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.

5 Myths About Your Affiliates

There are several misconceptions that merchants have about their affiliates and their affiliate marketing programs. Here are 5 common myths I’ve come across over the years.

1. Affiliates Work for You

Affiliates work WITH you, not for you. They work for themselves. Many merchants have the mentality that affiliates are their employees or subcontractors. They are not.

The beauty of being an affiliate is that you have the freedom to pick and chose what merchants you want to work with, which products you want to promote, which hours you want to work, what you want your website to look like and how you want to market them.

Affiliates can be anything from stay at home moms and dads to large corporations looking to further monetize their websites.

So how, then, do you work with them? As valued partners. As respected peers. You have to ask nicely, show them that you care, provide the tools they need, have good response times to their questions and inquiries and respect that they have the right and freedom to work with you or not.

It’s your job as the merchant to provide them with the value they are looking for and a solid working relationship so they feel happy and confident promoting you and your brand.

2. Affiliates Don’t Want To Be Reached Out To

It’s true that not every affiliate wants to be called at home or constantly harassed by email, but for the most part, the vast majority of affiliates want to be reached out to.

Better yet, affiliates are shocked when you personally find the time to look through their website and call them to explore ideas or send them a personal message to see how they are doing, if they need anything or had any questions about your program.

Affiliates need to be communicated with. How else do they get the most relevant information that’s applicable only to them? Or ask the questions they’ve been wondering about how to best position or sell your niche products?

Most affiliate managers send a newsletter one a month or once a quarter. However you’ll get better results if you do a little more. Try personal outreach. Host a live webinar where affiliates can ask you questions about your program or how to better position your products so you can ALL have better sales.

If you must rely on your monthly newsletter being your only form of outreach, try to include as much information as possible to help them make better decisions and updates to pre-sell your products on their websites. Things like best sellers, new products, new features on your website, upcoming sales, new banners or text links or videos should all be included.

I would even take this one step further and encourage you to segment your affiliate list to send separate newsletters to different groups of affiliates depending on their level of expertise and performance. You don’t want to send basic tips and tricks on Facebook marketing to an affiliate who strictly does PPC, and you don’t what to send data feed updates to affiliates who only have a content site and strictly use text links.

The point is, affiliates need relevant information and they need to know you’re looking out for them. This way, you can work together to find the best possible solutions that will help them, and you, get the sale.

3. You Should Only Care About Your Top 1% of Affiliates

This is a very dangerous belief that a lot of merchants seem to take. Think of it this way, if you only have 100 affiliates in your program, with 1 (your top 1%) producing all your program’s sales, you have just put all your eggs in one basket.

What happens if that affiliate decides to leave your program? Or one of your competitors comes along and snatches them up instead? Your program has just gone from high performance to zero performance overnight.

Instead, spend time taking care of your higher performing affiliates, but also look to bring in new potential high performers as well as help the guys who are already in your program.

You never know if someone already in your program who’s relatively new in the field will end up being one of your best performers, and they are simply waiting for you to work with them before they break out.

4. Affiliates are Thieves and Scammers

Affiliate marketing has had a bad reputation for a long time due to unethical behavior from a few affiliates as well as the quick fix, porn, gaming or get rich quick schemes.

Fortunately there are also a TON of ethical affiliates who work hard, put forth the honest time, effort and financial investment, and have a legitimate business for themselves.

These guys follow the rules, honor your program terms of service and are able to capture the right targeted audience with the same skill and technique that some of the leading marketing agencies in the world use.

From this, it’s important to know how to identify fraudulent affiliates in order to better protect your program, but also important how to recruit super affiliates who just know what they are doing, and do it right.

5. Affiliates Should Perform Immediately or You Should Kick Them Out

First of all, unless an affiliate has done something incredibly unethical, illegal or diminishing to your brand, it’s better not to kick an affiliate out of your program.

Here’s why:

Your affiliates, being self employed and in high demand, are extremely busy people. Many affiliates sign up for multiple programs at the same time and don’t always get to them right away.

Some affiliates sign up for a program because they have a domain that would be suitable for your products but haven’t had a chance to launch their new site yet.

Other affiliates are simply new to affiliate marketing (or internet marketing in general) and are still trying to figure out the best way to promote your product or brand while they learn the ropes. There is no reason they can’t become a top producer for you within a few months.

There are a hundred reasons why your affiliates haven’t gotten you up on their site yet, but it’s important to know that one day they may, and that it could mean a lot of sales for you.

Affiliate marketing is a long term strategy. If you want fast results, launch a Paid Search campaign. However if you want to work with your affiliates as valued partners, you’ll both need to invest in a relationship together, both working to understand the others’ needs and desires, then finding a way to help each other achieve them. Usually as the affiliate manager, that next step comes from you and your affiliate outreach strategies.

As a merchant you need to help educate your affiliates about your products or services, what works well to convert sales, what keywords perform over others, what products sell better than others, what value propositions or words to use in their copy and so on. Ultimately, they need to test these things themselves, specific to their website traffic and make adjustments that work for them.

Not every affiliate is going to work the same way and not every method is going to be successful for each affiliate. Just like any other marketing channel, you (and they) need to test what works, measure, tweak and try again. It’s a process and it takes time. So give it the time it needs to grow and flourish into something beautiful and profitable for all.



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