How Small Businesses Can Scale Their Affiliate Program

178513568_webMarketers at small businesses and start-ups are often under pressure to start ramping up sales at the same time they’re still trying to establish brand recognition. On top of that, they may have to do so on a shoestring budget.

An affiliate marketing program can be a great way to generate sales and reach new customers. Properly managed, it can even kill two birds with one stone by getting your brand in front of a completely new audience and generating incremental sales.

The challenge for small businesses is finding quality management they can afford. Many of the options from top-tier agencies are too expensive and hiring new employees is always risky at a small company. Too many end up settling for cheap, low-quality management that results in an unprofitable program. The trick is to seek assistance strategically in key areas and leverage existing industry relationships.

Here are tips for how small businesses can scale their affiliate programs without paying the price tag for premium management.

Get Help with Your Program Launch

One of the biggest hurdles is just getting a program off the ground. Affiliate marketing isn’t like other channels where it’s relatively easy to create an ad, put some money behind it, and watch visits come in. Affiliate marketing requires a program to be set up an affiliate network and for individual affiliates to be recruited to the program.

It’s almost impossible for someone new to the industry to negotiate a program launch by themselves. It’s far more cost effective to engage experienced professionals who can launch your program correctly and give you a solid foundation to build off.

Leverage Existing Relationships

One of the most time-intensive aspects of managing a program is approving prospective affiliates. Letting everyone into your program means you could end up with a lot of spammy and unrelated sites. This damages your brand image and makes it impossible to monitor the program. It’s essential to find an efficient way of screening affiliates.

Many agencies have preexisting relationships with the best affiliates in numerous verticals. When they launch new programs, they turn to these tried and true partners to form the foundation of the affiliate base. Some agencies allow small businesses to access these relationships even if they aren’t paying for full-scale management.

Acceleration Partners’ RAMP™ platform, for example, allows small businesses access to a pool of pre-approved, high-quality affiliates. That means you can build your program without the fear you’re letting in anyone untrustworthy. And you can avoid the time-intensive work of recruiting and approving affiliates.

Educate Yourself on Best Practices

All of your affiliate efforts will come to naught if they aren’t in line with industry best practices. Be sure to find trustworthy resources that can get you up to speed when it comes to banner creative, suggested blog posts, and offers and promotions. Either read up on what the industry standard is or engage an agency or expert who can help provide you with guidelines, answer questions, and make sure you don’t go astray.

Streamline Program Marketing and Communication

Once a program is up and running, it’s important to keep affiliates engaged and active by providing fresh content, brand education, suggested blog post topics, data feeds, and consumer and affiliate promotions. The problem is, this can be time-consuming process, especially if a business is just starting out.

One solution is to utilize tools that can standardize the process and ensure the content you’re creating is up to industry best practices. For example, RAMP™ provides an easy-to-use portal where merchants can upload banner creative, coupons, and offers. RAMP™ then manages your creative inventory, refreshing old creative and promotions with new ones, and assists with data feed maintenance and optimization. RAMP™ then uses those creative assets to market the affiliate program through weekly affiliate newsletters and affiliate outreach. For merchants this is a helpful centralization of a process that could easily get out of hand if left in-house.

Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, without proper oversight, there are many opportunities for an affiliate program to go wrong. Fraudsters can rip off your program, spammy affiliates can damage your brand or bid on your trademark name in PPC, and your program can get into legal trouble if it doesn’t comply with laws and regulations. For one in-house marketing manager trying to do a million other things, it’s almost impossible to watch out for these dangers.

Engage industry experts who can make sure your program is protected. It’s much more efficient to allow someone well-versed in the nuances of the industry to take care of monitoring than to try to do it yourself. Many agencies, including Acceleration Partners, help protect small programs from these dangers without the costs of full management.

Our RAMP™ platform offers all of these benefits and more. It’s an ideal solution for small businesses looking to launch and scale their affiliate programs. It helps take care of the most time-consuming and risk-intensive aspects of running a program and makes it easy to transition to full-scale management when you’re ready. Learn more about RAMP™ here.

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