4 Best Practices for Affiliate Marketing Q4 Prep
The idea that Q4 makes or breaks retail and e-commerce companies every year isn't new, but the actual impact of the holidays is staggering. In 2022, Cyber Week sales in the U.S. hit $35.2 billion, with that one stretch representing a huge chunk of the year’s revenue for brands across industries.
We’re well into Q4, which means that for most brands we’re at least a couple of months into prep for holiday high tide. And there are still a few big initiatives to lock in to ensure you’re laying the groundwork for a great quarter (and beyond). This is especially true in affiliate marketing, which has a full-funnel ecosystem of partners, each with its own quirks and nuances.
In this post, I’ll talk about business alignment, communication, QA, and a system for collecting and storing insights from the wave of activity about to hit — and why all of that matters a ton for affiliate success in Q4.
1. Align on goals (and double-check).
If you haven’t yet, now is the time to define your overarching affiliate goals and expectations (return on investment, return on ad spending, net-new customers, and other key performance indicators in focus). This is hugely important. Even if you defined these goals months ago, it’s worth confirming them for Q4 before you communicate them with your partners and/or agency team. It’s also important to get margin targets, which will give you guardrails for working with partners on possible discounts and promotions.
From there, sub-goals to establish are placement budget and strategy (e.g., CPA vs. flat fee pricing).
2. Button up your Q4 communications.
Given the segmented affiliate partner landscape, communication is absolutely critical to success, especially in the frenzy of Q4. Make sure you’re doing the following well before Cyber Week:
- Communicate promotions and deals directly to your top 20 publishers.
- Request remaining last-minute inventory from publishers (do this regularly).
- Communicate last ship date to publishers.
- Plan newsletter and publisher communication schedules (a recommended cadence is below).
3. Focus on QA.
In addition to the usual obsessive performance monitoring and subsequent adjustments, there are a number of initiatives you need to include on a QA checklist for Q4. These include:
- Double-check to confirm all outstanding IOs have been signed and countersigned.
- Confirm promo codes are working at checkout on the first day live to the public.
- Audit top publisher sites to ensure each promotion has been posted.
Along with those, there’s a whole sub-category of network housekeeping to stay on top of. Your QA checklist here should include:
- Ensure publisher groups or tags are created to ensure seamless reporting by publisher type.
- Confirm your program overview is current and inclusive of relevant statistics and details.
- Update “My Creative” under the Links and Tabs tool with relevant promotions and landing pages.
- Update/confirm terms and conditions as well as your pay-per-click policy.
- Update/confirm profile images and brand logo.
- Update/confirm all relevant users have access to the account.
- Update/confirm data feed is seasonally relevant and accurate.
- Update/confirm commission rates in the Commission Manager Tool.
Anything that goes awry that you don’t have on your checklist should be added for next Q4’s checklist. That brings me to the last important prep step ...
4. Create a repository of insights.
Without good documentation, anything you learn to do better this Q4 might fall by the wayside for future years. To prevent this from happening, make sure:
- Your QA checklists are living, centralized docs that get updated with new items as they emerge.
- You start a shared team file early in Q4 with weekly reminders to update the document with any updated publisher preferences or nuances and any insights on brand-new partnerships.
- You create and circulate a post-mortem of Cyber Weekend at the beginning of December with wins and learnings to reference in future years.
Like all marketing channels, affiliate marketing requires a ton of prep to make the absolute most of Q4. Consider this your reminder that prep in 2024 should start at least a couple of months before Q4 hits — your sanity and KPIs will thank you for it.
Sydney Garofalo is associate director of client growth and development at DMi Partners, a digital marketing agency.