As the affiliate marketing industry continues to expand, brands are searching for expertise outside of their existing marketing staff by hiring an affiliate management agency. Why? Affiliate marketing brings unique challenges and tactics that can be time-consuming and come with a steep learning curve. Keeping the program on “auto-pilot” or assigned to a team member with other responsibilities does now allow for the program to reach its full potential. In addition, programs not closely managed are susceptible to fraud. Partnering with an agency or freelancer that can leverage existing relationships and skills is a great way to jumpstart your program.
However, not all agencies are created equal. Below are some ‘red flags’ as well as questions I recommend asking prior to signing a contract with an affiliate management agency. I also included a list of recommended agencies, with Robbins Interactive included of course.
Price is too good to be true.
As with many things in life, a low cost is not necessarily effective. There are several affiliate management agencies that come in strong with big promises and low monthly fees. However, your program will not get the attention it deserves. Many times the price is lower because the account managers have over 30 accounts to manage. Even with great support, it is challenging for a program to reach its full potential with this type of client load.
The experience of your direct contact is key.
During the sales process, you may be talking to incredibly experienced affiliate managers but will they be your point of contact once you sign on the dotted line? Request to speak to and understand the experience of your assigned account manager versus the owner and business development manager. Recently, I saw an aggressive agency’s senior account manager with less than one year of experience. At my agency, and others, that level of experience is considered a coordinator, not a manager.
One sign that account managers are regularly overworked is high employee turnover. In addition, managing a program takes consistency to truly understand your brand and positioning. If you are getting a new affiliate manager every few months, your program will suffer.
Big fish. Little fish.
Bigger is not always better. Are there some great large agencies? Absolutely! I want to preface that there are benefits to larger agencies with strong clientele, due to their inroads with existing affiliates. However, there are also benefits to the small and medium-sized agencies.
First, let’s address the bias here. Yes, I am a small agency. There was a time when I thought bigger was better. However, I learned that these larger agencies don’t offer more resources than my small agency. The client still gets one manager and a coordinator. So the question becomes whether your brand is large enough to get the attention it needs (and the ROI) with one of the larger agencies.
Get the details. Ask for details about their client’s programs. For instance, ask what percentage of their programs’ revenue is from coupon/loyalty affiliates versus content affiliates? It is easy to grow a program with a strong loyalty affiliate that automatically applies its codes to your existing customers. Finding quality content affiliates that provide incremental revenue is more time-consuming but dramatically more impactful to your brand.
Be Wary Of Grandeious Claims
Is the agency promising to 10 fold your affiliate revenue without looking under the ‘hood’ of your program? Are they promising instant success? A solid affiliate management agency will be upfront that it can take 3-6 months to get a program humming. While there is incremental success along the way, partnerships take time to develop and negotiate, especially when you are working with content affiliates. If they are promising you the moon, make sure to check out their rocket ship.
Questions To Ask Your Affiliate Management Agency
Below is a list of questions to give you further insight into the agency.
- What is your client retention?
- How do you manage competitive brands for clients?
- What percentage breakouts for your program are coupon, loyalty, and deal versus content affiliates?
- What tools do you offer to prevent trademark bidding and ad hijacking?
- What type of reports do you provide and how often?
- How often will I have a call with my affiliate manager?
- What is your outreach strategy?
- How much experience do your affiliate managers have that directly manage programs?
- What is the average tenure of your affiliate managers?
- How many programs does an affiliate manager maintain?
- What support does your manager have?
- How often do I receive reporting?
- How often do I meet with my manager?
- Can I talk with the person who will be managing my program?
- What percentage of your programs’ revenue comes from coupon/loyalty affiliates vs content focused affiliates
- What is your outreach strategy?
- How many hours a week do you spend on outreach?
- Do you have existing relationships within my niche?
Recommend Affiliate Management Agencies
Of course, I would love to recommend Robbins Interactive but we are far from being the only ethical agency out there. Here is a list of agencies I know personally and recommend. They are in alphabetical order to avoid any favoritism.