Q4 is one of the most crucial components to a merchants business goals. This is the portion of the year that can in one fell swoop make or break a year. It is important to remember that Q4 is simply the end of a long journey that is taken throughout the year. I have personally been on the other side of a call in January where a program manager was bewildered as to how the performance of a program has been unable to duplicate a previous year’s success. In those calls, I noticed a continual theme of a lack of preparation.
It is important to note that Q4 preparation really begins in January. This is the time, when you should roll up your sleeves and objectively evaluate the merchant program’s performance. This evaluation should then allow you to make a marketing plan. The idea of a marketing plan seems simple. We all know that the overall goal will be to increase the performance seen in the previous fiscal year but the question lies in how you will exceed those sales figures. Here are a few questions to think about when you are creating your plan:
- What went well with the program?
- Were there any disasters that you would like to avoid this year?
- What are the client’s internal initiatives?
- Are there any specific areas where you would like to personally grow as the program manager?
- When are good times to assess the program progress (monthly, quarterly, etc.)?
- What are the program benchmarks (sales, number of affiliates, EPC)?
Keep in mind that this process is for your own internal use, so it is important to be brutally honest as to what has worked and what has not. This is your PLAN and it will only be as good as the effort that is applied to it.
In that plan, Q4 should have been an important aspect of the plan in regards to spending, planning initiatives, and affiliate recruitment just to name a few.
Most industry authorities stress the fact that planning for Q4 begins in August. So here are a few things that you should be doing right now to get started:
- Update and optimize website for performance on mobile devices and and computers (your site is going to have a ton more traffic and it needs to be in tip top shape in preparation)
- Book premium placements with affiliate sites (these placements are booked fairly quickly, so you will want to land a spot ASAP)
- Plan out promotions (pull sales reports to determine the best times to put out promotions to the affiliate channel and remember flash sales can be your friend)
- Refine the Program Bio, Newsletter Templates, and other communications (make sure the program is appealing to affiliates and communicating the right brand messaging)
- Recruit Recruit Recruit (reach out to every affiliate and get them active today, so they are ready to send sales in advance of the big holidays)
- Work with the merchant to schedule creatives for the holiday season (most people don’t know it, but you can automate uploading and defuncting of creatives and this would be a great time to do that using the API)
- Educate affiliates on the idiosyncrasies of your website (shipping times, ship to locations, etc.)
So far we have discussed strategy, but it is important to quantify specifically how to determine if there has been an improvement in Q4 results. As such, it is important to pull reports to specifically determine the progress the program has had. I suggest getting overall sales numbers from the merchant as a starting point to determine a baseline number that would make Q4 successful for you as the program manager and also for the merchant.
It is also important to pull various ShareASale reports, if you have been in the network for a while. Some reports that I find to be invaluable are the following:
- Affiliate Timespan Report
- Notable Affiliates Report
- Year in Review Report
- Activity Summary Report
Prep for 2014
Somewhere around November most program managers have done most of the legwork to ensure a successful Q4 for 2013, so why not get an early start on 2014. I really believe this is a great time to begin planning for the next year.
This is a time to begin developing strategy to improve upon the results in 2014. I like to call this period of time the “Clean Up” period.
At this point, program managers may like to focus on:
- Clean up banners (edit or defunct banners that are rarely used)
- Review affiliates (who is providing value and who is not)
- Are the program terms and rules up to date?
- What tools should I be using in ShareASale that I am not?
These are a few focus areas to get you started, but there are probably at least a few dozen more out there.