Affiliates, Affiliate Managers, strategy

Keeping Affiliates Live – The Real Struggle as an Affiliate Manager

This month, Stefan Muehlbauer writes for us about the struggles faced by an Affiliate Manager. Stefan is an accomplished speaker when it comes to Affiliate Management and everything that surrounds it. 

Words: Stefan Muehlbauer, Public Speaker and Author…

It’s widely known, that you need to put around seven times more effort into gaining a new client than you do retaining one. This rule is certainly true when we speak about a brick-and-mortar business. 

When it comes to Affiliate Management, the situation is different. It is not hard to attract new Affiliates into your program, and often it’s not particularly problematic, but once everything is up and running and it seems to be smooth sailing – that’s where the real challenge begins! Take some time to conduct an audit of the portfolio of all Affiliates and you will see the amount of partners that stop over time can be huge.

What are the reasons why Affiliates stop (or become small passive partners)? 

It’s important to understand the difference between the reasons that we can control and those we can not. 

Out of your control:

Personal reasons: Illness, family situations, a focus on activities other than work – like taking a sabbatical.
Test of other advertisers: Even if we do everything perfectly, Affiliates will test other advertisers as well; it’s a part of their job. If the new partner program performs a lot better than us then we have lost a partner.
Shift of vertical: New verticals are born every few months. This can motivate an Affiliate to test these new offers and maybe they have more success here. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a completely new one. They may have found a method to rock something that you don’t have.

Within your control:

Earnings per Click (EPC): If others are doing better, see how you can match the EPC of the Affiliate. That can be achieved in many ways: Keeping your promo tools up-to-date, following trends and include those trends in your landing pages and banners and provide it to the Affiliate. See if there is the possibility of bumping the payout. Often Affiliates qualify for that. I highly recommend giving a small bump to the best performers even if they don’t request it. Just ensure that they keep the quality minimum on the same level as the current traffic. You can also give the affiliate the Sub IDs that perform best and switch from a CPL/CPA Model to Revshare. Your company may lose a little profit at first, but long term it will pay off with loyalty and this article is about how to keep Affiliates live and not about how to make a quick buck.
Bad Service: Not replying in time, a lack of proactive outreach about updates or problems, etc. is a massive issue. Have every detail about your Affiliate in a CRM System. Every decent solution on the market will offer you a task or reminder functionality. Put here everything that you have to provide for an Affiliate with an alert. This way, you will never forget anything that you promise to perform. If  you are unable to deliver on any particular aspect, then communicate the reason behind this openly.
Finance: Delays in payouts, missing payouts, etc. are an absolute disaster. It can massively influence the cash flow of your Affiliates and you should do anything to avoid that. Take complaints about this issue from Affiliates as an absolute priority and prepare asap a PoP (Proof of Payment) to show that you paid on time (if you did of course). When an Affiliate provides you with new payment details, never delay the update. Forward your finance department wishes of Affiliates regarding payment options like eWallets and Crypto. Also, offer bigger partners a higher frequency of payment.
Technical issues: Some of them occur too often or are so critical that you lose partners. The maintenance of the program from a technical point of view is not the job of the Affiliate Manager, but the fast communication towards the right department or supervisor is. Also, proper communication towards Affiliates and not beating around the bush are important for trust.
Shaving: Don’t do it! Even if the Affiliate gets a higher payout and has in the end the same EPC, it will take away conversions, and fewer conversions means less optimisation for the Affiliate.
Neglected: Probably the most common reason why Affiliates stop. Once all is set up and running, managers shift their focus too much on the new partners. Often, it is also the program’s fault that set the wrong targets (how many new partners have you started this month?)

What are some additional things we can do to prevent a drain of active partners?

Incentives: Keep Affiliates motivated. Employed Affiliates, for example, will in most cases not get the bonus of a payout that you make as an incentive. But if you send a physical gift they will often be allowed to keep this. Trips and experiences are something that usually motivate.
Monitoring: Have mechanisms in place to spot the immediate development of Affiliates and react in time. In most cases, it is enough to have a weekly report that compares:

  • Drop or increase in traffic
  • Drop or increase in conversion
  • Drop or increase in EPC

Not only should there be immediate interaction with the partner if there is a drop, but it should also take place when there is a positive impact to show you are really on top of your game!

Solution Orientated: Always try to help an Affiliate with their requests. Affiliates are not only a fabulous information source when it comes to insights and new ways of working, but often these inputs can be integrated into your company much more easily than it may seem at the start.

Stefan Muehlbauer is a recognised name when it comes to Affiliate Management. In Dubai 2024 at the Affiliate World Conferences award show, he also won in the Category “Affiliate Manager of the Year” In 2023 he published his first book “The Affiliate Management Starter Kit” (All readers of the Affiverse blog qualify for a 25% discount with the code Friends25) and shares his knowledge every year in 20-30 keynotes around the globe.

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