Are Outsourced Affiliate Managers Better Than In-House Ones?

A recent blog post from the Harvard Business Review reveals that remote workers (or workers of virtual teams) are, actually, more engaged than people who work in company office(s).

In his above-referenced post Scott Edinger says that this makes “perfect sense” on the following 4 reasons:

  1. Proximity breeds complacency;
  2. Absence makes people try harder to connect;
  3. Leaders of virtual teams make a better use of tools;
  4. Leaders of far-flung teams maximize the time their teams spend together.

These are excellent points — absolutely all of which apply to outsourced affiliate program management. However, I like Edinger’s conclusion there too:

None of this is to say that working remotely is better than coming to the office. Or that virtual teams are better than traditional ones. On the contrary, I’m suggesting that they are exactly the same this regard: Someone working in the same office with their leader needs just as much effective communication as someone located in a different office. [source]

The latter paragraph reminded me of a fairly recent post by Jared Saunders, affiliate manager at Jenson USA and holder of ShareASale’s Exceptional Program Manager 2009 award. In his post (which I highly recommend you give a thorough read) Jared compared the pros and cons of both in-house and outsourced affiliate management. Each has its strengths, and Saunders’ conclusion was:

There are many ways to accomplish the task of successfully managing an affiliate marketing program. In my opinion your best bet is to blend the services of an outsourced program manager to get started and help train your new manager, or to alleviate your personal work load as you seek out a veteran in-house manager. Then to have your program managed in-house calling at time on an outsourced program manager to assist with their workload as the department expands. in this way will your business and profits always have the attention they need to increase and continue with out interruption. [source]

To answer the question posed in the title of this post: while not all OPMs will be better than in-house affiliate managers, many outsourced (affiliate) program managers are not worse, and some (those with the relevant experience, connections, and expertise) will, actually, be better for you.

Bonus tip: When hiring an OPM to handle the management of your affiliate program, make sure the expectations (as far as communication, reporting, optimization and program support efforts) are aligned by the contract. Don’t presuppose anything. Discuss it all in advance — so that everyone is happy with the arrangement.

7 thoughts on “Are Outsourced Affiliate Managers Better Than In-House Ones?”

  1. I have to agree with Scott’s pointsin the article, but because his points are not specific to the Affiliate Marketing business there are a few additional points that you could add to address industry specific reasons to consider OPMs.
    An in-house manager who is unfamiliar with affiliate marketing could take years to understand what the numbers mean in reports from the network, they quite likely do not have any idea of what signs to look for to indicate an abusive partner or even of the many ways a partner might abuse the relationship. An in-house manager is not likely to fully understand the relationship of networks, affiliates and their business, nor are they likely to have any kind of a following that trusts their experience. I’m sure there are more points to add but these few just come quickly to mind when making a decision to sign up with any given program. The line in a program description that says it is managed in-house can be the (negative) deciding factor when looking at joining a new program. There are some very well managed programs managed in house, but in general I have found them to be the exception.

    1. Excellent points, Nancy, and as always: thank you for taking the time to comment. Your words certainly strike a chord for me; and are especially priceless when one understands they come from an affiliate with long-term history in the industry. Would you be interested in an interview on the topic? I think it would make a really interesting one.

      1. I don’t interview very well, always multitasking. My only uninterrupted time is after 12:00 (AM) sorry, just doing too many things at a time. I appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Pingback: Marketing Day: August 27, 2012

  3. As a quasi-in-house manager (I office from home in the states for my company in Australia), let me add that there can be a significant advantage to being an engaged and competent in-house affiliate manager. While I’m new to the AM role, I am a part of daily conference calls with my company (thank you Skype) and have an inside knowledge of the company dynamics and direction that a OPM is not likely to ever have.

    The question should not be in-house vs. OPM but rather engaged vs. not engaged. There’s no substitute for an individual who takes responsibility for their actions and has pride in their role.

    1. Great point, Ron!! And this was precisely what Scott Edinger was getting at in that Harvard Business Review post of his. Engagement and commitment are to be in the focus (regardless of whether it’s a remote or an “in-house” worker).

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