The Best of 2012: A Year In Review

Affiliate marketing best of 2012With 2013 only a day away I spent some time thinking about the last year and all the incredible things we’ve seen and done. I am extremely grateful for what we’ve been able to experience this year and it was an absolute pleasure to be part of the affiliate marketing industry throughout 2012.  Here are some of my personal highlights & “20 best” personal experiences of the year. In no particular order:

  1. Being listed in Affiliate Summit’s Top 25 Affiliate Marketing Blogs of 2012
  2. Having achieved over 10,000 unique readers during my first year of blogging.
  3. Actively contributing to the Industry Advancement Council and efforts of the PMA
  4. Organizing and launching the first annual Vancouver Affiliate Marketers Give Back event which helped men, women and children in need in Vancouver.
  5. Meeting and conversing with the great Gary Vaynerchuk
  6. Having someone I deeply admire and respect, Carolyn Kmet, join our team!
  7. Having the opportunity to mentor two young female entrepreneurs who are passionate about our industry
  8. Consulting for billionaires
  9. Enjoying time in the Bahamas while working with Sandals Resorts and meeting with their incredible team
  10. Working with respected brands such as Sea World, Sandals, Best Buy, Blurb, Abe’s Market, Kiyonna, Leading Lady, Dearfoams, Baggallini, LifeLock, Wondershare and more
  11. Expanding our global reach to work with clients in Canada, the US, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Ireland, Australia, Finland, Sweden and the Middle East.
  12. Contributing to several fundraising projects with fellow affiliate marketers to help raise money for Breast Cancer Research, Big Brothers and support those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
  13. Speaking at the first ever Affiliate Management Days Conference and leading a workshop at the Online Marketing Summit
  14. Being interviewed on several podcasts (The Buzz, GeekCast, QAQN, PMA) and being featured on Performance Marketer Insider TV
  15. Contributing the “Affiliate Marketing for Merchants” course at The School of Internet Marketing
  16. Successfully launching AffiliateManagementTrainers.com and creating Affiligate.org (launching 2013) to help Affiliate Managers learn how to better serve their affiliates, optimize their programs, become more profitable and enjoy sustainable growth
  17. Being chosen as the head instructor of Affiliate Marketing at the Online Marketing Institute
  18. Being asked to submit a speaking proposal for a TEDx event in Vancouver
  19. Becoming a contributor of Small Business Trends
  20. MOST IMPORTANTLY – Enjoying my baby girl’s first year of life (while still having the opportunity to experience the list above)!
I’m so grateful to everyone who allowed 2012 to be so successful for us (and me personally)! Thank you for the amazing opportunities, the referrals, and the friendships. I feel so honoured and grateful for everything good that has come our way.
I look forward to continuing to serve the industry, to help move it forward and to continue to give back to those around me. Further (and most importantly), I look forward to spending more time with my children, my family and friends. 2012 was a year to be remembered, and I look forward to what the future brings!
To each of you, have a safe and wonderful New Year tonight! I look forward to seeing you all in 2013!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

I just wanted to drop a note to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays for those of you celebrating Christmas next week. I will be away with my family enjoying time with my kids, singing Christmas Carols, having hot apple cider, turkey and lamb roasts and enjoying the smells of Christmas around our homes.

For us it’s a time for family and friends and although I will be offline and enjoying a break until the new year, I will be thinking of you warmly and hoping you’re enjoying your time together too.

Have a wonderful next few days and I look forward to seeing you again in 2013!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Respectfully,

Sarah Bundy

How To Set Up an Affiliate Program Dream Team

Affiliate Program Management TeamOne of my frequent readers asked a question of me I thought was a fabulous topic, and a much overlooked question by many. The question was “How do you set up an effective affiliate / or performance marketing team? What positions do you feel are vital?” Great, question! Thanks for asking it.

The best affiliate managers I know have a variety of skills, and the best affiliate programs generally have an entire team of skilled people working on different aspects of the program. Here are the roles and skill sets I would recommend in order to build your powerhouse affiliate marketing team.

 

1. Program Manager (aka: Affiliate Manager, Account Manager, Affiliate Marketing Specialist)

This is your main contact person who executes the day to day tasks of your affiliate program. They should in extremely friendly, love helping people, be professional and responsive and have a quick turnaround on urgent tasks. They should be knowledgeable about the affiliate marketing space, know what issues to look out for, how to motivate affiliates, how to drive sales and understand numbers and at the very least, understand some basic HTML in order to understand basic tracking issues and help affiliates with code implementation on creatives like banners and text links as needed.Generally it’s this person’s job to take care of all affiliates, recruit new affiliates, get them set up and motive them to perform.

These people (when first coming into the industry) usually come in from either a sales, communications or customer service background.

