Affiliate Marketing: Communication Strategies to Enhance Your Affiliate Program
If attendance at affiliate marketing sessions at industry conferences is any indication, many catalogers and online merchants struggle with how to effectively manage and grow their affiliate programs. In a Q&A with Catalog Success associate editor Matthew Griffin, Kelli Beougher, vice president of distribution services at Linkshare, a New York-based affiliate network, offers some tactics that can enhance your affiliate program, setting it apart from the the competition.
Catalog Success: Say a cataloger has an affiliate marketing program; the merchant manages its affiliates well and communicates on a regular basis. What are some next-level steps to improve on an existing affiliate program?
Kelli Beougher: Beyond the basics, there are a couple of areas where merchants can focus more resources. One is around communication, meaning more personal, one-on-one communication. Also, enhanced merchandising tools for affiliates.
From a communication standpoint, I see that many merchants don’t spend a lot of time talking to affiliates outside of their top 10 or top 20. They tend to communicate with these affiliates via e-mail or some other mass-communication effort. We’ve found that engaging in phone outreach with affiliates beyond their top partners can differentiate them from other merchants that the affiliates work with. Those affiliates tend not to get a lot of personal phone calls and personal outreach from merchants or networks. Oftentimes they’re willing to be more flexible than larger affiliates in creating strategic relationships and partnerships with the merchant.
Secondly, I’ve seen some merchants survey their affiliates. Particularly once a program reaches a certain level of maturity, this can be used to figure out what affiliates are looking for, whether it’s more communication or different offers or merchandising tools. You’ll have that information gathered through surveys, and you can help enhance their programs.
It’s important to always looking to provide a breadth of links and merchandising tools to affiliates. And listen to what your affiliates are requesting other than the standard links you make available. We also find that with many mature programs, merchants have hundreds of links to products and such that they’ve made available over time. It’s often difficult for affiliates to find what they’re looking for, which links work best for them, or to understand what converts best. These links should be well categorized so affiliates can easily find what they’re looking for.