opinion

Best-Performing Affiliate Programs Rely on Mapped-Out Objectives

Best-Performing Affiliate Programs Rely on Mapped-Out Objectives
Cathy Beardsley

Affiliate marketing is a crucial growth tactic for merchants wanting to drive customer acquisition and increase revenue. However, launching an affiliate program can be a daunting task.

Over the years I have seen my share of successes and failures in the affiliate space. Merely starting a program does not mean it will deliver the results intended. The programs that perform the best are those that are well planned, developed and implemented.

Engaged affiliates drive stronger traffic, so merchants should be constantly thinking about ways to interact with their affiliate networks.

Below I have outlined some of the practices I have found in the most profitable affiliate programs.

Have a plan

The first step is to outline very clear objectives for your affiliate program and put measurements in place to track your key results. Some critical questions to answer before moving forward are:

  • What is the lifetime value of a customer?
  • How much can I afford to pay to acquire a customer?
  • Do I want to pay affiliates per sale, or with revenue share, or both (which can I afford)? What is my affiliate acquisition strategy and budget?
  • Who is going to manage my affiliate program and support the affiliates (and how will we it)?

As obvious as it sounds, the key to an affiliate program’s success is its affiliates.

Merchants need to be constantly recruiting affiliates to their program. To incentivize and connect with the strongest affiliates in the space, merchants need to understand current trends by researching what similar businesses in their category are offering to affiliates.

Just as merchants develop targeted strategies to grow their business, they should constantly be thinking about how to market and sell their affiliate program to recruit new affiliates.

Build relationships

As merchants grow their affiliate network, it’s critical to build trust along the way.

Transparency at SegPay is key to our client relations and we believe that transparency is also vital to the merchant and affiliate partnership. Be open and honest about the program with affiliates by making sure terms and expectations are clear to everyone involved.

Because affiliate programs are so vital for pushing new traffic to a business’ websites, merchants should have a plan to fully support their affiliate network. Managing affiliates often takes more work and time than site owners realize.

If possible, consider hiring an affiliate manager specifically for this purpose — it will maximize your company’s marketing efforts and increase the productivity of affiliates.

Maximize conversions

Ultimately, what matters most to affiliates (other than getting paid) is conversion. Affiliates work hard for their traffic and want to know it is going to convert.

The most successful sites we see at SegPay are those that are heavily engaged in conversion-rate optimization. They are constantly experimenting to maximize conversion rates. Nothing makes affiliates happier than websites that convert their traffic.

Engaged affiliates drive stronger traffic, so merchants should be constantly thinking about ways to interact with their affiliate networks. Merchants can motivate affiliates by offering limited-time discounts to push new customers to sites.

At SegPay, I often see merchants run affiliate contests or offer bonuses for meeting goals. This gamification creates competition among the affiliate network, often resulting in increased traffic and spikes in new member conversions.

Look out for fraud

Affiliate fraud is an unfortunate reality in our industry so it’s important that everyone gets to know their affiliates! Merchants need to be actively monitoring each affiliate and looking for signs of collusion or fraud.

At SegPay, we identify the following as red flags: extremely high conversion rates, and unexpected surges in site visitation and traffic from suspicious geographical areas.

Have an action plan in place for monitoring and identifying affiliate fraud. Ask your payment processor for help, as they’ll have lots of experience monitoring and addressing potential fraud.

Analyze everything

Finally, merchants should be constantly analyzing every aspect of their program and identifying ways to improve results.

Merchants who can recognize key performance indicators and detect trends from their affiliate programs can use this data to drive more business. For example, what works in one geographical region may not work in another.

These types of insights can drive increased profits, new customers and affiliate involvement. Understanding how to best activate and monetize an affiliate network is critical for continued success of a merchant’s site.

It took only three years for Cathy Beardsley to turn startup SegPay into a profitable company. As president and CEO, Beardsley oversees the day-to-day operations and long-term strategic planning for the company. SegPay is one of four companies approved by Visa USA to operate as a high-risk internet payment service provider in the U.S. Since 2005, SegPay has offered online merchants a state-of-the-art billing platform that provides realtime payment processing around the globe.

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