Experience the Field of Dreams in Your Affiliate Program

So you’ve launched your affiliate program under the “Field of Dreams” premise, but you’re quickly realizing that running your program may be a bigger challenge than you anticipated. So how do you develop great support? Here’s a little guidance on how to develop a winning team.

One of the keys to a successful affiliate program is to identify the roles and responsibilities of the affiliate team members. Last April, ClickZ published “What Does an Affiliate Manager Look Like?” Clearly, more than an affiliate manager is necessary to make your affiliate program successful day to day.

Find a Visionary

Do you have a visionary on your affiliate team? One who is setting the strategy, direction, and long-term vision of your program? A key mistake often made in growing affiliate programs is lack of vision or unplanned long-term vision of your program. The solution is to find a leader with a talent for strategy and direction. The value is in obtaining enthusiastic executive and management buy-in of the program.

Find an Archer

Recognize your success is built upon being a strategic hunter. Identify a good archer, one who can target the right affiliates, develop strategic partnerships, and seek new opportunities through the latest trends. If you lack someone with a good bow and arrow, there are a few alternatives you may consider.

Ask your affiliate program provider if it has an ancillary service that could target affiliates for you. One option is Be Free with its helpful affiliate outreach services. Commission Junction and LinkShare also have programs to help you build when you lack resources. You may even decide to outsource to AffiliatePeople, Alliance Builder, or other third-party companies specializing in affiliate outreach. Find reviews of additional companies in the ClickZ article, “Outsourcing Your Affiliate Program.”

Focus on Performers

Make sure your internal team keeps the top-performing affiliates you’ve worked hard to acquire. Keep in mind your competition. Taking care of your top performers should be your priority. If you don’t, someone else will.

Review and have your team gauge the activity level of your existing affiliate base. Track increased sales, traffic, or leads; create stronger partnerships with your top affiliates; and provide regular reports on performance and feature enhancements to your program based on your affiliates’ feedback.

Promote or Perish

Promoting your program is essential. Forrester Research reports “64 percent of companies that have affiliate programs have two or fewer employees managing their programs.” (Forrester, 1999) With so few team members, promotion often is pushed to the back burner. However, your program can profit when promotion is done well.

Though listing your program in directories and submission services is helpful, you can do more. Incorporate incentives, structured offers, and unique programs designed with your affiliate in mind. Assign your most creative person to assume this role. Include the merchandising department and creative services to literally help create your success.

TLC Goes a Long Way

Caring for your existing affiliates is much easier than finding new ones. Without care, your substantial affiliate base may fail to generate sales, traffic, or leads for your company. Dedicate a caring team member to keep your affiliates happy. Feel free to use an affiliate technology provider if you lack in-house resources. Developing happy affiliates means loyal affiliates for you.

Building a successful affiliate program is more than just launching your program. Take 30 minutes to review your team and current responsibilities. Use your in-house resources — your true ingredients for success — to build a winning affiliate team, and start living the “Field of Dreams.”

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