Choosing an affiliate network
What is an affiliate network?
An affiliate network is a tracking platform that facilitates business relationships between a brand and an affiliate partner. It delivers all the first-class tracking and additional services needed to run an affiliate program. But, its key point of difference to in-house tracking software is the ability to search for new affiliates within their dashboard.
The affiliate networks (for the right price) can also offer management services to grow your program. Although, this won’t always be cost-effective for some brands. Especially for SME’s at the beginning of their affiliate journey.
Partnering with the right affiliate network can drastically improve the launch or continued growth of an affiliate program.
Why is the right affiliate network so important?
Recruitment is one of the most time-consuming tasks for affiliate managers. Without this, your program won’t get off the ground or continue to mature over time.
Launching your program on the right network opens the door to a ton of publishers ripe for your business. Saving valuable time on cold-calling recruitment activities.
Secondly, ROI is a core metric to focus on for your affiliate program. Depending on your business, an affiliate network can offer a wealth of tools to maximise this through clever payment models and partner incentives.
With that being said, here are the main components to look out for when researching which affiliate network to join.
During your pre-launch competitor audit, it should have produced insight into which affiliate network your rival brands are on.
Why is this important? Because it can be a strong indication that that affiliate network is the right fit for your industry.
By joining the same network as a competitor, you can also take advantage of their previous hard work. All active recruitment should be partaken inside the network, but also outside. That means trying to get a competitive edge by encouraging publishers to join the network and promote your brand. If your competitor has a fairly mature program, you can reach out to the affiliates they have specifically recruited for your niche.
Now, I don’t put this top of the list because it can result in knee-jerk reactions. The cost of any affiliate network should be a factor, but not the main reason you decided to join.
Keeping track of your full affiliate marketing costs is crucial to understanding your channels ROI. Including both publisher and network costs are key to this.
When starting your affiliate program, typically there are set up fees to be considered. These cover the technical implementation of your tracking. After that, the network will charge you a monthly fee or override for hosting your program.
An override is a percentage of the approved commission paid out to affiliates every month. That percentage can vary depending on the network and your brand size.
As an example, if you are charged a 20% override fee. Should you approve £100 of commission on a given month, your monthly invoice to the network will be £120. The affiliates will always receive their commission in full, with the additional £20 (20% fee) going to the network.
Research has proved that over 80% of publishers are signed up to more than one network. Although, that isn’t to say there aren’t some exclusive agreements in place.
Social Chain Media for example partnered exclusively with Webgains. This gave brands on Webgains access to millions of customers across a wide range of social communities.
This point could be a good indicator of how likely an affiliate is to engage with brands on any given network.
If there is a lot of conversation around sales not being tracked or a lack of adequate reporting. This can all point to a bigger problem with the network.
One of the best places to gauge this kind of feedback is by joining a Facebook group like Affiliate Cockpit. It is full of publishers, affiliate managers and network individuals and can give a good insight into publisher feelings.
Not all brands have the resources in-house needed to actively manage an affiliate program. Principally if it is one of a large size.
In this case, they could look to an affiliate network to take on full or part management of their affiliate program.
If this is something you would like to explore, then you need to speak to the networks as a priority. Find out what level of service the network offers.
Taking on external affiliate management through an OPM agency could offset the cost from the network for their higher level of service. Consider all options and what would work best for your brand and current digital team.
The beauty of online is that you can pretty easily target customers across the globe with your products or services.
Should you feel that a particular international market is showing growth for you. Then it could be a factor to consider what the network’s penetration in that market is.
As previously mentioned, the network has a wealth of publishers for any given market. So, if your internal resources are sparse or you are lacking language-specific expertise, turn to a network to support your expansion.
The thread that knits everything together seamlessly, is the tracking. Advanced tracking will ensure that all your sales are being tracked and attributed correctly to the right publisher.
But, aside from the base level tracking all affiliate networks and SaaS platforms offer. Do you have more specific requirements?
Would it be beneficial for example to be able to track in-app purchases or customer service calls? If so, then look for a network that can deliver these. That way, you can offer your affiliates more opportunities to promote your brand and earn a commission.
Top Affiliate Networks 2021 – A guide on the different types of affiliate networks available for brands
Is Affiliate Marketing Profitable – Learn how to breakdown the costs of your affiliate channel and work them back to internal budgets and targets
Affiliate Marketing Stats 2021 – The jaw-dropping numbers that show the true scale (and opportunity) of the affiliate marketing channel