How to build a successful affiliate program

Affiliate marketing
How to build a successful affiliate marketing strategy

A good affiliate program has targets and objectives in place for continued growth. Having clear KPI’s for your team to deliver against, is one of the most important points for ensuring growth. For an affiliate team to succeed there needs to be a clear strategy for meeting the objective. Below are some of my top tips for creating a successful affiliate program and marketing strategy.

1. Be S.M.A.R.T 

It’s vitally important that you create smart objectives for your team (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). Be clear about what you expect in delivery through traffic and revenue from your existing and newly onboard affiliate partners. This will allow you to track and report the success of your overall program strategy. Remember: be specific. set clear goals for each affiliate manager in your team for example:  ‘Improve affiliate revenue by +20% vs. H1 2018’ or ‘onboard 10 new affiliates and activate them in the next month’. The numbers are important but don’t forget to set specific goals for your program marketing and administrative projects too. For example : ‘update automated lifecycle emails regularly’ – this ensures that affiliates aren’t being spammed with unnecessary or boring communications from your platform.

2. LEARN TO BE ADAPTABLE

Planning is key for any program to achieve milestones. Being proactive and having a clear sense of direction helps you stay the course.  You can then manage and adapt your strategy through an organised calendar and review when things might have to change according to regulation or legislation amends which occur frequently in our industry.  Having a clear promotions calendar helps you engage with affiliates during key promotional periods. You can also make sure you are on top of your creative assets and ensure affiliates being sent the right materials to support your current offers and product roll outs.  This is incredibly important for sportsbook operators where seasonal events are changing all the time.

3. REPORT ON YOUR SUCCESS

Implement a regular review of your progress. int he. form of a monthly report where you bring together your entire team to talk through what’s working and what isn’t. It’s important to share a broad understanding of the key conversations being held by your team and what the feedback is from affiliates against this. Use this information to adapt your plans and optimise for further success. You won’t always get it right.  You can harness this information to improve campaigns and ensure affiliates are properly supported against the goals you’ve set. Make sure the affiliate technology or platform you are using to manage your affiliate program has key metric reports set up to monitor and track your specific SMART goals.

4. MAKE SURE YOU’RE GROWING MONTH TO MONTH

If your program isn’t showing signs of growth each month, something is wrong.

Often a quick affiliate program audit can help identify where problems are occurring. Here are some fo the ways you can ensure growth is maintained consistently:

  • Making your brand and business goals clear to all your affiliates and to your technology platform or agency partners so everyone is working towards the same goals and contributing to your continued success.
  • Be open to investing more into test campaigns with new affiliates, learn new acquisition strategies and explore new sources of traffic.
  • Consider scaling the programme globally into new markets once it is performing well in one market
  • Don’t just look for quick wins but consider new innovative partnerships that will have positive long – term impact. Things like media advertising on affiliate portals or attending new conferences and events can really make a difference to getting your program seen and heard in new affiliate segments.

5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO DIVERSIFY 

One of the biggest things I see in flailing affiliate programs is that everyone targets the same set of affiliates thinking that they need to be in position one on each site.

This is just not true.

A good affiliate program diversify’s outside of working with just the top affiliates to drive traffic and builds relationships with a variety of partners.  It is vitally important to drive revenue from multiple sources to reach your goals. To do this you need to be seeking new sources of traffic – all of the time. I always advise to ensure you aim for a 60 / 40 split between super volume driving affiliates and those that make up your long tail partnerships. Affiliate recruitment is important for your program growth but please don’t forget about reactivation of old partners too. Often you may have discounted an affiliate in the past – the affiliates business changes organically over time and you are then missing out on an opportunity for new traffic sources, simply because you’ve discounted the partnership.

6. UNDERSTAND AFFILIATE MARKETING AS PART OF YOUR WIDER DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY

The Affiliate marketing team is often working in isolation to the rest of an operators digital marketing team. This can be seriously detrimental to your program performance. It’s important that the affiliate team is included in digital strategy so that activity can be optimised in collaboration with the higher marketing objective in the business.

Whilst the affiliate marketing model is based on a last click, and traditionally paid in revenue share – affiliates can deliver a value higher up the customer conversion and retention journey too. Take the time to understand how your customers interact with all your marketing channels, including the affiliate channel.  Ensure you can attribute value and budget spend accordingly to the channels that deliver the best reach and conversion. Affiliate marketing can impact smart marketing objectives so don’t pigeon hole it into one side of your business. Embrace the opportunities the affiliate channel presents and build successful strategies around it. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed with the results.

If you want to learn more about strategy and listen to experts divulge the secrets of their digital success, book your ticket to come along and join us at the Digital Marketing Forum in London 18 September. Learn the latest insights, discover new tactics and meet affiliates who can help your program grow!