20 Top Affiliate Marketing OPMs Mysteriously Don’t Rank

OPM — Outsourced Program Manager — a person or company responsible for the management of an affiliate program and performing the management (of the program) on an outsourced basis.

I know, I am biased as I run an OPM agency myself. But even if you take this factor into consideration, nothing can justify why, month after month, rankings of affiliate marketing companies mysteriously consistently omit some of the world’s top-notch OPM companies. Or most of them, to be frank.

If you are looking for an OPM, you must consider all the quality options available out there.

Here are the ones that somehow never “rank” but are, in fact, recognized by the affiliate marketing industry as some of the best in class (the list is not meant to be a ranking of any sorts, but represents an alphabetical list of OPMs):

  1. Acceleration Partners
  2. Adam Riemer Marketing
  3. All Inclusive Marketing
  4. AM Navigator
  5. AMWSO
  6. Clique Affiliate Marketing
  7. eAccountableOPM
  8. ebove & beyond
  9. Greg Hoffman Consulting
  10. Hamrick.biz
  11. iAffiliateManagement
  12. JackMarketing
  13. JEBCommerce
  14. Lab6Media
  15. PS Web Solutions
  16. Robbins Interactive
  17. Schaaf-PartnerCentric
  18. SmarterChaos
  19. Snow Consulting
  20. Team Loxly

Next time when you look at a ranking of “top affiliate marketing companies,” look through a couple more lists before you conclude that your picture is truly complete.

Meaning of Postback: Affiliate Marketing Program Context

When setting up an affiliate program, one of the key decisions an advertiser/merchant has to make is what tracking method to use.

Most present-day affiliate programs rely on a pixel embedded into the confirmation/”thank you” page. This (somewhat of an industry default method) is meant to close the loop between the initial end user click on an affiliate link and the end user’s reaching the thank-you-for-your-business page. The affiliate commission is then triggered by (and credited upon) the pixel firing at the moment the customer reaches their confirmation page.

Postback tracking, on the other hand, represents a slightly more technically sophisticated of a method of crediting affiliates for the business they refer. Its essence is grounded in server-to-server posting, whereby instead of relying on the pixel firing, the conversion record (and consequential affiliate commission crediting) is triggered by the advertiser’s server passing the necessary data to the affiliate program’s platform’s server.

Server-to-server affiliate postback

Let me give you a real-life example. We have a client who employs two affiliate payment models within the same affiliate program: PPL (pay-per-lead) and PPS (pay-per-sale). The affiliate program is run on an affiliate network which supports both pixel-based tracking, and postback tracking. The advertiser in question is paying affiliates $X per lead when a referred user signs up for a free account, and (on top of the PPL amount) Y% of the sale amount, should the lead convert into a paying customer. For the PPL part this affiliate program relies on pixel firing on the confirmation page, whereas the PPS payout is posted (to the affiliate network’s server) by the advertiser once/if the sale occurs.

While implementation of postback requires a higher level of technical expertise (than the simpler-to-integrate pixel-based tracking), it’s a method that is widely supported by affiliate platforms of all types: including all types of affiliate networks and affiliate software for in-house-based affiliate tracking/programs.

Key Affiliate Manager Responsibilities and Time Allocation

A good question came to me from a reader of my “Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day” book. He wrote:

Do you have any page in your book or in your blog where you elaborate on the necessary hours and manpower per task e.g. search, recruit affiliates etc.?

Having thought about it, I realized that even though I have talked about this in my conference presentations, I have never looked at things through this angle in anything that I have written to date. Hence, this blog post.

There are different tasks and activities that affiliate managers are involved in on a daily basis. I like to think of them as 5 pillars of affiliate program management: affiliate recruitment, activation, compliance policing, communication, and program optimization. More in this brief video of mine:


Now “what percentage of time should affiliate managers spend on each of their key responsibilities?” is a question that is worth a delve of its own.

With affiliate programs that AM Navigator manages, we spend between 30 and 60 hours a month on a program. I have done my math and here is how the rough spread of the time devoted to each affiliate program looks:

  • 40% of time is spent on affiliate recruitment;
  • 35% of time – on affiliate activation, education, and support of communication channel (both one-on-one and newsletters);
  • 10% of time – on compliance policing and enforcement;
  • 10% of time – on competitive intelligence and affiliate program optimization (based on what we learn from the intelligence as well as our own successes);
  • 5% of time – on reports.

You may also learn more about the key affiliate program manager responsibilities in/through the following slidedeck (of my presentation at  Affiliate Summit East 2014):


How to View ShareASale Pipe-Delimited File in Excel Columns

“Pipe” symbol is a vertical bar as in | or ¦ but more frequently the former.

A “pipe-delimited file” is a file in which each line of represents a record, and separate fields are divided by the pipe. This symbol then serves as a delimiter (or an indication of “the beginning or end of a data item”).

The most common format in which delimiter-separated files are saved is CSV. It may seem a bit strange as “CSV” originally stood for “comma-separated values” but don’t let the file extension’s semantics confuse you here. It is very common that, instead of commas, colons or pipes are used as delimiters.

One of the main reasons why CSV files are widely-used online is because “plain-text makes the data easy to import into any Spreadsheet program or database regardless of what type of computer or software program you are using” [source].

“Easy to import” they say, huh?

