Anyone that has spent time in sales or trying to bring in clients has had dreams of landing the big fish. I know I spent a fair share of my time in sales chasing big clients. What I didn’t know early on was that while I spent a large portion of time trying to land the big ones, I was overlooking the smaller clients that later proved to be our bread and butter.
With this month’s topic of Lessons Learned, I want to share with you a few things I learned over the years through my experiences in sales and how this lesson applies to the two main players in Affiliate Marketing, Merchants and Affiliates.
In between chasing the so called big fish, there were also many small to medium-sized retailers that came to us looking to establish an Affiliate Program. I usually didn’t have high expectations for smaller retailers based on perceived limited potential due to a lack of brand recognition or stature in the e-commerce world. Whether it was an established merchant in a very small niche (rubber stamps anyone?), or a small merchant in a very large niche such as pet products, these retailers proved me wrong time and time again. After a while, I learned to not make snap judgments about prospective clients no matter how limited they appeared to be on the surface.
The lesson here as it applies to Merchants and Affiliates is simple. When you’re evaluating a potential partnership, be careful not to take any short cuts to thinking. You have to dig a little deeper to discover the hidden value.
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Affiliates! When reviewing programs to promote,you should include in the review process:
- Stats: Review the EPC, most recent commissionable sale, and average order value.
- Full Commission Structure: There might be very generous commission increases or bonuses based on volume or sales targets.
- The Target Demographics: The retailer’s products might be geared towards a small subset of consumers. If you target this narrow demographic, you will have a strong advantage over larger affiliates that aren’t the lean mean fighting machine you are.
- Activity: Check for activity such as newsletters sent and datafeed updates. Actively managed programs are much more likely to produce results no matter how “small” the retailer.
- Network Ranking: Find out if the program is highly ranked within the network. ShareASale’s Top 100 Power Rank includes a bountiful of unheralded gems.
- Custom Payouts: In some cases, merchants will reward you with a higher commission for NEW customers vs. existing ones. This allows more nimble content affiliates to compete with the larger established players by focusing on fresh content that engages new visitors, while the larger affiliates end up targeting existing customers with coupons and deals or stale content.
Merchants! When reviewing Affiliate applications,you should include in the review process:
- Main Website: Always do a thorough review of their site. You might have to go beyond the main page to get a true feel for the site and what it provides as far as value to site visitors.
- Additional Sites: Many Affiliates operate multiple websites so make sure you review the other ones they list in their profile. You might find a site in their portfolio that’s a perfect match for your products.
- Promotional Methods: Read the provided description to find out how the Affiliate attracts visitors and refers them to you. Affiliates can be very creative, especially the smaller ones that know they have to bring something unique to the table to stand out and compete for attention.
- Content: Consider the freshness of the content. If it’s a blog with frequent posts, that’s a great sign the site is bringing in new traffic on a regular basis.
- Notoriety/Press: Find out if the Affiliate/blog was mentioned or featured in a major publication or if it won an industry award. This lends credibility to the site which in turn lends credibility to the Merchants and products being promoted.
- Social Media: Find out how many followers the site or site owner has on outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Social media gives smaller sites a chance to attract a crowd and raise some eyebrows. You wouldn’t mind having a crowd staring at your products would you?
- Traffic: Sites such as Compete.com and Alexa.com provide insight into the unique visitors, traffic, and rankings of a website. Look beyond overall numbers. Check for trends in traffic (seasonal spikes indicate the Affiliate can target Holiday promotions). Look at the traffic growth. A strong overall climb in traffic is a great sign that the Affiliate is attracting new visitors (this means new customers for you!).
If these items aren’t already included in your review process of Merchants or Affiliates (depending on what side of the fence you’re on), make sure you add them to your repertoire. You won’t be sorry when you find out that the modest mommy blog that made you chuckle at first glance turns out to be one of your top Affiliates. Lesson learned!