In a recent discussion with our email solution provider I was asked to potentially speak at their next conference on the topic of Affiliate Marketing. When thinking about what I may speak about it sparked me to look back at the first 6 or 7 years of my career and how much Affiliate Marketing has allowed me to learn. I know that I am slightly biased but I cannot think of another online marketing specialty area that touches on so many niches of online marketing.
Quick Career Update: In November of this past year I joined Taylor Gifts as the Director of e-Commerce. In this new role I am responsible for all areas of online marketing. In the interest of full disclosure it should be known that I am not currently directly managing our Affiliate Program but am excited to be working with the great folks over at Converseon.
Effective Communication is the biggest differentiator between great and average Affiliate Managers. There are thousands of Affiliate Programs all vying for the same real estate. Top Affiliates receive hundreds of emails a day all asking for placement. The affiliate program that can stand out from the others will have the best chance of winning the placement. The communication techniques that I have utilized over the years for affiliate marketing carry over into successful email strategies that I am implementing today.
4 of the most important strategies / rules that I have learned from Affiliate Marketing that carry over into Email Marketing are:
1. Be Unique
4. Create a Two Way Interaction
1. Be Unique – Over the years I have applied to countless Affiliate Programs and Merchant Promotional Email Lists. 90% of all the emails that I receive are boring and do not grab my attention. Too many affiliate and email managers get into the routine of utilizing a template rarely break from it. I can’t stress the importance of breaking the norm. Between subject lines, creative templates, and offers there is plenty of room for creativity.
As an Affiliate Managers it often a challenge to get responses to typical recruitment/Optimization emails. Over the years I have found myself testing other forms of communication such as fax, catchy post cards and gifts. I never pulled the trigger but at one point I was very close to trying a singing gorilla telegram.
Some of the top Affiliate Managers and Affiliate programs today have also utilized social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and more to expand their reach to Affiliate Partners.
2. Segmentation – When sending out an email to Affiliates or email subscribers you should always have an end goal in mind. In most cases for me this was either a sale or increased promotion by an Affiliate. However not all email recipients are going to be looking at your email from the same perspective. An Affiliate who is a top performer will react differently to an email than an affiliate who hasn’t sent a click to your site in the past 6 months. Although time intensive it is worth the extra work to customize your message to as many specific segments. These segments could be based on performance or type of affiliate/website.
3. Offer Page and Landing Page Testing – Early in my career I was guilty of blindly providing my affiliate base with untested offers. By doing so there was much more of a risk that the offer would not convert and the whole program would be brought down by that single promotion. Over the years I have become wiser and made sure to offer a diverse group of promotions at the same time. By doing so I was also able to test the performance of specific offers without having it being used by the whole affiliate base. The same type of testing has proven to be effective when sending promotions to an email list. With email delivery costs ranging in cost from $3 to $6 CPM it can be very costly to send a dud email to your whole list. Testing an email/offer to a smaller percentage of your list is an easy strategy to maximize email spend and keep subscribers happy with the content that they are receiving.
4. Two Way Interaction With Recipients – When I was an intern in the marketing department of half.com I saw the power of an Affiliate newsletter that was very successful at interacting with Affiliates. Each newsletter provided fun facts about various books, movies and video games. The newsletters also had monthly trivia questions that offered prizes. The trivia questions served multiple purposes. First, the contests were very popular and created an incentive for affiliates to open the email. Secondly, the questions were always related to product and taught the affiliates about the merchandise that they were promoting. Today I strive to create the same type of interaction with email recipients as the half.com affiliate emails did. When evaluating some of the top tier email campaigns from merchants they all sees to have figured out how to create two way communication. A contest is just one way to go about this. With the popularity of video and social networking sites there are plenty of creative ways to create interactions between merchants and their customers.
With effective communication being as important as it is in Affiliate Marketing it is only natural that techniques will carry over into Email Marketing. The 4 points above are just a small sample of what Affiliate Marketing has taught me that carries into email marketing. If you know anybody starting their career that is looking to gain broad knowledge of online marketing I would not hesitate to search for a job as an Affiliate Manager.