This is part of two of the series on managing merchant expectations for an affiliate program [see Part One here]. In Part Two, expectations for a launched affiliate program will be discussed and why it is important to make sure the merchant’s expectations are in line with those of their affiliate management team’s.
The merchants affiliate program is live, but expectations are still unrealistic; what needs to be done to reign them in? It is all about communicating and educating them on best practices and previous experiences? If I had a dollar for every time a merchant asked why they are not seeing sales immediately I would be pretty well off. Maybe I am exaggerating a little, but you get the point. When expectations during the launch phase are unrealistic that tends to carry over to the program once it is live. Merchants must understand that affiliate marketing is different than other forms of marketing in that it takes months, not days to build a successful program.
Not seeing any sales?
Give it time; asking why there have not been any sales in the first week is not fair. In my post last week “Managing Pre-Launch Expectations of Affiliate Program” I wrote that it is best to give a program 1 – 2 months to gain traction and start producing consistent sales. Many merchants do not understand that recruiting affiliates (either passively or actively) takes time. The process usually includes an email inviting them to join the program, possibly a follow-up email, accepting them into the program, and optimizing them. Depending on the affiliate, this process could take a month or longer. Ensuring your affiliates are armed with the necessary tools to be successful is the most important part of managing an affiliate program. Rushing this process or giving up too soon because sales are not coming through at the pace expected will do more harm than good.
Affiliate Program = Marketing
Another key to a successful affiliate program is including the affiliate management team as members of the marketing team. This sounds obvious, right? There have been times when managing affiliate programs where merchants have marketing campaigns set up for other channels (email, SEM, Social Media), but do not share them with the affiliate management team, and if they do it is at the last minute and it makes it more difficult to ensure success with the affiliates for the campaigns. The top affiliate programs are successful in part because they treat affiliate marketing the same as the other channels, and that includes aligning their marketing campaigns with affiliate marketing to ensure the most exposure for their campaigns.
Be Open to Change
The strategies outlined pre-launch are being executed and are successful, but something unexpected comes up, what should the merchant do next? The answer is simple – ADAPT. There may be certain marketing campaigns that were not successful with affiliates, so adapting to what is happening around you in critical. Use competitive intelligence (which should be occurring daily) and create similar promotions to that of the competition so affiliates are equipped with high converting deals/promos. Another reason to be open to change is that the merchants website may not be converting well and changes may be needed, so being open to change is not voluntary, it is mandatory. Affiliates, the most valuable asset to your program, may have requests like customized banners, exclusive coupons, sample requests, so being flexible and open to doing things differently than planned will assist in creating a quality affiliate program that quality affiliates will want to join.
Set merchant expectations for the affiliate program immediately, so that everyone involved in the management of the program can be given all the necessary tools to succeed and build a program they can be proud of.
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