In managing affiliate programs, large online advertisers typically rely on the account management services provided by the leading affiliate networks. Given that such services are often included in network transaction fees, many advertisers incorrectly assume that affiliate networks will deliver tactical and strategic services to boost performance.
Advertisers have another choice when it comes to affiliate program management — break away from the network. Your interactive agency, which manages your search, email, display and social media campaigns, may be the best choice for managing your affiliate program. Usually there aren’t incremental costs associated with transferring the management of an existing affiliate program from a network team to an agency team.
Depending on the contractual terms in place between the advertiser and network, most networks will lower their transaction fees (if given proper notice), enabling the advertiser to pay the difference between the original and new fees to the agency as payment for their management services.
Integrating affiliate program management with the management of your other online channels can boost overall marketing performance while improving efficiency. The first benefit is goal alignment. In cases where you have a long-standing relationship in place with your agency, extending that relationship to the affiliate channel would allow the agency to leverage its knowledge of your marketing goals to align those goals across channels.
When goals are aligned, agencies can provide holistic, cross-channel attribution reporting. This sheds light on your customers’ interactions with each online channel during their paths to conversion. Once you understand how your customers are moving across channels and how each channel influences another, an agency can then provide recommendations for cross-channel budget allocation that lower marketing costs while increasing return on investment.
Efficiencies can also be created through streamlined account management and communication, resulting in cross-channel reporting and fewer calls, meetings and invoices. A holistic approach to affiliate marketing also helps eliminate duplicate transactions. Duplicate transactions across multiple channels, such as search, display and affiliate, can be deduped — i.e., removed from the other channels based on the “last click in.” As a result, you avoid paying multiple times for the same transaction.
Your interactive agency is also in a better position to monitor your affiliate program across channels. While affiliate networks police themselves to identify and remove fraudulent or noncompliant affiliates, they often lack the tools and resources to effectively monitor an individual advertiser’s program. On the flip side, agencies that specialize in search marketing are able to use the proprietary tools and systems they have in place to monitor an advertiser’s affiliate program.
Lastly, your agency is more focused on strategic planning than your network. Full-service interactive agencies often have access to the latest industry research, cutting-edge tools and technologies, and direct experience with emerging online trends and forms of media. As a result, they leverage their expertise to develop and deliver sophisticated strategic guidance backed by the resources to implement those strategies.
Affiliate marketing is a critical component of your overall performance marketing suite and should get the program management attention it deserves. It’s time to stop treating your affiliate program separately from your other online marketing efforts. As your customers increasingly move between channels before purchase — from search to social to email to display to affiliate — successful online advertisers are no longer thinking in silos. Looping affiliate into your cross-channel strategy will not only boost affiliate performance, but holistic performance as well.