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 Guide to Starting an Affiliate Program on ShareASale

You are ready to start an affiliate program and have decided to use ShareASale as your affiliate network, but now what? Setting up an affiliate program can be a daunting task, but let me show you a step-by-step approach to successfully set-up an affiliate program on ShareASale. In total there are 8 steps and I will describe what needs to be completed within each step.

Step 1 –Commission Rates and Program Description

This is where you determine your default commission rate per sale and/or lead. It can be entered as a percent or dollar amount (make sure the correct radio button is marked). If you are going to be doing a two-tiered commission structure this is also where you enter that information.

The program description should describe your product or service, the commission being offered and any other enticing details that will get affiliates to join. Along with the program description you should create your program agreement. This document will lay the ground rules for affiliates to follow while promoting your product/service.  It should include SEM restrictions, coupon policy, and other restrictions affiliates should be aware of. Finally, make sure to add your logo here. It should be no larger than 300 pixels wide and 200 pixels high.

Step 2 – Administrative Options

This step is where you have the options to control the behaviors of your affiliate program. Tasks to be completed include:

Setting the auto-approve affiliate option -we recommend reviewing each application individually.

Reply email text – this is the message that gets sent to potential affiliates when they apply to your program. It generally includes a short message informing them that their application is being reviewed and decision will be made within 24 hours and if there are any questions to reach out.

Email notifications (when affiliates join your program) – not necessary, but you can select “yes” to make sure you are reviewing each application as they come in.

Low balance notification – we recommend getting notified, just in case!

Balance threshold notification – you get an email notification when your balance hits the threshold entered here.

Email when a sale/lead takes place – This is totally up to you, but it could just be filling up your inbox. You can see all new transactions upon logging into the main interface of your program.

Tracking Cookie – How long do you want the time to be between the original click through and the sale? 60 days is their default, but you can select whatever one makes sense for your business.

Step 3 – Choose a Program Category

In order for affiliates to find your program you need to select a category. There are almost 40 categories to choose from (they only let you choose 1), so make sure you select one that relates to your business. You also add keywords here for affiliates to use when searching through ShareASale for merchants to partner with.

Step 4 – Place Tracking Pixel

We are getting closer to launch now. This is the most important step of the process because the pixel you will be installing on your site will be tracking all affiliate activity and will be the tracking mechanism for your program (clicks, sales, etc.). We recommend having a person with an IT background install to ensure it is done properly.

Step 5 – Testing the System

Once the tracking pixel is installed you must make sure it is working properly. What happens here is you do a test purchase to make sure the pixel is firing when necessary and all the information is being collected by ShareASale.  The transaction completed will be voided before the program goes live.

Step 6 – Funding the Account

General rule of thumb here is to deposit a minimum of $100 to start. Once the program is live you can set up the auto deposit feature (highly recommended) and deposit more money if you desire to cover sales that may come in initially.

Step 7 – Upload Creatives

In this case “creatives” mean your banners and text links. Depending on how many banners you have created there is an option for a mass upload as opposed to doing it one by one.  If you are not sure what banners to include check out this article that will provide more clarity.

Step 8 – Request Activation

This is final step. Once steps 1 -7 are complete you can request your affiliate program go live to ShareASale. Once activation is requested it may take 24-48 hours to go live. ShareASale checks everything again on their end to ensure you are 100% ready to start running an affiliate program

There you have it, a guide to starting an affiliate program on ShareASale. Follow the steps carefully and you will have a live affiliate program. Now it is time to start recruiting and making money.

The Importance of Affiliate Recruitment

When a company engages in digital marketing activities the main goal is to increase sales and revenue.  When managing an affiliate program it is no different. Growing revenue is not only good for the merchant’s bottom line, but it also helps increase the programs exposure to potential affiliate partners. The higher the EPC and AOV numbers are, the more attractive it will be and the easier it will be to recruit quality affiliates.

Whether you have an established affiliate program or just launched one, getting quality affiliates to join is paramount. Many merchants ask this question: Do I just wait for affiliates to apply to my program? You could, but that is doing a disservice to the program and hurting potential growth.  One of the main pieces to growing an affiliate program is affiliate recruitment. There are two types of affiliate recruitment strategies: passive and active.

