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Five marketing and sales skills every affiliate manager should nurture

By Lee-Ann Johnstone, CEO



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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November 17, 2020 | 7 min read

Affiliate program management - as a career choice is still not that widely promoted in mainstream digital agencies. Many people still fall into affiliate marketing through either customer service or sales. From the outset, a career in affiliate marketing may not look as attractive as other digital mediums like media or social which have had more visibility in recent years. Being head of an affiliate program can be a complex job to master when you first dive into this sector.

Affiliate Insider share top tips for streamlining affiliate management.

Affiliate Insider share top tips for streamlining affiliate management.

Here are five skills you need to make sure you hone if you want to succeed in this industry.

1) Hone your media buying expertise; it impacts your program’s margin of profit

Negotiating real estate on affiliate portals means you need to have a good sense of commercial selling and how to value different traffic sources. At the end of the day, this is a business, and you need to be able to make the right media advertising decisions that will help the business succeed and meet your overall customer acquisition targets.

The affiliate marketplace can chop and change at any given notice, based on supply and demand on traffic sources, so you need to be prepared to make the right changes to your program terms to be able to keep up. Another part of this acumen will be your sales skills. Not only do you have to be able to sell your products and program usp’s commercially, but you should also look to sell your brand values too. Affiliates should want to interact with you, and you have to have the skills necessary to close the deal and get that affiliate to convert as a loyal partner in your program.

2) Develop your digital knowledge and expertise; Affiliate management is a vocation not a job

Affiliate program managers live in a digital world, and it is a space that they need to have expert knowledge of. You need to know how to best price and leverage any digital traffic source that your affiliates are bringing to the table. You also need to be looking ahead at future digital trends to spot new sources of traffic as affiliates are finding them and expand your program reach to include these new sources in your partner mix.

You also need to have the technical know-how to be able to support new types of digital traffic sources within your program. For example, app traffic and tracking works differently to web-based traffic and often, there is data that affiliates may want to get access to that isn’t readily available in your network or in house tracking platform.

3) Build a rapport with strangers; Communication is key

You need to make sure that you have an excellent customer culture built into your affiliate program. There are more programs than affiliates, so how will you be making sure traffic drivers are working in yours vs the competition. Relationships still matter in this industry and as a program manager you need to be adept at selling not just your program and it’s offering but yourself as a brand ambassador and someone affiliates can trust and build business rapport with.

All program managers should have good relationship building and entrepreneurial mindset in order to identify and relate to their affiliate partners more closely. These skills are key to both construct and maintain key relationships to help affiliates and keep your program and offering front of mind. Make sure you are actively working on your networking and relationships at all times to be able to maintain these crucial relationships.

4) Understand the basic principles of marketing; Marketing changes constantly

Every affiliate manager needs to have a keen insight into what current effective strategies apply to their programs, especially in terms of digital marketing and advertising. These are key ways that you can attract new affiliates to your program, and they in turn can attract customers of their own to your bottom line. Understanding basic marketing principles and how to apply them to market your program on mass can help scale your offering a lot quicker than 1:1 partner outreach.

However, advertising trends change fairly frequently. What might be effective one month could be outdated the next. Take a look at how COVID has impacted affiliate traffic, how google trends and algorithm changes can impact your program and individual partner performance. You need to be cognisant of how these impact your program marketing and growth.

You need to be fully prepared to make changes to the program as needed to always stay ahead of the trends and of course market regulations and best practice guidelines. You also need to be able to properly analyse your analytics to determine whether or not a path is working for you. Just because it is currently big in the world of digital marketing does not always mean that your customers will respond to it in the way you are imagining.

5) Understand advertising compliance and regulation; You're responsible for how affiliates promote your brand

Finally, you need to make sure that you fully understand all the codes and advertising standards that adhere to your job. This isn’t all about sales and marketing. Often affiliate managers have to play a role in actively ensuring affiliates remain compliant and are marketing your brand effectively across multiple channels. There are many different regulations that all might have an impact on your business, and there is no excuse for not following them.

This becomes even more important when you make the leap up to trading across multiple countries. Every jurisdiction is going to have its own set of regulations. You might even find that there are different rules that apply to two areas within the same country. No matter what, you need to ensure that you have an ear to the ground so you are always able to keep your program as compliant as can be.

Affiliate management provides a rewarding and fast paced digital career opportunity that can lead to wider senior marketing roles. You could be developing programs in-house to run on your own, or you could be building upon an existing network.

Either way, the above five skills can help you to push forward and build a successful program that affiliates will love and that you’ll be proud of!

Lee-Ann Johnstone, CEO at Affiliate Insider.


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We are an award-winning digital & affiliate marketing agency and content hub. Our founder Lee-Ann has been in affiliate marketing for almost two decades and...

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