1. FAILURE TO INVEST IN EXPERIENCEOne of the most common mistakes in affiliate marketing is underestimating the amount of work that goes into a successful program. When a new program goes live in an affiliate network, I pay special attention to who is listed as the main point of contact. Is that person the Director of Ecommerce? VP of Marketing? Or, Owner of the company? This is an immediate red flag as these are busy people that certainly do not have the time needed to manage a successful affiliate program. Hire an Affiliate Manager internally or Agency that’s 100% focused on the management of your program.
2. FAILURE TO EXERCISE PATIENCEThe Affiliate channel takes more time to ramp up than any other online channel. Brands and retailers are accustomed to channels like Paid Search where you can create a campaign and within hours/days begin to see results (sales, clicks, new customers.) It’s easy to get discouraged when results aren’t immediate but try to be patient rather than prematurely closing your affiliate programs (we see this far too often.) There will be times when small and mid-size brands take a year or more to ramp up.
Case in point, we have a client that struggled month after month to gain traction but trusted the process and now enjoys an average $8-$12 return on ad spend with up to $450,000 per month in affiliate sales.
3. FAILURE IN CATERING TO SHOPPING BEHAVIORSAs affiliate marketing experts we study customer shopping behavior through the conversion process. When analyzing clickstream data on a per transaction basis there are almost always multiple marketing channels involved (Email, Affiliate, Paid Search, Organic, Display.) Every online shopper has specific needs before ultimately making a purchase. This may start with brand/product research, searching for reviews online and that’s followed by an extensive search for the best price or quickest fulfillment. Through this process they may engage with multiple affiliates and if their shopping needs aren’t met the sale may never occur. For this reason, it’s imperative to partner with a variety of affiliates through your program. Affiliate business classifications like content, deal/discounts, loyalty, retargeting, social media and paid search all serve a purpose through the customer’s journey. As a brand/retailer you severely limit the potential for converting sales when you don’t cater to a customer’s shopping behavior.
There are instances where it doesn’t make sense for a brand to partner with a certain affiliate business classification but far too often, we hear “we only want to partner with content sites” with no data to support the decision. We have the data and it shows a need for brands to be present every step of the way through the conversion process.
4. FAILURE TO PLAN, FORECAST & GOAL SETJust as Doc Brown carefully planned his strategy for a bolt of lightning to hit the flux capacitor at exactly 88 MPH in the Back To The Future movie, you must also carefully craft a strategy for your affiliate program. Without a purpose or plan for execution you’re likely to be stuck in 1955 with Marty McFly.
Before launching an affiliate program create a strategy that includes: Target Audience, Target Affiliate Verticals & Partners, Plan for Execution, Benchmarks, Goals, and Budget. The time you plan to allocate to the affiliate program should be reflected in forecasts, remembering this is a channel that takes time to ramp up. I’ve found it’s a less daunting task to create quarterly plans rather than trying to plan for the entire year.
5. FAILURE TO CHOOSE THE CORRECT NETWORKFrom traditional affiliate networks to Saas technology platforms there are plenty of choices for hosting your affiliate program. Popular networks include (in no particular order) AvantLink, CJ, Impact, Shareasale, Awin, Rakuten Marketing, Pepperjam, Partnerize, Refersion, and Avangate. Each network has strengths/weaknesses and it’s important to understand those as you go through the vetting process.
If your affiliate marketing strategy primarily focuses on content creation versus discounts/coupons you may consider working with networks like AvantLink or Shareasale that have a large number of bloggers, publications, and influencers participating within the network. Conversely, if your strategy includes deals/discounts with maximum brand exposure you may consider networks like CJ or Rakuten Marketing.
If you choose the wrong affiliate network, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle from the get-go.
We never want to see an affiliate program fail, so if you’re having trouble and need assistance please contact us.