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'Relationship Marketing': How Affiliates Can Increase Transparency with Merchants
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'Relationship Marketing': How Affiliates Can Increase Transparency with Merchants

Affiliate marketing is relationship marketing. Affiliate management boils down to the growth and development of many individual relationships, which are mutually beneficial. It is important for both parties to have clarity and understanding of the other party’s goals and concerns. Our portfolio of over 10,000 affiliate partnerships has led to some interesting insights into how to increase transparency, and thereby forge deeper relationships, between the affiliate and the merchant. The following are our recommendations based on this: 

Be up-front

Merchants rely heavily on learning about the affiliate partners they are considering working with, or already working with, through the information an affiliate provides in their network account profile. Make sure to provide as much information as possible, including all the domains you place affiliate links on, and all the promotional methods you may use to promote a merchant. And, most importantly, update it often. Making this information available up-front will eliminate the majority of questions a merchant may have about working with you, and they can more easily and quickly make an informed decision about the partnership. A medium-to-large affiliate program will receive 10 to 30 affiliate applications a day. Affiliate managers have mere seconds to make a decision based on the information at hand, and it is often in their best interest to err on the side of caution with their affiliate program. If you feel you were unfairly declined from joining a program, a quick note explaining why you think your site would be a good fit could change their mind. You’d be surprised at how few affiliates use this simple tactic.

Be responsive, not mysterious

If a merchant reaches out with a question about how you are promoting them, why a performance trend has changed, or to let you know you are using outdated promotional information, reply! A lack of response, even if it is simply because you are busy, will signal a lack of interest, or worse yet, create a lack of trust with a merchant. More often than not, they are reaching out about how to strengthen the relationship, and staying out of the shadows sends a message that you are an engaged partner. Responsiveness often results in a more profitable relationship. On the other hand, if a merchant continually does not respond to your requests, it may be a poorly managed program and your efforts may be better spent elsewhere.

Be proactive

Have ideas or suggestions on how to improve your performance with a merchant? Let the merchant know! Merchants are always looking for ways to grow performance and if your ideas are within the scope of their program criteria, then it could be a win for both sides. They might even make a special exception if you build a strong case for trying something different. And, being proactive is a great way to stand out from the crowd.

Be honest

Let's face it, merchant programs will undoubtedly change over time, and while these changes are often good, some changes make it difficult for a publisher to continue to monetize their traffic and still have the relationship be profitable. When faced with this situation, consider other promotional methods that are in-line with the merchant's new criteria. But, if that requires changing your entire business model, then it may no longer be a good fit. Let the merchant know about your decision to no longer promote their site and why the decision was made. This provides the merchant with much needed insight into how changes to their program impact publisher performance. The merchant might also use this information to make a case internally. Some merchants reverse program changes after realizing negative consequences, or give special permissions to a handful of trusted affiliates.  

Be aware of sensitivities

Certain publisher business models are more straightforward than others. Do you fall into the 'sensitive' bucket with a business model that is more difficult to see where your traffic is coming from? Good examples are sub-affiliate networks, software, and email business models. It is reasonable for a merchant to want to know where and how they are being promoted and it may be up to you to bridge the gap in their understanding. Brand reputation is important to a merchant and being able to determine the value of the traffic can turn into an optimisation opportunity. The less insight they have into the source of your traffic, the less likely they will want to explore opportunities to strengthen the relationship.

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Kristiné Kirschke

Kristiné Kirschke

Kristiné Kirschke is an affiliate program manager for Schaaf-PartnerCentric, a company that provides premium affiliate management services to retail and lead advertisers looking for top line growth, bottom line profit, or optimal technical implementation. Kristiné spent 10 years at CJ Conversant before moving to the agency-side and has managed an impressive portfolio of programs including Yahoo!, the Ebay Partner Network, and SunTrust bank. Kristiné resides in Santa Barbera, California.

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