 

2. Technical / Back-end Support

This person’s job is to help with creative uploads, tracking issues and questions, fraud monitoring, reporting and at times research. They should have a technical / analytical mind and be able to handle a lot of things thrown at them at once. They should also be able to have a fast turnaround on questions / inquiries as they come in.

 

3. Graphic Designer

In order to turn over high quality banners, landing pages and other creative work, it’s a good idea to have a solid graphic designer as part of your affiliate team. This person’s job is to create new banners with each season, create exclusive banners when asked by the affiliate manager and keep the program and the company brand looking aesthetically exceptional. They should be familiar with banner best practices, common size requests and have several design capabilities for static, animation and flash work as needed.

 

4. Team Leader / Program Strategist

This person is responsible for managing the entire affiliate marketing team and leading them to continued success. The team leader ensures items are being completed in a timely manner, that goals are being met, that team members are performing according to internal requirements (or better), working with the executive team on placement, positioning, budgets and main messaging, then communicating that to the rest of the team for consistency and proper execution. In the case of an outsourced affiliate management agency such as our own (and even internally) that person would either be the CMO, VP of Marketing or VP of Affiliate Marketing.

For some smaller companies, one person has to fill all these rolls, however those with a more formal structure, larger budgets and a more vested interest in their affiliate marketing program will consider at least these four positions to start. On a separate note – depending on the size of the business, there may be multiple affiliate marketing teams internally focused on different geographic regions, each of which would have at least one if not all of the listed four roles.

How To Group Your Affiliates for Success

Affiliate Marketign Groups & TypesThis week the question, “What are the different affiliates types or groups you use to be successful in your programs?” was asked of me. Great question.

Although there is no “standard” answer since many businesses have their own definition and breakdown of affiliates, here are my personal 17 key affiliate types and groups that help us remain successful in our affiliate program management.

 

1. Search Affiliates (PPC)

These are affiliates who use use pay per click efforts to drive the bulk of their sites. They may have their own landing pages which include affiliate links or perhaps direct link to the merchant site using their affiliate link as a redirect. Regardless, they pay for traffic to go where they need it to.

 

2. Content Affiliates (strictly SEO)

Content affiliates create original content on static sites, such as About.com or Top10Review type sites, then use their SEO experience to drive traffic through natural search results. These can be extremely useful for article type exposure, niche sites, review sites and second and third tier search engines, not to mention international search engine rankings.

 

3. Bloggers (community, personal opinions)

Affiliate program managers work extremely hard to find and build relationships with influential bloggers because of their ability to suede buying behavior with their large communities and loyal fan base. They have dynamic opinion pieces that fall into just about any vertical or niche, rank highly in search results, often have double opt in followers and are extremely social savvy. Bloggers will continue to thrive and grow as affiliate marketers for years to come.

 

4. Social Affiliates (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc)

I’ve separated social affiliates from bloggers because some affiliates don’t blog but do use Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (as examples) to promote affiliate links and drive traffic to merchant sites. In these cases, as an affiliate manager, I may group someone as “social” and “blogger”, for example, if they do both.

 

5. Emailers

Email marketing affiliates are generally stronger in the CPA / Lead Gen arena, but not always. Coupon and loyalty sites, for example, often have opt in mailing lists of several hundred thousand subscribers who are waiting on that next big deal. Anyone who uses email marketing to drive targeted traffic to the merchant site using their affiliate link would go in this category.

 

6. Coupon / Daily Deal Sites

Sites like BradsDeals.com and Savings.com are examples of coupon and daily deal site. They often have large followings, millions of visitors per month and turn over millions of products for merchants regularly. These are the sites that feature coupon codes for free shipping, $10 off and high discount products.

 

7. Loyalty Sites

Loyalty sites are similar to coupon sites yet they subscribe “members” who earn points, cash back or are able to select a charity to donate some of the affiliate commission to during their checkout. Although there are some good loyalty sites, affiliate managers must be very cautious in working with those with toolbars and other technologies that drive traffic away from the merchant site yet still earn commission on completed sales.

 

8. Offline (TV, print, radio, etc)

This is an often overlooked category of affiliates, yet extremely powerful when the right partners are found. TV, print, radio, and even word of mouth opportunities can be extremely lucrative for affiliate programs when exclusive landing page tracking, coupon codes and phone number are used to reward sales.

 

9. Podcasters

An area that’s been growing over the last year are affiliates who are using Podcasting to drive sales through their podcast series (offline approach) or through their show landing pages which feature affiliate links. I believe this is an area that will continue to grow, especially with the introduction of PodCasting tools like Spreaker.com.

