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Why Affiliate Programs need more “Customer Culture”
14 July 2020 17:36pm
So many affiliate programs focus solely on the acquisition of affiliates without also considering how they will retain them once those initial connections are made. Creating a good customer culture in your affiliate program is important.
What is “customer culture” and how can it benefit you and your affiliates? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Customer Culture?
Customer culture is not customer service.
By dictionary definition this is: “The process in which a company understands what it’s customers need and want and develops products and services to meet these needs accordingly”
For me, it is the process in which you make your customer, in this case your affiliate partner, feel like they are a valued part of your enterprise. It is having processes in place with your staff to ensure that they are taking the time to really understand your affiliate needs, and to encourage and have open dialogue in the form of clear “two way” feedback and performance measurements that enable better results on both sides.
In affiliate programs specifically, customer culture is really the link that is formed between affiliate and affiliate manager and the functions of that working relationship as part of the overall execution of support task and delivery. Too often affiliates are seen as another lead generation channel of digital marketing vs. an extension of your actual marketing team. Fixing this disconnect and perception can be the difference between a program that performs and one that really doesn’t.
Why is it important to implement a customer culture in your program?
A big part of getting your customer culture right in your affiliate program relies on your account management team understanding the affiliate’s journey end to end versus just trying to push for more sales and exposure. The art of building a customer culture that is felt from the first outreach is a key part of ensuring affiliates stay aligned to your brand and loyal to your offering. It starts with understanding exactly how your affiliates come to find you and what processes you have in place to take them forward to actively working with you. This could be as simple as looking at where they have come from, for example, have they been poached from another manager as an internal transfer or did they find you organically via Google, were inactive but suddenly reactivated or were they referred to join your program by someone else.
Understanding your affiliates customer journey can really help you improve your customer culture, keep affiliates engaged, and promote active promotion of your program offering in comparison to your competition which impacts your program performance and drives consistent sales. It’s a win win for all sides, but it takes a bit of time to implement and nurture both internally and outwardly in the affiliate community too.
It simply isn’t good enough to claim that your affiliate program has great customer service. Affiliates expect more. They have a wider choice of brands to promote and every detail you implement in your program has an impact on your success in gaining traction with high traffic volume driving affiliate sites.
You need to make sure that you are listening to your affiliates during every step of their journey with you. Having regular direct interaction with your program and your account management team allows you to collect responses to offers, processes and ways in which affiliates want to be supported. Listening instead of talking is often key to getting this done.
How to Create a Positive Customer Culture in your program
The best customer cultures are always built around a relationship between a business and its customers. You need to make sure that your affiliates feel like they are a valuable part of the business community and an extension of your staff or team instead of just another cog in the machine.
One of the easiest ways to do so is to have regular focus groups with a snapshot of partners who drive traffic to your site in a number of different ways. It’s also helpful to educate your affiliate managers about strategic management and customer service techniques that can help them to optimise their affiliate relationships even when difficult conversations need to be had. Many affiliate managers fall into the trap of only contacting their affiliates when they first join the program then leaving them to find success on their own. They give them the tools they need to get started, but then fail to follow up regularly. This can lead to the affiliate either trailing away or even potentially jumping to another program to start the cycle again.
Instead, you need to make sure that you are regularly touching base with your affiliates. This could be through one-on-one sessions or more generally depending on your style of management and the size of your affiliate program through engagement content like surveys, quizzes and focus groups. When you get the results back, analyse what has been said and take the time to make some of the improvements recommended. This will show your affiliates that you are committed to creating the best possible environment for them.
A few tools for Nurturing a Customer Culture
As with any other aspect of business, you need to make sure that you have the right tools by your side to implement changes as you need them. When it comes to creating a stellar customer culture, this is often best done with traditional CRM tools and also using the affiliate management portal technology or interface. Ongoing account management and digital marketing or affiliate training is a key part of ensuring your affiliate account management teams remain abreast of digital disruption, and perform at the top of their game to follow through on enforcing customer culture in your program. On the job training is a given in this industry, being in affiliate marketing means - signing up for continuous learning and that starts with investing in expertise that can help your staff improve delivery and performance.
You also cannot deny the strength of the customer survey. By finding a good platform to issue them from, you should be able to find out a lot of interesting data about your affiliates that you can use to create a better customer culture for them to enjoy working hard for you.
By using a combination these ideas, you should have everything you need at your fingertips to create an affiliate customer culture that is both responsive and ready to adapt to the needs of your affiliates as required.
Implement Customer Culture in your affiliate program today
You need to make sure that you have the best possible customer culture in place as this can really help to retain your affiliates and make them feel like a valued part of your brand. Retention is just as key as acquisition, and you need to make sure that you are targeting both parts within your affiliate strategy.
When was the last time you reached out to your affiliates to assess their opinions towards your customer culture? If it has been a while, or if you are yet to do it, you should start preparing a survey and making positive changes as soon as you can. During these uncertain times it’s really important to ensure your digital marketing and affiliate teams are prepared to get competitive in the way they manage their relationships. There is no doubt that the affiliate industry is still growing fast and it’s getting fierce. Brands who want to benefit from performance marketing need to ensure they stand out and get heard!