Concerned about possible misdeeds in your affiliate program management? Innocent or not, they could have dire consequences for the growth, health and vitality of your program. Here are five affiliate agency sins to be aware of.
- Focusing On Short-Term Gains – Affiliate agencies that focus more on pitching their offerings and less on learning the needs, concerns and challenges of their prospects and clients are primarily concerned with short-gain as opposed to a long-term relationship. When an agency is focused on a Performance Partnership™ mindset, they put a great deal of effort into cultivating a real relationship with their clients. As a result, clients are clear about what their affiliate agency partner is doing; there’s respectful, productive communication between all parties; and the focus is on mutually beneficial outcomes.
- Doing the bare minimum – Too often, affiliate agencies (including affiliate networks) only do what is asked by their clients instead of being proactive in their client engagements. Part of the reason for this is that the managers in these agencies/networks are spread so thin. Many independent affiliate agencies established their business model after affiliate networks, so they don’t see anything wrong with one manager overseeing 10-20 programs at the same time. This high churn model makes it difficult for managers to keep up-to-date with what their clients need; strategize new, innovative ways that would help their program grow; and screen, recruit and activate high-quality publishers. As a result, they end up doing the bare minimum for their clients.
- Seeking Rewards Sans Performance – Imagine a child that asks for more allowance when, in reality, they are doing less chores than what’s expected of them. Or an employee who requests a raise when they consistently underperform at work. It would seem ludicrous, right? Unfortunately, this is actually a pretty common scenario with affiliate agencies – independent and network. Many charge their clients “performance fees” that are typically a percentage of program revenue (e.g. 1-2%) or commissions paid to affiliates (e.g. 30%) in addition to account management fees. However, they are charging these high fees (seeking rewards) without being able to demonstrate to their clients how their affiliate program is actually performing. Questions about how publishers are being recruited, what the top performing affiliates are actually doing to earn such high commissions, and whether the agency is receiving kickbacks from any of the “partners” they are recommending to their client all tend to go unanswered.
- No Innovation or New Ideas – In the world of digital marketing, adhering to the status quo will only make you slow. Your agency should be consistently bringing new, innovative ideas, resources and solutions to the table that will help you reach your goals more strategically and cost-effectively. If they aren’t, they are likely hindering your growth and holding you back.
- Providing Data Without Context – This sin is pretty pervasive in the affiliate agency and network realm. Account managers will rattle off data but won’t delve into what those numbers mean. So your affiliate program grew by 20 percent in Q4 2016. Why? What took place to result in that growth? Your agency recruited 100 new affiliates into your program last month. So what? What kind of affiliates are they? Coupon? Loyalty? Reward? Content? Your affiliate program generated X revenue in Q1 2017. So what? How did that happen? What campaigns were run? Which ones were effective/not effective? What were the learnings? How does that campaign fit into your overall strategy? To be a good agency partner to your clients, it’s essential to explain how your efforts are aligning with their goals.
You may work with an agency that you’ve had a good relationship with for years. You may really like the agency and your account manager—and that’s wonderful. What’s important to ensure is that they are also competently managing your program and keeping up with the significant changes taking place in the industry.
More than ever, companies are under increasing pressure to demonstrate performance, including attribution and return on investment. It’s no longer enough to just like your agency. They must also be able to deliver real results, demonstrate performance and be a transparent, trustworthy partner that you can count on.
Check out our new free Affiliate Grader. It allows you to assess both the strengths and weaknesses of your program to see how it measures up. You can also request a free complimentary evaluation of your program.