As a company’s affiliate marketing grows, many will come to an important decision: do you hire an affiliate marketing manager? Any hiring move can be a weighty one, especially if it’s work that you’re finally entrusting someone else to do (as many business owners manage affiliate marketing themselves).
We’ve seen companies make this transition and there are certain points to consider that can help you weigh the decision. Here are 4 tips when it comes to creating a position for an in-house affiliate marketing manager.
1. The Right Time is when Your Time is Not Right
More than anything else, the reason companies finally pull the trigger on hiring an affiliate marketing manager comes down to limited hours in the day. We’ve harped on this often, but to run a great in-house affiliate marketing program, you have to put in the time. This includes:
- Managing affiliate partners.
- Producing creatives.
- Running seasonal campaigns.
- Communication across new & seasoned reps.
- Competitive analysis.
- Creating landing pages.
- And more!
Sooner than you may think, because each new rep means that much more of a time investment, all this may become untenable for your marketing lead, let alone the owner of the company. Your mileage may vary, but once your rep numbers hit over 10–20, at least a part-time affiliate manager will become necessary to keep the operation running smoothly.
And remember, this is so your affiliate marketing program can thrive. Yes, you can manage the bare-bones without additional help, but don’t be surprised when affiliates start becoming disgruntled due to lack of communication and leave for greener pastures.
Assess how many hour each week you and your team spend on affiliate marketing matters. If it’s topping 20+ hours a week, it’s time to seriously consider bringing on additional help.
2. Hire when It Pays for Itself.
The other side of the coin from time is money, the second looming concern when hiring anyone to your team. In general, affiliate marketing managers earn salaries between $40,000 to $80,000 (depending on location, experience, etc.); and you want to be able to justify that with the revenue that affiliate marketing brings in.
Luckily, affiliate marketing tends to have very high ROI. A 2017 study out of the UK showed on average a 16X return on the advertising investment. Back of the envelope math says if that average holds true, if you spend just $2,500 a year on affiliate marketing you can already afford a $40k salaried manager to oversee your program (excluding benefits and bonuses, you monster).
In other words, if your affiliate marketing program isn’t self-sustainable by a wide margin, you’re doing something tremendously wrong. This is also why we say that time is more of a factor in whether to hire a manager, not money; because the revenue will come in any well-run affiliate marketing campaign.
Take stock of how much revenue and profit came directly from affiliate marketing in 2018, and see what aggressive projections you have for 2019 if you hired even part-time help in this area. With such large margins in this branch of marketing, even if you have modest expectations of growth, you should be able to afford to hire.
3. You’re Ready to Leave the Affiliate Networks
Affiliate networks definitely have a place in the industry. They expose companies to a huge number of potential affiliates while cutting down the time and effort needed to run the program. As a refresher, here’s a list of pros and cons between joining a network and building one in-house.
Eventually, the most cost-effective move is to bring affiliate marketing in-house because of the high commission rates that affiliate networks leverage. These rates can be between 20 — 30% of your affiliate sales. Considering that direct commission rates to affiliate reps range from 5% — 15%, you can see just how much you can allocate to hiring a manager, as well as keep more of the profits.
Besides the money, working directly with reps gives you much more control over your message out on social media, as well as increases the speed of dissemination for new products and deals. An affiliate marketing manager will be able to do what the network was doing for your company cheaper and with better relations with your partners.
4. The Qualities You Want in an Affiliate Marketing Manager
The best case scenario is simply to promote the busy Marketing person on your team to run affiliate marketing full-time. In many ways, experience with your specific reps will trump experience with affiliate marketing in general. The latter can be taught, but an established rapport with your partners and the trust that comes with it can be invaluable.
But if you don’t have an employee that can easily transition into this position, there are other ways of approach:
If you’re concerned about hiring a full-time affiliate marketing manager, you can test the waters by hiring someone part-time or on a 3-month contract. In this case, the qualities you look for may lean more on the administrative side since this person will be in more of a support role. Prior experience running affiliate campaigns is great, but the most time consuming parts are a) content creation, and b) partner communications. Hiring a smart, fast writer with a good personality to chat with multiple reps will save you more time (and ultimately be more useful) than someone with, say, analytics experience.
Choose this approach if you want much more expertise but aren’t quite willing to commit to a full-fledged full-time employee. Freelancers may work full-time hours, but won’t cost you an HR package. Marketing agencies will provide a team that can act as “in-house” managers for your affiliate program, while still allowing you to outsource this role and pay less.
This approach is also great if you want to stick with at least some affiliate networks (instead of bringing it all in-house). Not only will freelancers have expertise with networks, some agencies can negotiate lower commission rates with affiliate networks since they most likely do work in bulk.
The downside of a lackluster freelancer or agency is that it can often take just as much time for your team to manage them.
If you hire a new, full-time affiliate marketing manager, you’ll want to find someone with at least a couple years experience and a good track record of growing out an in-house program. A great question to ask is how many reps they have managed from start to finish at their previous place of employment. If they can show that the number of affiliate partners grew during their tenure, it’s an excellent metric that showcases his/her skill in this area.
Again, you’ll want to look for a great communicator, both written and verbal. The former will help create content quickly, the latter will help manage all your reps. Keep in mind, you can teach almost anything on the job except for writing and relationship skills. It also depends what support this manager will have. For example, if they have access to robust software that can help run affiliate marketing, you can deemphasize the need for technical skill. If they have Dev support, maybe you can deemphasize the need for creating landing pages on their own.
Having a dedicated person in charge of your affiliate marketing efforts can lead to tremendous growth in an already lucrative area. Don’t be afraid of making the initial investment if you feel like your company is ready to expand.