Communication 101 for Affiliate Managers

I would like to publicly thank (most of) the affiliate managers out there, because your lack of communication with affiliates makes me stand out.

To those of you who can’t be bothered with responding to emails from your affiliates, who publish those one-paragraph newsletters, and who don’t bother to keep in touch with your top affiliates thank you.

Seriously, I try hard to please my affiliates, and I’ve got to admit that I eat it up when I get emails that say:

“Having a great manager like you is truly a blessing in the midst of confusion.”
“I’m a new affiliate, and I want to thank you for all of your support.”
“Thanks, Shawn. You really help make things easier for us.”
“I love the professional way ClubMom handles the affiliate program.”

Below, I have outlined my manifesto for creating and maintaining happy and productive affiliates.

Create a Newsletter with Meat

If you’re an affiliate of any programs out there (and you should be!), I’m sure you’ve seen some of those one-paragraph emails that are being passed off as affiliate program newsletters. Forgive me, but I’m going to have to quote Clara Peller here: “Where’s the beef?

If you are going to contact your affiliates, there should be a good reason. Present them with mission-critical information, tools, resources, etc.; otherwise, your newsletter is just another thing to drag and drop into delete land.

In addition to any urgent messaging, I generally include the following in my affiliate newsletters: updates and news about our program; links to our newest promotion; tips on search engines and general marketing and content for their sites; a short feature on the ClubMom affiliate of the month; a list of the top 10 commission earners for the previous month; and a plug for a similar program (in exchange for the same in that program’s newsletter).

Target the Good, Bad, and Ugly Affiliates

Don’t limit your contact with affiliates to a newsletter. You should also be touching base and stroking the high performers. What does it cost to send out 20 or 30 T-shirts to your top performers? Easy answer: a lot less than it costs to find 20 or 30 new top performers.

How about those inactive affiliates? The brutal truth is that as many as 90 percent of your affiliates will never bother to put up links. So make it easier. Send out email to the inactive affiliates with code for one of your links. Tell them you are available to help and include your contact information.

Between the super affiliates and the inactive affiliates, you’ve got everybody else. Talk to them, too. Identify underperformers, and offer incentives of a raise in commission or a flat-fee bonus if they give preferred placement to your links.

Great Customer Service Is a Must

If you’ve ever tried to contact the average affiliate manager (because we’re all affiliates by now, right?), you know that it’s sometimes impossible to get a response. If you’re not responding to your affiliates, you’re sending a message that they are not important. Don’t send that message.

Don’t outsource your customer service either. While it may seem onerous to maintain your contacts with affiliates, it can really pay off. Yesterday’s underperformer can easily be a search engine tip and a domain away from becoming one of your top affiliates.

What sort of turnaround time do you usually have for your affiliate inquiries? Now, put yourself in an affiliate’s shoes and think about how neglected you would feel if it took days for you to receive a one-line response.

I try to make it a practice to respond within 24 hours, 7 days a week. Generally, I get a handful of queries over the weekend, and I can knock them out in an hour. It makes Monday morning easier, and it makes my affiliates happier.

Call me an obsessive-compulsive, but don’t call me late to dinner.

Groupthink Can Be a Good Thing

What are your affiliates thinking? There’s an easy way to find out start up an eGroup, and you have a ready-made focus group about your program. I started up a ClubMom Affiliate eGroup, and it’s been a tremendous resource.

The basic function here is an email discussion list where your affiliates can interact with one another to share tips, strategies, and success stories with your program. I use my eGroup to make announcements and bounce ideas off a segment of affiliates.

We all know how important it is to test banners, buttons, and text links, but that’s easier said than done. So if I’m trying to decide on different creatives or have an idea I’d like to develop, I run it by the ClubMom Affiliate eGroup.

This free service also enables you to upload files (I use this to archive my monthly newsletters and search engine tips), provide links (I tell my affiliates where to find free hosting, registrars, marketing tools, etc.), and run polls.

If your affiliate program is not meeting your expectations, I would suggest that you examine your methods of communication with your affiliates. Educate, target, respond, and interact. If you communicate it, the results will come.

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