You don’t need to be told that affiliate marketing is great stuff. Forrester and Jupiter spin these stats: Over 20 percent of Internet revenues will be driven by affiliate marketing in 2003and some 54 percent of the online marketing dollar will migrate to performance-based initiatives, affiliate marketing and syndicated selling chief among them.
Some companies are going proactively, others are perhaps being driven by market conditions. It is truly dicey. Boo.com, ValueAmerica, Peapod, CDNow, Toysmart and a host of others are chopping people or shuttering completely. All this means more and more companies are looking to start or strengthen their affiliate programs.
We’ve talked about the position itself and what qualifications to look for. Recently, readers have been asking for more specifics on how to plan a typical day. Affiliate marketing is not so routine as to fit into a neat eight, ten or twelve-hour compartmentalized description, but there are some pointers that may prove useful.
Let’s Start at the Beginning: Week One
The best approach starts with a clear understanding of the situation. In the world of affiliate marketing, data drives understanding and intelligence. Spend the first week of every month running your numbers. We’ve talked quite a bit about numbers, and future columns will likely cover more of the same ground (e.g., Metrics Primer, Numbers: Part 1, and Numbers: Part 2, etc.).
If you don’t close the books on your previous month’s activities, you have no guidance or feedback on how to proceed for the coming month(s). What worked? What didn’t? Where do you need more resources?
As part of this “closing” process, you’ll also see how your super affiliates are progressing. Take this time to personally correspond with all of them. You’ll likely find that it’s time well-spent.
As further proof that the 80/20 rule lives and that affiliate marketing is truly a lope-sided affair, consider the case of ClubMom. Ably headed by Shawn Collins (a colleague and ClickZ writer),the ClubMom program spent about $70,000 in commissions last month. Amazingly, over $42,000 (or 60 percent) of all commissions went to just ten affiliates. You can bet Shawn knows who these ten super affiliates are and communicates with them regularly.
Weeks Two and Three
It’s helpful to pick a focus for the middle portion of each month. Generally, spend the time recruiting more affiliates. This could take the form of revamping your directory listings or joining another network. More often than not, it requires outright recruitment. For example, I’ve recently added Dynamic Trade as a partner, in addition to Commission Junction and ClickTrade.
The second week of each month is also a good time to craft a mass mailing to all your affiliates, especially those not among your super affiliate ranks. Consider discussing any top-performing links, banners and HTML creatives. Point out best practices from across your program. Highlight upcoming seasonal promotions, specials or other ways affiliates can successfully integrate your program.
During the last week of the month, begin evaluating that month’s performance. Unlike week one’s affiliate-centric activities, think in terms of program-centric issues. Carefully gauge the performance of your various linking options. Make determinations about what to keep and what to kill. Look at the overall impact of your recruiting activities.
Some folks may also have more than just affiliate marketing on their plate. For example, you might allocate a portion of your month to keyword placement at GoTo and other cost-per-click engines. Or, you might strike deals with larger affiliates that require some direct person-to-person selling not available solely through a self-service affiliate network. All these activities will drive performance-based growth.
The key to a healthy, growing program is a thoughtful process. It starts with an understanding of the numbers, which in turn drives the implementation of your day-to-day activities. The process constantly brings in more feedback and iterates always seeking to learn from itself. As always, I do enjoy your comments, questions and criticisms. You can reach me from my re-launched soapbox at irant.com. Best of luck.