The email contains the name of the agency I am working with so it is no secret they already have good management. I have seen those emails in the past and client poaching is something that benefits nobody. But the interesting thing about the email? They were billing their service as “Gorilla Affiliate Program Management”.
Now, if you have been around this industry for any length of time you know there is only one Internet Marketing Gorilla and that is Greg Hoffman. This company Tiptier is blatently ripping off one of the most experienced, award winning managers in this industry. If a merchant were to do their research on Tiptier they would see that they are just some fraudsters trying to make a quick buck and not bring any value. Why would I want to trust people like that with my affiliate program?
Along with just some general background research here are a few other questions you should ask your potential affiliate management agency before hiring them. You should want to know the answers to these questions and know what your affiliate manager would recommend before you get started. Knowing your affiliate manager and what they think up front will save a lot of headaches down the road:
1. What networks do you prefer to work with and why? What network would be the best fit for us? Different networks have different strengths and weaknesses. For most of them the weaknesses far outweigh the strengths. Some of the networks cater more to toolbars, parasites, adware, and other affiliates who will consistently break your terms of service. Yeah, they can put some numbers on the board for your affiliate program but in most cases they are just stealing sales from other channels. In nearly every case I would recommend you choose an agency who wants to run your program on Shareasale.com. There are some other options that could fit well with what you do as well and a good affiliate manager will be able to point you in the direction of a quality network.
2. What is your view of coupon sites? It is hard to get around the fact that coupons are very, very prevalent in today’s internet economy. Can you survive without them? Of course. But a properly executed coupon strategy coupled with some select partnerships with some of the coupon sites can drive new customers and new revenue for you. Find out what sites your affiliate manager likes to work with and which ones they think would be a good fit for you. Check out the sites yourself and see if you agree.
3. What kind of paid search policy would you suggest? If, as a merchant, you are doing your own paid search and seeing good results you wouldn’t necessarily want affiliates running their own paid search campaigns, especially if they want to direct link. But if you aren’t doing your own paid search having an affiliate handle that for you can be a very valuable asset. Since you only pay on a sale it is kind of a no brainer. But there are also questions of trademark bidding, trademark + bidding (merchant.com coupons, merchant discount codes, etc.) which can steal sales away in some cases. There are times where allowing those could be of value but a quality affiliate manager can help you make that distinction.
4. How much communication should I expect? I think this can be an overlooked aspect of the business. Some merchants are looking for daily updates and are looking to work very closely with their affiliate managers and others want a bit more of a hands off approach where they let the manager do their thing and are happy as long as they are making a profit. If you are someone who wants to be apprised of everything going on with your program find an agency who can accommodate that. If you just want a monthly report and maybe an update or two per month be sure to find a manager who works that way.
There are more questions that could relate more specifically to your business but those are a few of the general ones. Before you hire an affiliate management agency be sure you talk to them and get good answers to these questions. Also talk to more than one agency and find which one best fits with your overall marketing goals.
Quality affiliate management is something that is severely lacking for most merchants. Every day I see new affiliate programs popping up that, even with just a quick glance, I can tell need the help of a professional, experienced affiliate manager. They either haven’t asked these questions or they don’t care about their business.
It can be tough to find an affiliate manager who can bring value to your program and there are maybe only 8-10 affiliate management agencies I would recommend depending on what you are looking for. If you would like some recommendations please feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Skype: joesousa73 and I will be happy to get you pointed in the right direction.