Lots of good stuff has been written about how to optimise your affiliate programme. At trade events such as the last a4uexpo London, there were sessions on big data, taking advantage of mobile and how consumer behaviour is changing online.
All of this is useful (and for established programmes, you could argue, essential), in getting the most out of your programme, but it still staggers me how many people make it difficult for affiliates to promote. What if I told you that you could get affiliates to pick up more of your links, and more quickly? Just a quick change to your newsletter or forum post could save the 3000 or so affiliates on your programme time and ensure that your strongest offers are live for longer.
How can Affiliate Managers help?
What is this magic idea? Deeplinks with tracking in front of them. A bit disappointing isn’t it? It doesn’t have bells and whistles, won’t make you look like the next thought leader in affiliate marketing or win an awar for the most innovative affiliate programme. However, for me it’s a little embarrassing that it’s not done more frequently.
There is a fun forum post at the moment where BeansOrGold picks apart affiliate newsletters, mainly for bad grammar, but occasionally for not having links at all. From my point of view, the lack of effort made in some affiliate newsletters by not adding affiliate tracking is worse than bad grammar.
Let’s look at what might happen when an affiliate receives a newsletter. Firstly, they get the email. It has deeplinks to the product page, but no tracking. The affiliate then has to log into the network. Having logged in, they go to a deeplink generator, create a link, and then finally they are ready to promote your brand.
Now, to most this might not seem like a big deal. How hard is it to log into the network and get the link? Alternatively, they might know the tracking for your programme well enough to just add it themselves, but for affiliates that promote multiple clients across multiple networks, it’s a big job. Let’s say the affiliate promotes 100+ clients, adding another five minutes to every link they update is a big job. For those affiliates pressed for time, it might be the difference between adding the offer and not adding the offer.
Saving affiliates' time
From an account manager perspective, it would take five minutes of your time. If you project that to the hundreds (or thousands) of affiliates you expect to change the links, that is a lot of time you can save them. They will then have more time to grow their site and traffic which further benefits you.
You can see a good example here. What they have done is added the tracking to the deeplink and the affiliate just needs to replace the ‘!!!id!!!’ with their affiliate ID. Then they are ready to go. Even if they work with 10 networks they could just write down their affiliate ID for them and save time.
Compare it to this example below. With this one you can’t even copy the links in order to add the tracking. You have to click on every offer. This adds another step to the above process.
When I worked network-side, we would put deeplinks to all the products in Notepad and then copy and paste the tracking in front. We would then add this to the newsletter or forum post. Assume that an affiliate does the same. Let’s compare the process with links compared to HTML links.
Put yourself in an affiliate's shoes
By hiding the links behind HTML it makes the job even bigger for the affiliate to promote your brand. I constantly hear people talking about how you need to do X, Y and Z to get the most out of your affiliate programme. We often hear that it’s a competitive market, and that you need to stand out to make your programme attractive. I think just putting yourself into your affiliates’ shoes once in a while would have just as big an impact for some programmes. For me, affiliate managers should be there to make promoting their brand as easy as possible for affiliates.
Look at it from your affiliate’s position. If you have two similar clients, and one takes a minute to promote, while the other takes 10 minutes, which would you pick?
What's my advice for a prosperous 2013? Think about how you can make promoting your brand easy and put yourself in your affiliate’s shoes. Just doing that will improve the reaction to your newsletter and should ensure that your links are used quicker.
In summary, don’t expect your affiliate to do something that you didn’t take the time to do. They may just find that their time is as valuable as yours!