Good communication between affiliates, merchants and agencies shouldn’t be impossible – after all, we’re all in the communications business. Yet this issue seems to remain one of the biggest bugbears in the sector.

In my view, there are five simple steps to solving this problem. And in the age-old tradition, these are listed below.

1. Empathy

At the heart of this communications problem is the fact that many brands don’t put themselves in the shoes of their affiliates. The truth is that most affiliates are signed up to multiple programmes and are thus bombarded with communications every day. 

So while agencies and networks might think it’s a great plan to send out their weekend offers on a Friday night, affiliate marketers want to get home for the weekend too.

The volume of communication also means it can be hard to create something that stands out and cuts through – which leads me neatly onto point two.

2. Simplicity

The best way to ask someone very busy to do something for you (the essence of affiliate marketing) is to make it as easy for them as possible.

So if you’re communicating special offers, limit the amount of work the affiliate needs to do and supply ready-to-use links that can be simply copied and pasted on to its site, for example. 

Think about your communications – and work hard to make the call to action as simple as possible for the recipient.

3. Clarity

Clear communications will also stand out a mile. Even simple things like the subject of your email really make a difference. In a crowded inbox, an email which says ‘Your Summer Offers’ is likely to get lost alongside more important-looking missives.

Making sure the terms of offers – validity periods, for example – are equally clear will also help solve the communications conundrum.

4. Multichannel

We’ve talked a lot about email, but there are so many other ways to communicate with affiliates. Emails are great, but don’t forgot about affiliate forums, networks blogs, network newsletters, Twitter, or even picking up the phone and talking to people.

The more info you give your affiliates about your business, the better they can promote you. Having a multichannel offering is one way for affiliates to control the information they receive and how they receive it – which makes their lives easier and enables them to devote more time and energy to the programme.

5. Responsiveness

Be responsive to affiliate requests. If an agency or advertiser takes two days to reply, the chances are it will be too late. If affiliates are asking you for something then chances are that at that moment in time they are thinking about your programme. Keep them waiting then and they’ll move on to something else. And just like that you may have missed a good opportunity.

And last – but definitely not least – is the importance of remembering that communication is two-way. As well as sending them your offers and info, take time to listen to what they want and feed it back into your programme. Building a programme around the people that make it work is the best way to make it successful.

To conclude, successful affiliate partnerships are born out of communication, trust and an understanding that affiliates are businesses too. Brands that work that way will have better relationships, better programmes and better sales.