Nicki Hayes

Selecting the right affiliate agency can be a daunting task these days. Affiliate marketing is all about relationships, so it’s essential that the partnership with your affiliate agency represents your brand or company in the best light possible. This will maximize the publisher and affiliate network relationship.

When exploring potential agency partners or evaluating your current partner, consider the following:

Seek data-driven partners who truly understand your business and how the digital marketing channels work together. Agencies who provide a variety of digital marketing services within your industry, can offer ideas that have been successful for other clients in your space. These agencies also understand how the affiliate channel fits in to the overall marketing mix, and how the channel influences traffic, revenue, and conversion rates of the other channels. If an affiliate-only agency is solely focused on the affiliate network metrics, they are more likely to make decisions that may negatively impact the overall digital marketing program.

Additionally, more and more companies are attempting to determine the value of their affiliate program by applying an attribution model. Agencies who are well-versed in all aspects of digital marketing, will leverage the data from their website analytics system(s), order management system, and the eCommerce platform itself to determine how the affiliate program is impacting the overall business.

Tap into expertise and long-standing relationships by selecting an affiliate agency with a reputation for excellence and long-standing relationships with the affiliate networks and publishers.

  • Check References – This might seem obvious, but ask for recommendations from affiliates as well as other brands and retailers.
  • Ask questions – Research specific questions to ask your potential or current agency in order to gain a better understanding of their knowledge. For example, ask “What is your approach to recruitment?” Recruitment is a fundamental part of an affiliate program. If the prospective agency suggests they don’t need to recruit due to their existing relationships, they are probably not dedicating enough time to explore new affiliates that could benefit your program.
  • Validate the experience of your team – Make sure the team managing your program has prior affiliate experience before taking their current role with the agency. Unfortunately, clients often tell us about past “bait-and-switch” situations where they were introduced to someone at the agency initially, only to have their program assigned to a staffer with less experience later. All of Blue Moon Digital’s program managers have prior affiliate marketing experience.

Identify the agency’s approach and position on specific marketing strategies such as the addition of coupon-driven affiliates in the program, affiliates bidding in paid search, or blogger outreach via the affiliate channel. The agency’s answers should be backed by data, informed by experience, and customized to fit your target audience and brand. There is not a “one size fits all” answer that works for every client or company. Before answering these types of questions, the prospective agency should start by asking clarifying questions about your business, and then tailoring a response to meet your specific needs.

Clearly defining expectations and objectives of the program is important for brands and retailers seeking to outsource affiliate management. Setting clear revenue, margin, and traffic targets at the beginning of a partnership will provide your agency with clear guidelines and expectations to measure success.