Special Report: Affiliate Marketing
Cholawsky suggests a merchant spend about 20 hours a week communicating with its affiliates. “The best programs that have the most growth and are most active are the ones that have the most one-to-one contact,” she says.
Chris Henger of Chicago-based Performics agrees. The senior vice president of marketing for this affiliate network recommends segmenting affiliates by sales volume. “Establish who your top producers are; send communication to them at least once a week. Make sure their creative is fresh; put your best promotions in front of them,” he notes.
For mid-tier producers, Denton suggests a monthly e-mail newsletter to update affiliates on upcoming promotions or items of interest on your marketing calendar. He cautions, however, that e-mail communications must be relevant. Affiliates often work with multiple merchants, so to be effective your communication efforts should stand out from the crowd.
For those affiliates who aren’t producing as well, offer special promotions. A contest that gives the affiliate a prize, whether that’s a higher commission rate or a product from your catalog, is surprisingly effective at driving more sales, Cholawsky says.
The commission paid to an affiliate ultimately depends on your margins, or what you can afford to pay the affiliate and still make a profit on that sale. While it’s important to establish a default commission when you first set up a program, Henger says it’s crucial to remain flexible regarding that commission.
“Once you discover who your highest producers are, you may have to adjust your commission,” he points out. Further, he notes, while any product that can be sold via direct channels can be sold by affiliate marketing, it’s difficult to retain that flexibility on products with thin profit margins.
At the top of Cholawsky’s must-have list for merchants starting out in the affiliate channel is a solid e-commerce platform. For example, since affiliates mostly drive traffic to your site, you’ll want to be sure you have a well-designed site — one that facilitates an easy shopping experience and encourages visitors to buy, she says. For example, if your shopping cart stalls during the checkout process, or the images on your landing pages don’t load properly, that’s a non-starter in affiliate marketing, she notes.