Are you starting your first partner program and are you already expecting a high and steadily growing performance from the partner program? Your dream has the potential to become a reality and I was fortunate enough to see it with numerous programs managed here at AM Navigator.
However, it is important to understand that, like all dreams, affiliate program performance requires effort and investment. It's not something that you can accomplish overnight or by simply snapping your fingers. Affiliate programs require careful shaping and steering in the right direction in order to realize their potential. They are like snowballs.
Affiliate Marketing Programs as Snowballs
Do you know how to use the right type of snow and gloves to shape the perfect snowball? You need snow that is not too loose and floury, but not too watery either. And it's important to wear gloves that won't stick to the snow and keep your hands warm and dry. The same goes for starting an affiliate program: you need the right things to do a good job.
Further requirements can be found in our ultimate checklist for a successful start of the partner program!
With all of this in place, you should be able to shape the perfect snowball or, in other words, start the perfect affiliate program that the publishers will run. But the burning question is: what are you doing with it? You don't make snowballs just to look at them, and you don't start affiliate programs just to see what it would be like. Depending on what you do with them once they're done, snowballs and affiliate programs have similar developments.
From rolling snowballs to the performance of the partner program
If you have the perfect snowball or have already started a great affiliate program, there are three things you can do with it:
- Let it "melt" and never see what it could have become
- Gently “roll” it through the “snow” until it grows and you can turn it into anything you want
- Let it "roll" freely with the risk of it getting caught in a tree, hole or out of control and destroying everything in its path
I am not a fan of snowball fights, nor do I recommend going to war with competitors. I prefer to win the competitors' armies in a more peaceful way, so in the following lines I will only focus on the three scenarios above.
1. Melting snowballs or neglected affiliate programs
Many traders mistakenly believe that all they have to do is start their affiliate program to get performance. Sure, the start is important and should be done carefully. Affiliate program performance, however, requires much more than purchasing in-house tracking software or registering with one or more partner networks. It needs:
- Affiliate equipment – You need to provide your partners with creatives, product information, demographics, promotional calendar details and more covered by our very own Geno Prussakov in his post on The 10 Things Partner Managers Should Equip Partners With.
- Affiliate Program Marketing – Publishers cannot join your program promoting your products and / or services unless they know you exist and reward referrals.
- Recruiting and motivating partners – The performance of the affiliate program requires the continuous recruitment of new partners and the motivation of new and existing partners to promote you and expand their promotions once they have started.
- Affiliate Program Management – This part covers all of the above and other aspects. It means that an expert will take care of everything related to your affiliate program and steer it in the right direction, ensure its growth, protect it from danger and adapt to changes in the market.
And of course, all of this should always be supported by a functioning and high-converting website, excellent customer service and much more. Partners can only control targeted traffic. It is up to you, the retailer, to convert that traffic into sales. Without all of this, your affiliate program, even if started "by the book", will not perform and continue to grow.
It may look promising for a while, as a snowball would if kept at the right temperature. You may even get a couple of affiliates who want to promote you and try something new. However, if they don't get what they need and their efforts don't pay off, they'll give up and stop looking back.
Over time, your beautiful snowball will melt and lose its shape. Your properly launched and promising affiliate program will be buried under competing programs and forgotten by everyone from publishers who briefly learned of its existence to affiliates who never got what they needed to be activated and productive. However, as mentioned above, there are other scenarios.
2. Carefully "rolled" snowballs and the path to program performance
When we were kids we would form snowballs and then carefully roll them through the snow until they became giant blocks that we used to build defensive walls, castles, giant snowmen, and basically anything we could think of. You can do this with your affiliate program too: expand it and use it to build your brand and grow your business the way you want. All you need is patience, attention, know-how and again the right kind of "snow".
At this point the snow would mean:
• • Competitive intelligence – It is important that you base all of your actions on in-depth analysis of the market and competing affiliate programs, as well as careful assessments of the opportunities available and possible threats and obstacles.
• • Tools to identify new partners and monitor your partners – It is impossible to monitor the promotions of hundreds of partners and also find new ones without automating some of the processes. In addition, some information is not readily available and can only be collected with certain tools.
• • Attractive offers for buyers – Today 92% of US buyers use coupons and discount codes to save money on their purchases. If you don't include any, they may feel like they are getting better deals from your competitors. It is therefore important to have a good offer that they will notice and want to learn more about.
• • Attractive offers for partners – Publishers carefully select the dealers they advertise, taking into account not only the reputation of the buyers, but also their reputation with the affiliated companies, their affiliate program statistics, and especially their commission rates. At a time when 95% of buyers read reviews before they buy, you want to attract as many reviewers and influencers as possible.
• • Budget for paid internships and incentives – Some publishers charge one-time onboarding fees. Others prefer hybrid arrangements that combine upfront fees with commissions. There are also paid options with the various affiliate networks and content monetization platforms that could bring you tremendous notoriety.
Do you have or can you provide all of these? Great! Remember, however, that it also depends on what you do with the resources available. Make sure you also have an experienced and dedicated affiliate program manager who knows how to get the most out of the above features and uses analytics to ensure the best affiliate program performance.
And don't worry! If you choose your program manager carefully, they will use your resources like their own, focusing on getting the maximum return on investment and always keeping your interests first. If you are still in doubt, if you neglect management it might help to see what happens.