 

10. Merchant / JV

Another overlooked affiliate group are the merchants and join venture partners themselves. This works when a merchant offers affiliate links on their confirmation page or in emails to their consumers, or when affiliate program managers offer to promote non-competing yet complimentary products within their network.

 

11. Video (YouTubers)

Yes, YouTube does allow affiliate links to be displayed in the descriptions of videos, though they look a little bulky when posted. Alternatively YouTubers will use redirects or landing pages with their affiliate links and create the video to drive traffic to those pages. It’s difficult these days to make money as a YouTuber strictly, but when combined with affiliate marketing opportunities can become extremely profitable.

 

12. Datafeed Affiliates

This group of affiliates uses product datafeeds to create content on their sites. Some affiliates will manipulate the core datafeed files themselves, and others will use tools such as Popshops or Datafeedr to help. The reason these are listed separately from Shopping Comparison Engines is because some affiliates will not use datafeeds for price comparisons but rather niche product listings while others have content sites or blogs they support purchasing behavior with using product feeds.

 

13. SCE (Shopping Comparison Engines)

TheFind.com is probably one of the most well known SCE affiliates out here, though Google is now dabbling with the idea as well. Some “invitation only” merchants have been able to stay listed on a performance model within Google’s Shopping Engine (also known as Froogle.com). These types of affiliates are exactly how they sound – shopping comparison engines with every product you could possibly imagine.

 

14. Sub Networks

Sub networks are affiliates that have other affiliates that work under them. The merchant doesn’t know who the sub network’s affiliates are or how they are driving sales because all credit goes to the sub network who pays out however way they please. Examples of sub networks are skimlinks and viglink.

 

15. Mobile

The mobile affiliate segment is continuing to grow (good news) though it’s still not as strong as other channels yet.  A company called JunoWallet for example was one of the first pioneering mobile affiliates in the space (who have now changed their payment model). However when they first started doing this, they created an app where people could sign up for “free gift cards” which they could download and redeem in store or online. The gift cards worked similarly to a coupon code, however instead of a code, it would actually say “$10 Gift Card” and JunoWallet would use their own tracking platform to report on downloads and redemption. This is just an example of how affiliates could use mobile apps, or PPC or storefronts to drive traffic and be rewarded on a performance base.

 

16. Technology

Some people will categories this as “other” and that’s OK too. But the idea is these affiliates use technologies and service offerings they create and rather than charging for it upfront, they bill based on completed actions. An example of this is a company called VEInteractive. These guys provide shopping cart abandonment solutions on a performance base. For example, if a customer is half way through the checkout and does not compete their sale, VEInteractive will re-target that “dropout” to drive them back to complete the order. Then once they do, VEInteractive would earn commission on the sale. “But, wouldn’t this get expensive after a while and be worth investing in your own shopping card abandonment options?”. Yes. But for some companies who lack the short term development budget, the expertise, the time or a flexible shopping cart platform, this might be a good solution.

 

17. International

I usually group these separately because it’s important to know who I can reach out to when targeting Canadian buyers, French buyers, UK buyers, Australian buyers and so on. When it comes to international affiliates (which I define by reaching targeted traffic outside of the main target geographic region) I generally tag them as “International” and whatever marketing method they use listed above.

Ultimately there are many different types of affiliates out there and more are being introduced each day, but by grouping your affiliates into appropriate types, groups or “tags” you will be able to communicate more accurate information and marketing tips relevant to their needs, which will produce higher affiliate satisfaction, more active affiliates and increased sales.

Affiliate Home Parties Create New Opportunities for Merchants

blurb affiliate program innovative ideasOver the weekend an affiliate friend of mine decided to try something new with some friends. One of my top performing affiliates over the past 8 years, Leanne, decided to combine the Arbone / Mary Kay “Home Party” model to one of our clients, Blurb.

She invited several of her friends who are veteran scrapbookers and photo-albumists to try out Blurb’s self book publishing platform. She prepared by becoming initimately familiar with their online book building tools and asked our affiliate manager for exclusive codes for each of her guests. Brilliant.

Although this was a trial run with friends to see the response rate and get feedback from attendees to tweak her approach and learn how people would respond to her strategy, the response by those who came was incredible. Everyone who attended brought their laptop and sat building their books on the spot, asking questions that Leanne could answer because of her familiarity with the platform, and at no cost to the attendees due to the exclusive coupons offered by Blurb.

As an affiliate, she can monetize this by charging future attendees for her “Book Building Workshops” while also earning affiliate commission through completed books. Further she gets to create original content for her related blog, which potentially triples her income.

This is an example of how innovative affiliates can bring great value to merchants while finding creative ways to increase revenues. I take my hat off to you, Leanne, as always, for trying something new that will absolutely pay itself off. Well done.

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