— February 4, 2018
Running an in-house affiliate marketing program can be very time consuming. That’s why businesses often turn to simply joining an existing affiliate network, even though the pros are often outweighed by the cons. In general, it’s more efficient (ie. more profitable) to manage your own in-house affiliate program, as long as you can expertly manage the amount of time you put into it. Here are some ways to cut down on the time you spend on affiliate marketing.
1. Prioritize via the Pareto principle.
The Pareto principle is the fancy name for the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In affiliate marketing, often you’ll see that a small number of your partners (the 20%) make up most of your revenue (the 80%).
One of the most time consuming, but unavoidable, parts of running an effective affiliate marketing program is to communicate well and often with your partners. A 2009 report by Econsultancy showed that limited communication between the merchant and the affiliate was one of the largest hindrances:
A lack of communication is clearly holding back the industry. In this research, the need for greater communication between affiliates and merchant was frequently cited, either as something for networks and merchants to improve upon, or as an example of a change that would positively impact the affiliate marketing sector.
Keeping open communication about new products & services, new content the partners can utilize for their posts, and answering questions they may have is crucial to getting the most out of the relationships. All this takes time. So apply the Pareto principle and allocate the majority of your communication time to your top affiliates.
Ideally, you would have plenty of time to chat with all your partners, sure, but for many SMBs, that’s not realistic. The businesses that try to do this often end up making all their partners unhappy. Instead, communicate effectively with your top affiliates, but then convey those insights to the rest of your partners via a webinar or email. Often, you’ll be able to kill two birds this way.
2. Use data to weed out fraud faster.
Another time-consuming area of affiliate marketing is tracking down sources of fraud. Be it bot traffic or fake sales or simply low-quality clicks, the end result of fraud can be a lot of time wasted refunding money, reprocessing returned items that were never actually sold, and weeding out the bad affiliates from your network.
To manage fraud faster, utilize your affiliate marketing data to alert you to strange activity. For example, your “time-to-conversion” metric should be fairly consistent across your affiliates. Say it takes 2 weeks for a lead to convert into a sale, on average. If one affiliate has a much lower time-to-conversion than the others, it could be an early warning sign that something shady is going on. By keeping an eye on this metric, you may be able to nip fraud in the bud before it costs you any more time or money.
Also, keep an eye on the click-through-rate of your affiliate links. Unusually high CTR from certain links can indicate bot traffic, especially if they occur during a short window of time. Keeping track of CTR, even if it’s manually via Excel, can save you a lot of pain down the road.
3. Get new affiliate to find YOU.
A huge time-sink in running an in-house program is looking for new affiliates to grow your program. This may be one of the top complaints that SMBs make when trying to get their affiliate marketing off the ground. Vetting them and bringing them on-board already takes effort, but putting in time to research where the good affiliates live online, reaching out to them, and waiting on responses? It’s a lot for a small shop.
The best solution is to get them to find YOU. It’s obvious, but it’s surprising how many SMBs neglect to invest time in this area. Instead of seeking them out one-by-one, first put in the time to make it easier for them to find your affiliate sign-up page.
- Make sure your affiliate sign-up page is indexed by Google with solid SEO to get it on page one for the keyword(s) you want it to show up for.
- Make the process to sign up easy and short. A smooth experience is key to converting those that come to your affiliate sign-up page.
- Tell your customers about your program by emails and newsletters.
- “Advertise” the program on a prominent page on your site, perhaps even on your homepage. Also, keep a link to the sign-up page in your site’s footer.
- Ask your current affiliate partners to regularly post about how others can become affiliates too.
- Write clear terms & conditions in plain language. A wall of legalese can turn off many potential affiliates. Convey all the important details (commission, payments, etc) in plain English to bring more on board.
4. Consider adding more bandwidth.
A good affiliate program is one of the highest return-on-investment strategies in all of marketing with 58% higher average customer revenue than other channels. Meaning, if you’re not optimizing this channel, your business is simply leaving money on the table. If you’ve cut as much time down as possible and your program still has obvious potential for more growth, it might be time to add more bodies to help run your affiliate program.
Even a part-time affiliate marketing manager can help oversee dozens of highly-profitable partners that may well off-set the cost of an extra hire with the revenue they can bring in. Each business that sees real returns from this channel should evaluate each quarter whether to expand their program with additional support.