Reboot Your Affiliate Program for Greater Success

Last year, you started your affiliate program and experienced success. Lately, the pace of your network’s growth has slowed from a sprint to a leisurely stroll. So what happened?

First, you need to take a look at the measurements of success for your original program. Then focus on the areas that need improvement in order to reboot your affiliate initiative and achieve even greater success.

When you launched your program, you defined realistic goals and communicated your success daily within your organization. Remember the day you reached 5,000 affiliates? More than one million impressions? A half-million click-throughs? With every triumph, you emailed the entire company, and set the bar for your program. You provided the best return on investment for the entire marketing and advertising department. It was a brave, new world.

Everything about the company’s newest and hottest program was new, even its objectives and metrics. For a quick refresher, take a minute and look at the article “A Primer on Affiliate Metrics,” written last January by ClickZ writer Joel Gehman. Your initial focus was on the acquisition of new affiliates and rapidly growing your program. Within the first couple of months, your focus shifted to boosting affiliate traffic and increasing sales leads. In the beginning, you reported on your program’s success minute by minute, then transitioned to daily, weekly, and, finally, quarterly reports. And then, your program growth slowed to a crawl.

Over the last several months, the landscape of affiliate programs has changed dramatically. You might have been the first company in your market segment to have an affiliate program, but these programs are now a dime a dozen. Simply put, affiliate targets have gotten more selective. They have a gazillion programs to choose from and migrate to the engagements that can make them successful quickly and put cash in their pockets.

So, we all need to re-evaluate our affiliate strategies, be a little more conservative in our growth estimates, revise our measurements, and focus on sustained growth in order to emerge as a category leader. Here are the key points to consider during this process:

Reformulate your measurements. It is probably time to monitor your goals on a quarterly basis. You have some experience under your belt, so base your new measurements on past successes. Open the lines of communication with your affiliates, develop success profiles, and target new affiliates armed with experience and a new war chest.

Develop a good support structure. Take a hard look at your program, and review your resources. The time has probably come for your organization to move to the next level. Spend several days clearly identifying roles and responsibilities, strategizing how to move your program to the level of market leader. Once you have identified your organizational structure, find the time to determine if your internal resources can handle the workload. If not, outsourcing key projects or tasks may be optimal. ClickZ writer Shawn Collins wrote an excellent article, “Outsourcing Your Affiliate Program,” which details the third-party resources available for affiliate programs.

Leverage strategic partnerships. Last year, the partnerships we developed were based solely on the top metrics program. This year, the affiliate programs that are succeeding are in those companies that are visionary. Find complementary partnerships to create a unique affiliate value proposition. Major affiliate program providers, such as Be Free, LinkShare, and Commission Junction, offer their merchants unique programs designed to facilitate successful partnerships.

Ultimately, the goal is to successfully boost your program into 2001. To achieve this goal, you and your team should spend the next few months focusing on driving results. By exercising the key fundamentals above, you are poised to become a market leader. In the end, your company will reap the benefits of your renewed focus.

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