Communication is an essential component of a successful affiliate program. But when I say communication, I'm talking about the dictionary definition, not just mere interaction. Practically every affiliate program sends out a newsletter to its affiliates. But, unfortunately, most of those newsletters really stink.
Physiology of Affiliate Communications
A while back, I covered Communication 101 for Affiliate Managers and mentioned the dearth of quality newsletters. Soon after, I noticed a spike in enrollment in the ClubMom affiliate program. Lo and behold, a lot of those new affiliates were fellow affiliate managers. This was followed by many email requests for "how to create an affiliate newsletter."
Clearly, there's an interest in crafting a newsletter that amounts to more than a boilerplate paragraph about the current site promotion. So here you go, the definitive guide to creating an affiliate newsletter (a.k.a. what I am doing that has gotten positive feedback from affiliates).
When creating your template or skeleton of an affiliate newsletter, I encourage you to include the following parts: earnings for the top 10 affiliates, code for automatic rotation links, affiliate of the month, tips (affiliate, marketing, and search engine), and a comarketing plug.
How Much Can I Earn?
I start out every issue of my newsletters with a focus on earnings potential by listing the commission amounts for the top 10 earners in the past month. No names, no URLs, just amounts.
I know a lot of programs are very secretive about the earnings, but this is also one of the biggest questions on the minds of affiliates. You've got to drive the performance of your affiliates, and since you know they are all hungry for money, why not dangle some aspirational goals in front of them? That is, unless your numbers are very low. If that's the case, you'd better rethink your strategies and payout because your program is not long for this world.
They Want to Hold Your Hand
Most programs have 10 to 20 percent active affiliates. That's a shame. Not the fact that there are so few active affiliates, but because 80 to 90 percent are not being worked for the results, however small, that may be squeezed out of them. Put the code right in their newsletter, and therefore right in their inbox, because these inactive people have probably never logged in to their account.
Hold their hands a little bit and provide affiliate code for banners and buttons that you will rotate on your end. Many affiliates are turned off by the prospect that they will have to update their links frequently. Allay these fears by explaining that if they plug in this code one time, you will always rotate the current promotion for them.
Share the Secrets of Success
Do affiliates intuitively know how to make money from your program? Not most of them. But there are a great many that could be producing for you if they only knew how. That's where the Affiliate of the Month comes in. Each month, pick an affiliate that is doing a good (not great) job with your program, and highlight that affiliate in your newsletter. It's also nice to send the affiliate a little care package or gift certificate.
Not only is the Affiliate of the Month a feel-good accolade that many sites would like to receive, but it also provides you a chance to showcase a site that is doing things right, so your lesser affiliates can emulate those "best practices." Notice that I said to pick a good (not great) site you've got to take into consideration that the competition may try to poach your top dogs.
The Power of Tips
Affiliates love tips, and these can make up a couple of sections in your newsletter. General affiliate tips, marketing tips, and search engine tips. No need to break new ground here just impart useful information that you have learned along the way as an affiliate yourself. (You are an affiliate by now, right?)
If you would like to give your affiliates the opportunity to promote your program in their text newsletters and email signature, pass along a tip on how to create redirect URLs. How can they achieve better search engine rankings? Do some research, find out, and tell your affiliates. Want to teach your affiliates how to add the code for one of those "Make Us Your Home Page" links? Just add the information in your newsletter. I've shared these tips with my affiliates who not ony implemented them, but responded with lots of kudos as well.
United We Comarket, Divided We Fall
Wrap your newsletter up with a comarketing plug. There are bound to be lots of programs out there that appeal to your affiliates but that do not compete with your company. Take advantage of the synergies, and encourage your affiliates to check out other programs. Barter a spot in your newsletter for the same slot in other program newsletters.
Speaking of comarketing, I recently added a newsletter content collective section to the United States Affiliate Manager Coalition site. This combines the concepts of affiliate tips and comarketing, where program managers can grab content to use in their newsletters, as long as they also include a line to credit the source for the content. I urge you to visit http://www.usamc.org/newsletter.htm and take or leave some content.
Are you a communicator, or do you just interact? There's a fine line between informative, useful email and annoying stuff that fills up the inbox of your affiliates. If you still don't know the difference, you'd better read this article again.
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Shawn Collins is a Co-Founder of the Affiliate Summit conference, Co-Editor-in-Chief of FeedFront Magazine, and has been an affiliate marketer since 1997.
March 19, 2014