Most request for proposals (RFPs) include a laundry list of questions. Everything from “what’s your team structure” to “what processes and procedures do you have in place for compliance monitoring.”
It’s not that these questions aren’t important. The issue is that, if the questions aren’t pointed or substantial enough, it’s too easy for vendors to fabricate a response.
The goal of an RFP is for vendors to not only get a clear sense of the services being offered but the quality of those services. After responding to numerous RFPs, we’ve found there are really only a few questions which are effective at helping companies obtaining insight into the depth and scope of an agency’s capabilities.
The questions below—and the corresponding answers to them – will help you separate the wheat from the chaff and ensure that you’re selecting an Affiliate Agency partner who will truly deliver for you.
Question #1 – What percent of this project will make up your total revenue?
The answer to this question can help you quickly determine how big the agency is and if they’ll be able to support your needs. Some companies may see it as a positive if their business makes up over 70 percent of the agency’s revenue. What’s important to bear in mind is that this is an RFP. If the agency lands the business, they’ll need to hire new resources to manage it. And what would happen if current employees leave before your business comes on board? An agency with not enough resources or bandwidth could put your enterprise at risk.
Question #2 – How many full-time affiliate management staff do you have and how many programs are you currently managing?
This question – like the one above – speaks to whether an agency currently has enough experienced professionals to properly manage your program. If they don’t, they’ll likely be scrambling to hire affiliate account managers, and good ones are extremely difficult to find. It will also provide you with a sense of the resources they dedicate to accounts. If they manage 12 other programs but only have 3 full-time affiliate managers, you may not be comfortable (and shouldn’t be!) with a single resource managing four other accounts.
Question #3 – What is the average length of client engagements?
Do their clients work with them, on average, for three months? A year? Five years? With this question, you’re looking to see whether the agency has a track record of establishing, maintaining and nurturing long-term partnerships.
There are many agencies who have brought on a large number of clients but only work with them for a year or less. Anyone can sell something once, but do clients come back?
Question #4 – Are all your affiliate program account managers employees of your company, with employment taxes and benefits?
If you’re paying a US company to manage your US-based affiliate program, then you want to ensure that the team members who are overseeing your account are also US-based employees and are not being outsourced from another country – a worrisome, frequent practice.
Likewise, is the agency using independent contractors? If yes, perhaps affiliate management is not a core competency, or at least not one they’re willing to bring in-house for long-term development.
Question #5 – What’s the average affiliate experience (in years) of your affiliate account management team?
Strategically and effectively managing an affiliate program is quite nuanced and complex. It’s also not (currently) a marketing skill-set that’s taught in higher-education. Since most affiliate account managers and directors learn the ins and outs of affiliate marketing program management through either trial and error or on-the-job training, they may not have the high-level expertise or experience required to meet the needs of your program.
Acceleration Partners is the only agency that has a formalized in-house training program to teach digital marketing professionals how to be an effective, strategic and efficient account manager before they take on managing an account. This helps ensure that a “trial and error” approach to program management is not taking place within your program.
Bonus RFP Questions
- Does your company have legal entities or proper registrations in each country of service and operation?This is an easy one for many agencies to bluff or stretch the truth on. You want to ensure that they are set up as a business in the country you’re looking to operate in.
- Are you able to manage multiple international networks as a single program? If so, please explain.
The international affiliate space is complex, with a multitude of different networks, technologies, partners and systems. Agencies must understand how to bring all of these pieces together to create a single, comprehensive program.
- Do you have language support systems in place? If yes, please explain.
You’re looking for real support here to ensure that communications to your partners will be clearly understood. Google translate does not suffice and should not be used for your newsletter communications and updates to your partners.
- Do you maintain your own CRM of publishers or do you rely on third-party networks?Publishers come in all shapes, sizes and specialties. In the affiliate space, most agencies haven’t invested in technology that enables them to house, manage, collaborate with and optimize all the information on their publisher partners in one place, something that can be extremely valuable to an affiliate program especially as more unique relationships are brought into the industry. Likewise, non-compliant or flagged affiliates need to be documented and known across an agency to ensure they’re not entering your program.
When you solicit proposals from agencies to manage your affiliate marketing program, you’re likely to get many responses back, which can be overwhelming. To quickly whittle your list down, start with these five questions and then craft additional questions that address the attributes that you want and need in a program management partner.