This is a much debated question in the affiliate space.
As outside affiliate management I fall under the agency umbrella. So, you might think we always going to advocate using an affiliate agency. But that isn’t always the case. There are many positives and negatives for using in-house team members or an affiliate network to grow your program.
For large accounts networks can provide dedicated account management. This management is actively delivering opportunities and optimisation ideas. To be cost effective, obviously networks can’t offer a dedicated service to all brands. It is for affiliate accounts below circa £5-6m in revenue where the brand requirements can often outweigh the networks deliverability. Floating somewhere between mid and low level management can mean optimisation is less forthcoming. Opportunities are generic and publisher outreach non-existent.
A cynical view would be to offer the opinion that networks are paid on override from commission. So, therefore naturally lean towards the big publishers who can make them more money. The mid and long-tail publishers take more active management. Relationships need building to return consistent revenue. This is time that account managers can’t provide. They manage multiple brands and time is money. I know this isn’t always the case. But, having had experience with multiple networks I’m not convinced on their proactive management of some affiliate programs.
Working with an in-house team reduces the ineffectiveness that can sometimes hinder affiliate programs. An in-house team has a direct dialect with stakeholders on a daily basis. Being able to manage budgets and internal sign-off like this speeds up decision making,
The negative is that there is a siloed approach to the affiliate channel. An in-house team can lack the specialist insight of the affiliate industry needed to actively deliver YoY growth. Also, affiliates is sometimes thrown into the marketing team without a dedicated specialist. Subsequently for performance channels, time is always weighted towards the channel that is providing most revenue. The result is often the potential of the affiliate channel can sometimes be overlooked.
Relationships are key to a successful affiliate program. Regular contact via e-mail, face-to-face or by e-mail supports this. Agency teams have the luxury of being solely focused on managing affiliate relationships. Great affiliate agencies are built on these strong longstanding connections.
The best agencies have have specialist management from team members that have worked in the industry for a long time. But they also have the insight of working with different brands. This can help find missed opportunities and areas (or publishers) that can help take your affiliate program to the next level.
Depending on your agreed contracts it can also be a cost-saving working with an agency. On your behalf, an agency will renegotiate your network contract to a lower management SLA. This can include picking up the publisher relationships. A cost saving of around 10-15% in override over the course of the year could be achieved. For mid-to large accounts this can be incredibly beneficial. For smaller accounts, talk to management like mine that offers flexible management fees to brands of all sizes.
External affiliate management like mine is also network agnostic. I find the best network to support a brands affiliate objectives. This will result in the best commercials and technology that can deliver great results.
If you feel your brand isn’t getting the love it should from the networks or you are struggling to see good ROI from the affiliate channel then it would beneficial chatting to me.