How to work with your affiliates and be ahead of the curve? How to detect and prevent non-compliant activity? All you need to know — including the best practices for running affiliate programmes during Q4 — and much more in this article.

You + affiliate marketing = ?

By now, every major brand — be it Amazon, AliExpress, or Samsung — has turned to the affiliate networks or launched one of their own. It was not only the mastodons who mastered this channel though, but also average-size enterprises. And if the trends don’t shift suddenly (which is highly unlikely to happen), soon enough every online marketer will have access to some kind of sales-generating publishers’ service, down to the smallest family businesses. Even as you’re reading this, affiliate networks are working on solutions to make CPA services more accessible.

Working with affiliates takes both time and effort — that’s of course in case you aim to boost your sales by launching affiliate programs, which you most likely do. For that, you have to pick affiliates wisely, decide on your brand strategy and acceptable sources of clients, analyze the quality of traffic and make sure no violations pass through your vigilant watch. Sounds like a handful, doesn’t it?

For some of that, we can offer advice.

1. General branding

Standing out, accurate messaging, giving back to the community and taking smaller steps — we listed them in Top strategies for strengthening your brand. Those were true during the early months of pandemic, and — since it has not really ended yet — aged perfectly for Q4.

Is the second wave of virus around the corner? It might be. If you barely made it through the first one, sum up your experience and make conclusions. Reshape your businesses and tailor your procedures to these very principles: online, remote, non-contact. This is what e-commerce has done before to survive, so keeping up with the rest is as good a strategy as any other. As a responsible service provider, you have to keep your customers safe.

Long story short: respect your clients and heed their needs — or else step aside. Also, stay true to your values. Sharp turns are not exactly taken kindly even by loyal customers. Show that you care about them, and they will pay you back with their brand commitment. 

2. Secure, contain protect

Fraudulent activities have been a scourge of online marketing for over a decade. Naturally, by now there are bridges to cross this gaping maw of criminal greed.

Whereas some types of violations — such as brand bidding — are easy to detect manually, others — such as cookie stuffing — would require a more subtle software-based approach. If we take a bird’s eye view on the matter, it really comes down to two options: protecting your brand on your own — by purchasing specialized software and hiring a competent employee — or letting others do it for you. 

The second option splits further — into paying to a subscription-based agency, and getting the same service for free as a by-product of joining an affiliate network. Yes, you can join a network and get shielded from losses. But then, you would have to pay for other services, which is an inconvenience if you want to maintain a stand-alone affiliate program.

Choose wisely, but know this: any option is cheaper than ignoring the issue altogether. According to the global economic study by CHEQ, this year marketers are expected to lose $1.4 billion due to affiliate fraud.

3. Be prepared

Q4 is the time of EOY sales and generous presents, which is why your failure to deliver may result in a particularly nasty stain on your reputation. The recipe to the commercial doom is simple: do not be ready for the upcoming promotions, do not design specific landing pages and think the customer experience through, do not upgrade your servers to withhold the rising tide of visitors, do not update your publishers’ reward rates to bait them for this new promotion. 

(Really, please do all of the above, and you won’t be caught unawares.)

How does one make the affiliate channel efficient? Through testing. Testing new media, new features and brand positioning. In Admitad, when we release a new tool, usually there are a few advertisers eager to test what we have in stock — even if this something hasn’t been released yet. We value clients like that. For us, it is a chance to improve our services, and for them – an opportunity to try a new utensil before it goes mainstream.

4. IT crowd at the ready

Another point of how the public sees your brand is through your own employees. And we’re not only talking furloughing staff during the crisis, we’re talking providing them with work from home without endangering the company. In the era of GDPR-dictatorship you would not want to leak user personal information, would you?

Protected connection alone might not be enough to stay impenetrable forever — as your managers are introduced to the new mode of working, they will need basic knowledge of information security and some manuals or webinars to look it up in. Hence, security specialists to protect your inner traffic from whoever might want to break in.

5. Mind the strategy

Finally, when you do all of the above, you have to understand one more thing. Q4 sales will pass. 2020 will pass. The pandemic and the quarantine will pass too. And when they’re over, you will still have to maintain the offensive. So, plan two steps ahead.

Develop new tools now so that when the last fires of COVID-inquisition die out, you have the upper hand. Make forecasts, research the market to obtain valuable data and create new solutions to satisfy current clients and aim for new ones.

Marketing never sleeps, and affiliate marketing doesn’t either. Stay ahead of the curve!