We’ve been doing a fair bit of work on our home improvement and DIY sites recently and so we thought it would be good to share a few thoughts about the way we use them to build relationships.
Our sites are run on an affiliate marketing model, where we use our online marketing skills to promote the latest products and special offers from major brands and specialist retailers in particular markets, and earn a small commission on sales in return for our efforts.
These costs are not passed on directly to the consumer, rather they are usually part of the promoting organisation’s overall marketing spend, and this approach is often an excellent way for companies to reach users that would otherwise be hard to find.
And we think (and hope) that our sites add considerable value for the consumer by offering a one-stop summary of available special offers as well as more in-depth information on brands and retailers, plus news and features from particularly relevant industry sectors.
Mostly, when working on these sites, we are dealing either with a company’s in-house affiliate or marketing manager, or specialist agency personnel to whom this work has been outsourced. That process has led us to compile this list of the five top things they do that make us happy.
Of course, if you’re an affiliate marketer reading this, your mileage may vary considerably. You may very well love the things we hate, and hate the things we love.
But, from the perspective of people who are working on long-term content sites, here are five simple tips to make us happy – and also keen to keep working with you:
- Provide accurate, straightforward product links: It’s really thoughtful when an affiliate manager or agency sends us links customised with our affiliate ID and other details. And yet, we find that this isn’t always the most helpful way of doing things. For example, we might need to add a custom clickref. Or, if the URL is long, complex and contains many arguments, creating it through an affiliate network’s custom URL shortener can be a brilliant way of making sure nothing breaks. And, if we just want to check out a particular product to discover if it is suitable for one of our site niches, it’s useful to be able to do that at a click without inflating our tracking and yours. So there you have it – a few reasons why plain-vanilla links that allow us to apply the specific tools we need can often be more useful than the customised ones. Once or twice, they have come ready-supplied with someone else’s details – which is the best reason ever for not just pasting them in unchecked. And, er, sometimes they don’t work at all, get duplicated or link to an unrelated product. Check, check and check again…
- Liaise well with your web developers: If you send us a great offer that we really want to promote, it always works best when there’s a custom page on the retailer’s website featuring that offer, since that builds customer trust and confidence. Or, at the very least, a mention of the offer, so the promotion’s existence is confirmed independently of us. And it isn’t completely unknown for the affiliate manager to get their offer emailed out, us to prepare our copy promoting it and then for the actual offer to never appear on the merchant’s website, or to appear with different prices to the ones quoted to us. That’s a no-no for so many reasons.
- Sort out offers that run for a while: There may be very sound marketing reasons for running short, sharp 48-hour campaigns that persuade the customer to buy now, rather than going away and thinking about it. However, we have doubts over whether these are the best offers for content affiliates. If we’re going to write custom copy, do blog posts with attractive images and lots of deeplinks, include you in our latest offers round-ups and even use promotional banners in our featured front-page slot, then we need a little notice, plus an offer that’s not over as soon as it starts. If you’re targeting affiliates running email campaigns, short-notice, short-time offers are also likely to be a big problem. Putting a lot of work into a two-day offer just doesn’t compute, therefore we don’t do it.
- Write some copy – and write it well: It is definitely worth writing a paragraph or two of copy at the top of promotional emails – it makes the offer look so much more desirable from an affiliate perspective. We take the point that everyone using the same words does not work at all well. However, it can so often be the starting point for our own ideas and inspiration. Also, do pay attention to the spelling, grammar and punctuation – where spending money is involved, people look for professionalism. It’s striking how some companies go to great lengths with classy graphics but spoil the effect with horribly amateurish copywriting – while others omit it altogether and pump out bare lists of product links as if they speak for themselves.
- Build relationships: When you work in a niche with several similarly-named merchants, or where several offer the same product ranges at broadly the same prices, the merchant that stands out – and gets promoted – is the one that stays in contact. It’s always instructive to talk to people who emphasise their availability and approachability and then see how far that goes in practice – so if you stress that you enjoy working with content affiliates, it’s worth considering if your later actions bear that out and don’t drop off into a lengthy silence. Finally, the liaison people can sometimes only be as good as the support they get, no matter how hard they’re prepared to work on our behalf. We’ve had one excellent former agency member go to great lengths to help us organise a feature only to have the company that commissioned her fail to come through with the necessary expertise, through absolutely no fault of hers.
So – that’s our perspective, what’s yours? Leave a comment and let us know