3. Runaway snowballs or programs run on autopilot
Some merchants build great affiliate programs and invest time and resources in them for a while. As their programs grow, so does sales and new partners apply to join. They feel like they are paying or investing for services that they no longer need, such as: B. the administration of affiliate programs.
It's like rolling a snowball down a kids' ski slope. The path is all flat and there are guard rails on the sides. The snow cover is perfect and the slope is steep enough to allow a safe descent but low enough to prevent excessive speed. People are always there to remove obstacles, prevent overcrowding and make sure the layer of snow is the right thickness.
You see the snowball growing safely, and you love the results without realizing that anyone has been working on it, that the path is level and safe, that your snowball stays on course and arrives safely at the finish line. So you decide to roll your snowball down a hill or even a mountain.
The slope may seem level and safe, but you have no way of knowing what is hidden under the snow. There could be holes, stumps, boulders, blocks of ice, and other obstacles. Your snowball can stop at them, fall in or go off course and, depending on its trajectory, destroy everything on its way.
While your affiliate program was being administered, someone made sure that only good affiliates were allowed in the program and bad ones were removed. They monitored promotions to make sure your brand reputation was maintained and went to great lengths to ensure that you only pay commissions to those who deserve them and according to their performance.
When you take away management, you take away the filters, the protections, and give up control. Sure, you will likely see some growth at least for a while. However, the source and long-term effects of this growth are also important. They could be:
• Fraudulent and parasitic activities that discourage your best partners
• Fraudulent advertisements that ruin your reputation and destroy customer trust in your brand
• Misuse of your brand and other assets that increases your own advertising costs or adversely affects your relationships with other partners.
How can you prevent partners from using software to force clicks or override cookies and violations of other partners' PPC policies? How can you prevent ads and reviews that promise features and benefits that you don't offer in order to increase sales and earn commissions so you can deal with dissatisfied customers?
And there is one more aspect to consider when deciding how to manage your affiliate program and how to ensure its performance. Your affiliate program is not an independent part of your company, but part of the overall mechanism.
It can help your business grow and prosper or, on the contrary, sabotage its growth.
The performance of the affiliate program can and will have a snowball effect on your overall business performance. It's up to you to make sure it turns out positive.
The snowball effect of affiliate program performance
Your affiliate program gives you the ability to have your brand, product, or service promoted by hundreds, maybe thousands, of publishers. In this post, we've already explained how an affiliate marketing program can benefit your brand. So I won't go into it here. However, it is important to understand that the benefits grow exponentially and can support overall business growth with a snowball-like effect.
Just think about it:
- The better an affiliate program does, the more affiliates want to participate. If you manage your program in an affiliate network like ShareASale, the better statistics of the affiliate programs give you a higher position in your PowerRank and thus a higher presence with network publishers.
- More partners mean more reviews, more links to your website, bigger audience, and higher brand awareness. More links to your website and more traffic mean higher search results. The higher rank in turn leads to even more traffic, which counts in the search engine's ranking algorithms, and leads to an even higher rank and, implicitly, more traffic.
- The performance of the affiliate program also means sales and implicit commissions. Affiliates who are happy with their earnings will add more and better placements to their promotions, which in turn means more links, larger audiences, higher rankings in search results, and so on.
- If your website is working and your products and customer services live up to your partners' reputations, more traffic means more sales, more satisfied customers ready to buy from you again and recommend you to their contacts, especially if there is something for them.
The bottom line is that one good thing leads to another, and a properly managed, high performing affiliate program leads to an avalanche of good things. Therefore, you should make it your priority to start a solid, sustainable partner program and ensure its professional, close management.
This is especially true as poor affiliate program performance and management of the affiliate program can lead to an avalanche of bad things, in turn the snowball effect. Here are some examples:
- Good affiliates whose cookies are being overwritten and not making sales may stop promoting you or they may rank your better performing competitors higher. This means fewer links, less website traffic, less sales, lower ranks in search results, etc.
- The poor program performance is reflected in low program statistics and prevents new publishers from promoting you. You are promoting your competitors, sending to them the traffic and sales that you might have received, and helping them outperform you.
- Lack of management means coupon partners distribute discount codes they shouldn't distribute, make promises you can't keep, and steal sales from good partners. It also means partner PPC campaigns bid on your TM + keywords, add cost or your own campaigns, and encourage other partners to do the same.
- The deceptive advertisements, fewer reviews, and lower rankings will ultimately affect your brand reputation, lowering your sales and, implicitly, your profits. Lower sales mean fewer people are willing to buy from you again and recommend your products or services to others.
- Because you pay commissions to affiliates who don't earn them and / or negatively affect your reputation, you also lose money. This, in turn, means less budget for marketing and other critical investments that, in one way or another, are holding back your business from growing. And we haven't even touched on the subject of fraudulent transactions.
The list of positive and negative impacts could go on, but the conclusion would be the same: the fate of your affiliate program and your business is in your hands. Nobody is forcing you to start an affiliate marketing program, although 81% of companies do, and among them your most prominent competitors.
However, if you do choose to do it right! No cut in the initial investment, no running your program on the autopilot, no half measures or other mistakes, especially now that you know how to do it! And if you still have doubts, questions or need help, don't hesitate to contact us! We have started and managed hundreds of affiliate programs and are here to help. Make an appointment to get the answers and advice you need!