Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the annual Performance Marketing Awards and the stage is set for companies of all sizes to pledge their entries.

In support of the performance marketing industry’s leading award ceremony, PerformanceIN will be speaking to some of the previous winners in the hope of sharing some of their wisdom ahead of the entry period closing on January 22. 

Today we’re talking to Paul Stewart, account director at Affiliate Window, whose work with telecoms giant BT led to a Best Managed Affiliate Programme coup in 2015.

What set Affiliate Window’s entry apart from the stiff competition last year? 

Paul Stewart: For me it’s that the BT programme does things a bit differently. We pay on generated orders (not the industry standard), so publishers get paid quicker and aren’t penalised for events out of their control. 

We also send customised reports to our top 20 affiliates, we simplify our commission structure and we do the big data projects that prove the value of customers beyond the initial purchase. 

Affiliate marketing is never flawless; was there anything you’d have done to improve the campaign looking back on it now? 

PS: There are some publishers we didn’t manage to get anything off the ground with for various reasons, but we’ll be rectifying that this year! 

From the perspective of a winner, what key elements set the foundations for a solid and effective affiliate programme? 

PS: Firstly, try new things. Some won’t work, some will – you move those onto the roadmap and continue. If you have the reporting structure in place to get accurate feedback then you should be using that to gather as much information as possible. You then use this data to guide your future decisions. The time of working off just a gut feeling is gone. You can still take a risk, but do it from a data-backed stance. Furthermore, if you’re going to fail, fail fast! It’s hard to argue with numbers. 

Secondly, and on a point that is often overlooked – build relationships. Speak regularly and frequently to as many publishers as possible. The affiliate industry, more than any other channel, gets stuff done because of relationships. 

Thirdly, something that BT have always been great at, is to give autonomy to the team.  This allows us to work out acceptable risk levels and have the freedom to source, organise and execute activity without the need for sign off. It sounds scary but we know that the best affiliate programmes see their network account teams as an extension of their own.

The PMAs award success and innovation in performance marketing. Do you think setting these benchmarks also drives it to a degree? 

PS: Definitely! I’m betting winning a PMA is on the objective list for most affiliate programmes. 
You’ve set a precedent now, so how are entrants for the same category in 2016 supposed to better Affiliate Window and BT’s? 

PS: I’d say think creatively, have a plan and execute it better than the competition. When writing the entry, try to tell a story, have some clear objectives and achieve great results alongside them.