Last-Minute Black Friday & Cyber Monday Affiliate Marketing Checklist

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Wondering what else you can do to prepare your affiliate program for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Or are you perhaps a teensy bit guilty of last-minute holiday affiliate marketing planning? (Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.)

No matter how extensive your holiday affiliate planning is to-date, a thorough checklist can offer peace of mind during a busy time in online retail. And we mean busy – Adobe predicts that Cyber Monday alone will generate a record $3B in sales.

The same way a team would never show up to the Super Bowl and expect victory without a game plan, online retailers must prepare if they hope to succeed on their biggest days of the year.

The following is our affiliate marketer’s comprehensive winning playbook for holiday sales – just in the St. Nick of time:

COMMUNICATION

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst when it comes to communication during the holiday season:

  • Know who your key Q4 publishers are, especially those with whom placements are scheduled.
    • Note when these key publishers are out-of-office and have back-up contact information at-hand in case of issues with scheduled placements, promotions not posted, etc.
  • Communicate your out-of-office schedules and provide back-up contacts to publishers in case of an emergency as well.

ACCOUNT AUDIT

Is all your publisher-facing information up-to-date? Review the following and update as needed:

General Information

  • Program description
  • Logo
  • Automated event emails (pending application, acceptance into program, etc.)
  • Newsletter templates
  • Contact information

Creative

  • Make sure that your banners are seasonal and relevant with proper branding (e.g. no old logos, expired campaigns, etc.)
    • Focus could include a specific promotion, general seasonal theme or a popular seasonal product showcase.

Commission Terms

  • Review publishers’ commission terms prior to peak days to ensure proper commissions are paid.
  • Review publisher groups and tags so all publishers are appropriately categorized for easy reporting, assigning of commissions and newsletter outreach during peak shopping days.

Publisher Approvals

  • Stay on top of publisher approvals to allow for maximum exposure and engagement during peak periods.

Pixel Verification/Testing

  • Test all network tracking pixels prior to peak times to ensure all order scenarios are tracking correctly.

PROMOTIONS/SHIPPING

Savvy customers start their Cyber Weekend deals research as early as Halloween. It’s not too late to get their attention:

Promotional Calendar

  • Review promotional performance from last year’s Cyber Weekend; utilizing successes and learnings in planning for the upcoming holiday season.
  • Analyze promotional performance from earlier in the year to gather recent successes and trends.
  • Understand drive times for specific products and categories and integrate these into your Black Friday / Cyber Weekend messaging and promotional calendar.
  • Based on prior performance and current availability, consider offering affiliate channel exclusives, affiliate semi-exclusives or true exclusives to key partners.
  • Get creative with promotional messaging, especially if Q4 is not a peak time for your company, adding in seasonal wording where appropriate to create a sense of urgency and relevancy.

Free Shipping & Shipping Deadlines

  • Offer free shipping, preferably without an order threshold, to accompany peak offers.
  • Provide shipping deadlines for ALL shipping methods ensuring customers receive items before Christmas.
  • Communicate any free shipping offers, as well as shipping deadlines to publishers via program-wide communication and individual outreach to top publishers.

Promotional Assets

  • Disseminate all the components for your promotions to publishers including:
    • Promotional copy
    • Start and end dates
    • Landing page and unique tracking (if applicable)
    • Coupon codes
    • Any terms or exclusions
    • Free shipping dates, thresholds, deadlines, etc.
  • Upload promotions to all networks as early as possible to minimize confusion on peak days.
  • Be prepared for changes to the promotional calendar. Ensure updates are made everywhere necessary and all changes are communicated to publishers.

Newsletter Communications/Mass Outreach

  • Send promotions to publishers well in advance via network newsletters, making sure to include all necessary information: promotional copy, coupon code, duration and any terms and conditions or exclusions.
  • Plan to send reminders of peak promotions closer to the actual run dates.
  • Create a distribution list of top publisher contacts and send promotional updates and calendars directly to these contacts, as well as in network newsletters.

 Promotional Audit

  • Conduct regular audits of your company’s presence on publisher sites throughout Q4 and especially on peak days to ensure the proper offers are being messaged.
  • Double check promotions as they appear on the network to make sure all details are correct prior to promotion start dates.

OPTIMIZATION

Engage your top publishers to remain top-of-mind during these peak holiday shopping days:

Top Publishers/Coupon & Loyalty

  • Examine YTD top publishers, as well as those from the previous Q4, to determine key partners for the rest of the quarter.
  • Communicate individually with these publishers, addressing any recent decreases and/or ways to continue increasing performance in Q4.
  • Conduct a competitive analysis with top loyalty publishers, examining your company’s cash back offers against that of competitors and adjust as necessary to remain competitive.
  • Provide top publishers with unique holiday deliverables, such as a holiday brand guide or a sneak peak at Black Friday or Cyber Monday offers.
  • Consider offering a tiered performance bonus to top partners for exceeding Q4 Y/Y revenue goals.

Content

  • Highlight relevant seasonal products, along with updated seasonal creative in communications to content-focused sites.
  • Incentivise content affiliates to post specific seasonal content and promotions.  Provide content suggestions if possible.

MONITORING

Campaign launches are only the beginning. Monitor your ongoing affiliate program performance:

Promotional Performance

  • Audit publisher sites daily to ensure all proper promotional messaging is displayed.

Placement Performance

  • Monitor publisher sites to ensure placements are running as scheduled with the proper messaging.

PLANNING FOR NEXT YEAR

While this last-minute Cyber Weekend affiliate marketing checklist can mitigate potential challenges, early planning offers your program more competitive advantages when it comes to recruiting top-tier publishers and landing marquee promotional opportunities.

Get a head start for 2016 by gathering key learnings from this year’s Cyber Weekend:

  • Note wins and successful processes that worked for you during Q4.
  • Assess misses and areas of improvement for the future.
  • Share learnings and ideas with your marketing team to facilitate ongoing improvement.

For more in-depth strategies for what it takes for a strong Q4 performance, download our ebook, How to Prepare your Affiliate Program for the Holidays.

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