When we win a new Affiliate marketing account or if we’re asked to look at an account for a potential new client, the starting point for me and my team at Summit will always be the same; a full Affiliate account audit.
It is a priceless and effective activity which enables the full team to get under the bonnet and see if all is working as it should, ultimately generating valuable sales while still protecting the client’s brand.
Sounds simple, right? And you’d expect all respectable Affiliate accounts for major companies to have a program that is managed correctly, right? So, all we should need to do is carry on the good work… Wrong!
Every account I have ever won, inherited, or completed an audit for has had issues that should have been picked up and needed to be addressed.
Managing Affiliate accounts can be labor intensive, but regular checks and maintaining them to a high standard will help save you time and money, while protecting your client’s brand.
Some of the most common faults we have seen are as follows:
1. Out of date content, broken links and in some cases no links at all
There is no point having an Affiliate with links that are not working or where the content is out of date or incorrect.
It is essential that your Affiliates be kept up to date with the latest offers and content to ensure they are echoing your client’s message to the customer. Out of date offers or links no longer working can lose you the sale in the short term or even lose the customer forever.
If you have taken the time to onboard an Affiliate site, you must do your checks. Do the links work? Has tracking been added? Some Affiliates will need that extra help to get this implemented, so provide them with everything you can to make their life easier.
If the Affiliate or partner site has not updated your content to reflect your client’s needs, give them a call. One of the greatest aspects of Affiliate marketing is that we are still dealing with actual people so giving them a call and talking helps builds relationships, which can make a real difference to your program.
2. Creatives and branding are outdated
Are the creatives being used by the Affiliates up to date? This is such a simple thing, but I have actually witnessed out of date logos for clients or Christmas messaging on Mother’s Day.
Customers want to connect with a brand and if you are displaying out of date messaging or unclear branding, this will again result in losing a potential customer.
3. Do you know the Affiliates and Partners you are working with?
In the early days of my career, a client asked me to provide a list of the Affiliates within their Affiliate program so that they could review who was showcasing their brand. I learnt the hard way that you should know, and constantly monitor, who you are working with.
When reviewing the Affiliate sites, I noticed that some were very poor-quality sites, several were no longer working and in a few extreme cases our content was being pushed alongside very inappropriate content that could have been damaging to my client’s brand. This resulted in the removal of a lot of Affiliates from the program.
Some Affiliate accounts can have over 1000 Affiliate sites, so monitoring them is time consuming and at times difficult, but it must be done. We now always work with the following in mind; would you be happy to show your list of Affiliates/Partners to the CEO or MD of a company?
Know your Affiliates and complete regular hygiene exercises to ensure the people you are working with are on brand and complement your client’s vision. Plus, completing this on a regular basis will save you time in the long run.
4. No validation process in place
One of the great aspects of Affiliate marketing is the CPA model; paying for actual sales generated.
However, were the sales fully completed? Did the customer return the item? Or was their even fraud involved?
Validating your sales should be one of the main focal points for your team each month. In some client audits we completed, I was shocked to find that there was no process in place for this at all. But auto validating sales each month saves you time. I understand that validating sales can be time consuming, or the clients may not have the capabilities to provide up to date sales information to cross reference, but this is something you should be discussing and formulating plans for, to not only validate each sale, but keep the process fast allowing Affiliates and customers to be paid on time.
Validating the sales is essential as this not only protects your client’s budgets, but also ensures no one can abuse this amazing payment model.
5. Out of date program description/T&Cs
If you want to attract the right Affiliates or Partners you need to explain how your client’s program works and what it has to offer; the program description must be as clear as possible.
A simple step is to include an FAQ section for quick access to solutions for common problems and questions.
You should also review your terms and conditions to ensure they are comprehensive, as well as listing consequences for Affiliates or Partners that are not abiding by them.
Examples include brand protection measures. Is the Affiliate allowed to bid on PPC terms? Do they know the validation process and timings? Etc..
Finally, when you accept an Affiliate or Partner onto your program, I believe you should also provide them with a welcome email to ensure they have all the information they need to know, including your teams contact details. Set expectations and rules from the start for a smooth relationship.
All of these common faults can be prevented. And although Affiliate marketing can be labor intensive, maintaining your Affiliate account with regular audits and ensuring everything is up to date will pay off in the end and generate the results and reach you want.