Four Characteristics of a Valuable Affiliate

Posted on3 CommentsCategoriesAffiliate Program Management, Thoughts for Affiliates

Today I received a message from an affiliate marketer who is interested in joining one of the affiliate programs that my company manages. Among other (good) questions he asked:

What exactly are you looking for in an affiliate?

Most Valuable PlayerIt isn’t every day that you receive a question like this. In fact, in more than ten years of running affiliate programs, I can recall only three instances when a prospective affiliate asked me this.

However, it is an extremely important question the answer to which underpins the very approach to effective affiliate program management or should do so.

In my opinion, the top four things that advertisers should be looking for in affiliates are these:

1. Quality & Targetedness (of Referred Traffic)

Looking at the current spread of payment models on ShareASale affiliate network, we see that 97% of merchants tie affiliate payouts to sales, 3% to leads, and none to clicks:

ShareASale affiliate payment models

In an industry where over ninety percent of affiliate programs operate on pay-per-sale model, the remainder on pay-per-lead model, and only eBay pays for clicks (but only for “quality” ones!), there is little to no use in referring garbage traffic to merchants. However, when it does happen, it hurts advertisers driving their EPC down, skewing their performance metrics, and making their affiliate program(s) less attractive to prospective/inactive affiliates.

2. Marketing Complementarity

Complementarity is a quality demonstrated when one “adds something to the other or helps to make the other better” [source]. “Marketing complementarity” is when one marketing activity contributes to the other, driving better results than when the latter is not complemented by the former. Advertisers (should) want (to work with) affiliates whose promotional methods and techniques add value to the pre-sale process, complementing merchants’ own marketing activity (vs cannibalizing it).

3. Incrementality (of Referred Business)

Did you see how Zappos structures their affiliate commissions on CJ? Here is how they do it (highlighting mine):

Zappos Affiliate Program

Affiliates get a 125% payout boost (from 8% to 18%) when they refer a new customers rather than returning ones.

Every merchant wants new business. Affiliates that do this for advertisers become their “most valuable players” — loved and treasured.

4. Innovative Thinking

It’s easy to throw up another coupon site or another pay-to-play “ranking” blog post. True value (both for advertisers, and for end-consumers), however, comes with innovation. It doesn’t have to be anything “revolutionary” or big. Small changes that simplify people’s lives often make all the difference. See a few examples here, look at things through the consumer’s eyes, and think how you can make things easier for them, gaining their loyalty to your tool, website, or service.

Of course, there are other characteristics, qualities, and attributes that could be listed here. If I’ve missed something that you believe belongs to this list, I warmly welcome your comments (via the area below this post). Many thanks in advance for adding your thoughts on the subject.

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