Passive recruitment is when an affiliate discovers your affiliate program on their own. On the other hand, active recruitment is when an affiliate discovers your program because of your outreach efforts. When managing your affiliate program you do not want to rely solely on a passive recruitment strategy because you will most likely not get the results desired. If you do passive recruitment you are going to have predominately more coupon/deal affiliates than any other and relying on one type of affiliate is not going to provide the growth and incremental sales numbers you wish to see.

Diversifying your affiliate pool through affiliate recruitment will provide better opportunities for growth.  Engaging in active affiliate recruitment will aid in this facet. Having coupon/deal affiliates in the program is not a bad thing, but including other affiliate types like content, paid search, social media, and datafeed affiliates will help in the growth and sustainability of the program long term. Many of the previously mentioned affiliate types are not going to find you, so you must proactively find them and invite them to your program.

Recruiting the content, paid search, social media and datafeed affiliates is important because they all specialize in different areas of digital marketing and will target different segments of traffic for your brand. Practicing active affiliate recruitment is important for the short-term, but more importantly the long-term.

You may be asking how you find affiliates to join your program? Check back next week for my post where I will be discussing where to find quality affiliates. I will also touch on what each type of affiliate brings to the table in terms of skills and value.

3 Affiliate Types to Keep Out of Your Affiliate Program

There are many different types of affiliates, good and bad, ranging from content, data feed, email marketing, social media, and even coupon affiliates. These 5 affiliate types are considered quality affiliates, for the most part, but there are always bad apples in every bunch. In this case they give the affiliate marketing industry a bad reputation. There are three types of affiliates that do more harm than good to affiliate programs. The three types are: coupon and content hijackers, trademark violators, and adware and toolbar affiliates. To avoid the hassle associated with such “parasites” either decline their applications or remove them from your program immediately.  You will save a great deal of energy, but also money you can invest back into your affiliate program.

Let’s go into more detail on the parasite affiliates and what tactics they use and how it harms an affiliate program.

Coupon and Content Hijackers

These affiliates have been around since the industry started and the problem is still large. What they do is take exclusive coupons assigned to an affiliate or take an affiliates content and place it on their site or social media platform and act as if it is theirs. A tactic also used by them is deal harvesting, in which they seek out deals that are not being used in the affiliate space and promoting them with their affiliate links attached. There are ways to monitor this and ensure they are not negatively affecting your affiliate program. There are coupon code monitoring programs that can tell you what sites your codes are bring used on and then from there you can take action. By actively policing this tactic your affiliate program will be more attractive to affiliates that will bring incremental value.

Trademark Violators

These affiliates bid on the trademarks of the merchants they are promoting. They engage in paid search campaigns on the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and use the merchant’s brand name plus a discount or deal (i.e. Get 20% off at Merchant X). This practice occurs more often than not and the most effective way to eliminate this tactic is to strictly police your affiliate program and have in the program terms that trademark bidding is prohibited. There are various tools that I use to find trademark violators for the programs I manage, but the key is to communicating with the violators that are engaging in such activities. The protocol in place I use is email them and warn them to remove ads immediately or face removal from the program in 24 hours.

Adware and Toolbar affiliates

These specific types of adware that are downloaded and appear on your web browser (i.e. Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer) and activate when you reach a merchants site, and then a cookie is dropped. When the cookie is dropped it overwrites other marketing channels and alters the user’s experience and other websites visited. Examples of adware/toolbar affiliates include: ShopatHome and We-Care. Do they add value to an affiliate program? No! The incremental value is not there and your program will be better off without them.

Overall, the affiliate marketing industry has more good affiliates than bad, but being aware of who they are and how they operate is important in running a successful affiliate program. If any of these parasite affiliates are currently operating within your program make the decision to remove them, but remember there are tools to help in policing your program and a simple warning (for coupon thieves and trademark violators) goes a long way in stopping the behavior for good.

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.