However, the reality is that those of us who aren’t too technically savvy, may find the conversion of a CSV file into a digestible Excel format a challenging task… especially when you have to deal with a pipe-delimited original. Don’t despair! It is actually very easy to convert a pipe-delimited CSV into an Microsoft Excel file with columns. Excel will, actually, do all the “magic” for you!

For my example I will use an “Affiliate Timespan” ShareASale report.

Step 1: Generate Pipe-delimited File

If you already have the CSV file you wish to convert into Excel columns, just skip right to the next step.

If you’re doing this on ShareASale, log into your merchant interface, then go to Reports > Affiliate Timespan, and check the box next to “Create Downloadable Text File” (see the image below).

ShareASale Affiliate Timespan Report

Step 2: Open File in Excel

Launch Microsoft Excel, go to File > Open > change “All Excel Files” (to the right of the “File name”) to “All Files,” and find the pipe-delimited file you have just downloaded.

Excel Open All Files

Hit “Open” and Excel’s “Text Import Wizard” will launch.

Step 3: Help Excel to Convert It for You

Keep the 1st step of the Wizard as is (having “Delimited” checked as it is a delimited file that you are working with),  and click “Next.”

But in the 2nd step, pick “Other” and insert the pipe symbol into the blank box to the right of your choice (as shown below). As soon as you do so: Voilà! The preview will already show you the columns you are looking for.

Pipe-Delimited File to Excel Columns

Just click “Finish” and you are all done, and ready to save this file in the format you’ll be able to enjoy a bit better than the original CSV file.

 

Should Affiliate Programs Be Managed or Optimized?

A webinar announcement that was circulated earlier today by Impact Radius started as follows:

Are you managing your performance-based marketing program when you should be optimizing it?

Great question, and as a speaker on this upcoming webinar I’d like to take an opportunity to touch upon this question in my today’s blog post.

During the webinar, together with the legendary Todd Crawford, we will discuss numerous subjects starting from tracking-related questions (such as deduplication, cookie duration, and others) and on to reporting issues. We don’t have to agree on everything to have a fruitful conversation, and one of the things that I would argue today is that program optimization and program management aren’t, in fact, mutually exclusive.

In my understanding, affiliate program management should be approached with several key tasks in mind. Initially outlined in my “Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day” book but also dissected in my recent Affiliate Summit presentation [see my slide deck here], I like to view these tasks as 5 central pillars of a healthy approach to affiliate program management. They are: affiliate recruitment, affiliate activation, compliance policing, communication, and … yes, optimization.

There are numerous ways one may optimize his/her affiliate program’s performance. The 3 key approaches that we have seen yield continuous fruit are:

  1. Replicate your own successes
  2. Employ best practices
  3. Spy on your competition

Working in the above-listed directions equips merchants with knowledge which, when used to craft practical strategy, results in building highly agile (and, therefore, competitive) affiliate programs.

However, as mentioned earlier, when it comes to management versus optimization, it should not perceived as an “either… or…” question, but a “both… and…” situation. Affiliate program optimization is management, or, to be precise, one of the five key components of a holistic approach to affiliate program management.

Of course, the “Comments” area below is wide open for your input/thoughts on the subject.

Affiliate Management: Common Misapprehensions, Definitions

With this being the very first post on a brand-new blog, I cannot think of anything better to devote it to than to the core subject of the blog. Since this website is fully devoted to all things affiliate management, let’s start right from affiliate management itself.

Having worked as an “affiliate manager” since early 2000s, I have taken note of several different definitions of “affiliate management.” Here they are – together with the reasons why, in fact, they all represent nothing but misapprehensions about the subject.

Approach #1: Affiliate management – the process of overseeing and managing affiliates.

Flaw: By the very definition of the term, affiliates are independent, self-managed online marketers, generally not accountable to merchants for performance, and free to choose what affiliate programs to promote, and what programs to drop, what merchants to push more aggressively, and on what merchants to spend less effort.

Approach #2: Affiliate management – the practice of supporting, supervising, and controlling the company’s relationship with its outsourced affiliate manager.

Flaw: While the previous definition/approach aimed at going deeper than necessary safely possible, this is one is surprisingly shallow. No company should ever equate their “affiliate management” approach to mere vendor management. Handling vendor payments, reviewing their routine reports, and managing your contract with them has nothing to do with affiliate management.

Approach #3: Affiliate management – the process of managing the company’s relationship with the affiliate network.

Flaw: While, similarly to approach #2, this one equates affiliate management to vendor management, it may end up being even more disastrous than approach #1. Presuming that all you need to do is keep positive affiliate network balance, while the rest will be taken care of by the network can be deadly. The network’s job is provide you with the infrastructure for running your affiliate program. The rest (affiliate recruitment, compliance policing, and other affiliate management tasks) is extremely rarely included by default.

Having said all of the above, here is what I suggest as the definition of (and the approach to) affiliate management:

Affiliate management – common shortening for affiliate program (or marketing) management, or organization and coordination of affiliate marketing activities of a business, as well as full support of its affiliate program with the purpose of equipping affiliates with the tools and knowledge they need to market the business efficiently.

Since in most cases it involves management of a specific program, wherever possible/suitable I try to call it affiliate program management. It is also because of this that I included the word “program” in the very domain name of this website.

More articles on the subject to follow. Stay tuned…

Oh, and if you have something to add to the above, the “Comments” area below is all yours! I’d love to hear your thoughts too.