For a majority of us, the month of August means embarking on those last-minute summer vacations, back-to-school shopping, and prepping for the ultimate Labor Day BBQ. For many, this is the last chance to enjoy the “freedom” of summer. For those of us in the digital marketing realm, August means we’re less than two months away from the start of Q4 which can only mean one thing… Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner!

In the world of affiliate marketing, the key is an early start on booking placements for Q4. By the time Labor Day rolls around, many of the top holiday placements are already booked (or at least those discussions have started between the affiliate and the merchant, with the ultimate “prize” going to the early bird). In affiliate marketing, “if you snooze you lose,” and this is especially true in Q4. With the competition being so fierce, any hesitation on your part could result in losing out on sales, new customers, traffic, and the opportunity to reinforce existing customer loyalty.

Q4 is a prime opportunity to increase the exposure and awareness of your brand. Not only can you build upon a brand’s existing user base, but it’s a crucial opportunity to attract new customers as they shop and prep for the holidays. A well-executed Q4 can set a brand up to be more successful during Q1 to Q3 the next year, helping them to stay ahead of their competitors.

Here are key actionable items to leave you with for booking affiliate placements to ensure a successful Q4:

Set A Budget. It’s crucial to know exactly how much you’re able to spend before you start placement negotiations. This amount should include affiliate commissions, network fees, and flat fees for paid placements.

Determine Your Audience. While it’s tempting to go straight for the “cream of the crop” affiliate placements, (and these are often quite lucrative for brands), knowing the exact demographic you want to reach (gender, geographic location, age, household income, etc.) can help you optimize your placements which will give you the highest ROI. Don’t forget about your international customers too! Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not just U.S. holidays.

Create Competitive Offers. Q4 is a major time of year for retailers in general, but the competition can be especially fierce during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Not only will your major competitors be running sales, but customers will be bombarded from every single angle by deals, callouts, and incentives to shop. Make your sale stand out by offering high callouts on a wide variety of categories (site-wide is best) i.e. free shipping, increasing affiliate commission rates, etc.

Identify Opportunities Unique to Q4. Placements that perform well for a brand during Q1 to Q3 are of course great to target during the holiday season. There are however, certain affiliates (,,,, etc.) that pop up only during Q4. These affiliates often perform exceptionally well – especially with their targeting of Q4-related keywords in the paid search world.

Think Mobile. The number of shoppers turning to their mobile devices during the holidays to browse or shop continues to increase year over year. It’s therefore becoming even more crucial that retailers have mobile apps and/or m.sites with responsive design to avoid losing out on the growing sales/traffic in the mobile space. While many affiliates will run the same placement on their desktop and, a growing number have dedicated mobile apps with separate placements. A few even have Black Friday/Cyber Monday specific apps that get an incredible number of downloads during the weeks leading up to the week of Thanksgiving.

Don’t Forget Shipping Cutoff Dates. When scheduling placements (especially for a brand that is largely or completely focused on ecommerce sales), it’s important to keep in mind when the deadlines are for ground, two-day, and overnight shipping. While the opportunity for sales is still present after these dates, most of the revenue typically comes in beforehand when people know they can still get their presents in time for Christmas.