For many years, publishers have been described to advertisers as a virtual sales force, a cost-effective way to get their products to market. In the main, this is one of a number of fairly accurate descriptions of publishers, and one which I believe has convinced many advertisers to open an affiliate program over the years.

However, while publishers may be touted as ‘working for’ an advertiser, it got me thinking about who should be ‘working for’ publisher in order to help them increase their revenues? After all, advertisers get help from agencies, internal staff and networks; but generally publishers are required to help themselves, which seems absurd considering that, without publishers, many of us would be out of a job.

Why do publishers receive less support than advertisers?

Partly, the problem lies with good old fashioned accounting and decades of business principles which adhere to a simple rule; Money in = Good…Money out = Bad. Advertisers pay networks, networks pay publishers. This old fashioned thinking by a lot of advertisers and networks has led to the majority of network resource being focused on the advertisers as this is where the money comes in, at least if you look at the accounting. Publishers are where the money goes out and have therefore been seen as a cost by many. As an industry, we’re lucky that we haven’t followed these business principles too closely as the natural thing to do with costs is reduce them. In reality, we should be trying to increase publisher commissions (the cost if you will) as this translates to a natural increase in revenues for all parties. As a network, publishers are the very source of our revenue. Yes, the advertisers pay the invoices but the invoices wouldn’t be there without publishers pushing hard to promote the advertisers’ products.

Another part of the problem, partially related to the above, is the demands placed on a network by advertisers as a result of the fact that advertisers are paying for a service. Quite naturally, and correctly, advertisers require a substantial time and resource investment from networks in order to justify the costs associated with their affiliate programs. If I were an advertiser, I’d be doing the exact same thing and expecting my network to provide a suitable level of service in line with what I’m spending with them. However, in my opinion,

How can publishers get their fair share of an advertiser’s/network’s time?

There are some very simple solutions to this problem and they’re ones which rely on publishers and networks working together. I’ve included some tips below:

1. Find an advocate

Often the first person a publisher will speak to regarding a particular program will be the network account manager. Our industry is blessed with an abundance of excellent network account managers so, by and large, these interactions should be pleasant and profitable.

However, while account managers may find your proposal intriguing, they still need to sell it in to their clients and this is often the step where things fall down. Not only are network account managers approached with a multitude of publisher proposals for their clients, but it is also likely that an individual account manager will only be responsible for a handful of clients on the network. As a result, publishers may need to contact numerous people in order to gain sufficient network penetration.

In order to maximise your chances of reaching the top of a priority list on an individual program, the best advice is to get yourself on a lot of lists. To accomplish this, you need to have an advocate at the network, someone who has the time to understand your proposition, identify a number of programs which could benefit from you being involved and effectively sell you in internally. This could be an individual account manager who ‘gets’ your proposition and is prepared to spend the time required to get their colleagues on side or it may be that the network has dedicated publisher resource who can help. Either way, having someone at the network rooting for you goes a long way to being seen as a revenue stream rather than a revenue drain.

The time spent identifying that winning individual who can help push your proposal forward is time saved having to repeat yourself to an entire account management team. Let the network do the work while you get on doing what you do best.

2. Play the long game

This goes for advertisers as well as publishers. Just because you want something doesn’t mean someone else is in a position to supply it. Just because an advertiser wants more exposure from publisher X doesn’t mean they’re going to get it. And just because publisher Y wants an exclusive offer doesn’t mean they’re the best publisher to give it to.

Tying in with the point above, having someone selling you internally at each network allows publishers to play the long game. Having someone constantly putting you in front of account managers and advertisers significantly increases your chances of success down the line. If advertiser Y isn’t ready for you today, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to need you tomorrow. Keep plugging away at your network, keeping them up to speed with whatever it is you’re up to. But be prepared for some quick wins and a lot of slow burners.

3. Ultimatums don’t work

There are very few things in our industry which ‘have to’ happen. Publishers don’t have to work with a network or advertiser. Advertisers don’t have to approve publishers to their program. People don’t have to spend time understanding each other’s propositions. Our industry functions much better when these things do happen but no one ‘has to’ do anything; the vast majority of activity is purely voluntary.

I see so many pieces of communication which start with ‘You have to’ or ‘You need to’ without the sender taking the time to understand why something is the way it is.

You’re far more likely to receive a positive response if you outline the benefits of working together…and then see points 1 and 2.

All in all, I believe that networks don’t spend enough time concentrating on publishers. I believe that, for our industry to continue to succeed, networks and advertisers need to spend more time evaluating new publisher opportunities and building long term relationships with publishers, especially in cases where there is no immediate opportunity.

Things won’t change overnight, but by understanding how networks function, and finding the best way to work with each one, publishers will be able to ring fence far more network resource and improve the perception of their business among advertisers.