Most companies understand the need for affiliate marketing programs — leveraging others’ audiences and influence to promote a business is a smart move.
But once you’ve built a decent affiliate program, one question remains: How do you scale it up? Kept small, your program will miss a lot of opportunities; scaled incorrectly, it may overload your capacity and harm your reputation.
There are thousands of ways to scale your program. Here are the three things I always suggest:
1. Build a Solid Team
This is the most common problem I see with affiliate programs. Without the right team in place, you simply won’t succeed. There are three main options, so you’ll need to decide which one fits your company.
First, you can build an in-house team. The main pro here is that your team will be your team, meaning members will be truly passionate about your product. This quality might be hard to find in outsourced workers. However, an in-house manager will likely be inexperienced, so you’ll have to spend time training him.
An outsourced team or outsourced program management is another option. There are numerous agencies that will handle the day-to-day business and growth of your program, and their costs will differ based on what services you receive. An outsourced team provides many different skill sets and several point people for each project (a data person, a senior affiliate manager, etc.)
Lastly, you can look into an outsourced network. These networks manage affiliate programs for a monthly fee. They offer streamlined affiliate relations as well as marketing resources for your program. Because this network manages all aspects of your program, its costs reflect that. This decreases overhead costs compared to in-house hiring and ensures your program is taken care of by many skilled hands, from start to finish.
2. Diversify Your Group of Affiliates
It’s common to have a small group of affiliates generating a large percentage of your volume, but to run a successful large-scale program, you need to diversify your sales sources. Never let a single affiliate generate more than 25 percent of your total volume, and include a good mix of coupon, shopping, and content sites.You’ll also need to diversify your distribution plan. Reaching new audiences with your brand will only increase your growth. Make sure your traffic is spread across a few verticals so you can mitigate risk if a campaign falters.Above all, be proactive. The best affiliates are worth pursuing.
3. Understand the Competitive Landscape
Remember that you’re competing for affiliates and sales. Research your competitors’ commission rates, whether their product is more valuable than yours, and whether they’re easy to work with. Make your program the easiest to work with, and offer the highest commission rate you can. Like any other customers, affiliates want the best.
Scaling an affiliate program takes research and work. But starting with these three elements puts you well on your way to building a successful large-scale program.