9 pros of working with an agency
We will start with the 9 pros of working with an affiliate management agency.
One of the most important things that an affiliate management agency brings to the table is expertise. They will be staffed with affiliate managers who know how to launch and grow a program. That’s what they do. In many cases, senior affiliate managers at an agency have been doing exactly this for a decade or longer. If you hire your own affiliate manager, otherwise known as an in-house manager, you will probably need to provide them with on-going training. This won’t be a consideration with an agency team.
One other overlooked benefit of an agency is that you don’t get input from just one expert — you will likely get input from an entire team. When faced with a problem, an affiliate manager from an agency will not hesitate to consult with their colleagues. Team members will also share industry news, the latest threats, opportunities, and best practices.
Experience can take many forms. With some research, you should be able to find an agency that has experience in your vertical. They might be managing the affiliate program for a competitor, or managing an affiliate program in a similar industry.
The top affiliate management agencies all have proven track records in most niches. They also manage all types of affiliates. From email marketers to bloggers and from paid search marketers to Influencers. Their experience will make a huge difference to the trajectory that your program sets off on.
Managing an affiliate program requires tools that help with:
- Competitive intelligence
- Publisher discovery
- Email discovery and automation
- Coding/development tasks
- Social media monitoring
- Brand reputation management
- Compliance policing
The list above is just scratching the surface. You will find that the costs of running an affiliate program yourself add up fast. Really fast. Affiliate management agencies already have subscriptions for all these tools.
The top agencies will also have access to the newest, and generally most expensive tools. Often for free. The reason for this is that the tool’s creators want them to test out their tools and provide actionable feedback for their developers.
All good agencies have relationships that they will happily call upon for the benefit of their clients. If you need an introduction to a third party for a particular product or service your affiliate manager should be the first person that you reach out to for help.
Agencies also have established relationships with most affiliate and sub-affiliate networks. This often means that they have dedicated support reps that they can reach out to if problems arise. Rather than waiting days for the resolution of a problem you probably can get it fixed in a matter of hours.
5. Discounts, Waivers, and Other Perks
All of the top tier affiliate networks have costly integration fees. If you partner with the right agency you can either reduce the integration fees or in some cases eliminate them.
Added to this there is often flexibility on the ongoing transaction fees charged by the affiliate network. This can potentially save a big merchant tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over a few years. Needless to say, choosing the right agency can save you an awful lot of money versus trying to do things in-house.
6. Publisher Database
All successful agencies have managed many different affiliate programs over the years that they have been in business. Some might even be in the same vertical as yours. Because of this, they have a huge database of relevant affiliate publishers. The database will include the coveted ‘super affiliates’. As of writing, Affiliate Manager Expert has a database of 30,000 active publishers. We can pretty much guarantee that we have a good relationship with many of the affiliates that you will want to recruit/work with.
7. Brand and Bottom Line Protection
Although an affiliate program can benefit most businesses, it also brings an element of risk. Remember, you are trusting other people to market your products and/or services. Brand misrepresentation, unapproved usage of a trademark, cannibalization of other sales channels are just some of the activities that any decent affiliate manager needs to be hyper-aware of.
An experienced affiliate manager will know how to discourage such behaviors and how to take action if affiliate terms and conditions are breached.
All good agencies will have tools to help ensure affiliate compliance with terms and conditions. Additionally, any affiliate manager worth their salt will follow established processes like:
- manually review all affiliate applications,
- maintain and contribute to affiliate blacklists,
- monitor affiliate traffic and sales,
- establish and maintain a close relationship with core affiliates through newsletters, emails, and social media posts,
- and most importantly, provide leadership for the affiliate program.
8. Opportunities For Cross-Promotion
We mentioned earlier that affiliate program management agencies manage multiple programs at the same time. In some cases, programs are in the same vertical or a broadly similar vertical. If so, it can make sense to run what we call ‘cross-pollination’ campaigns.
‘Cross-pollination’ campaigns can take the form of affiliate recruitment initiatives. This means the agency promotes one affiliate program to similar affiliates who drive performance in another affiliate program. And vice versa. Sometimes, affiliates are challenged to drive similar results in several programs and rewarded accordingly.
Another example of a ‘cross-pollination’ campaign is promotion between merchants. Let’s say for example that you sell software and the agency that you work with also manages the affiliate program of a computer hardware manufacturer. As long as there are no issues regarding licensing etc., it can make sense for the two companies to promote each other and both benefit from new customer acquisition and increased sales. This sort of campaign is relatively straightforward when you have an agency and affiliate program manager to mediate the relationship and monitor the campaign.
It’s fair to say that all the top affiliates choose the affiliate programs that they join and promote very carefully. These days most companies have some kind of affiliate program and most do not perform for a long list of reasons.
This means that it’s rare for large affiliates to join a program that has no track record. Evidence of established conversion rates, sales, and positive customer feedback are just some of the things that large affiliates look for.
If the affiliate gets an invitation to join your program from an affiliate manager, or agency, that they know and trust this can make all the difference between a relationship being formed, or not.