We see a lot of advice online when it comes to working with your affiliate reps that talk about commission rates, promotions, and bonuses. And while it’s important to make sure these boxes are checked, in our experience the biggest lever that you can pull to increase the odds of your affiliate partnership thriving comes down to one thing: communication.
Here are the 4 E’s of why communicating with your affiliate reps is so important.
Even if you start working with expert affiliates, they won’t be experts in your brand, your culture, and your voice. They don’t know your products or services as well you do, nor the audience that they are trying to target. And while they might be quick on the uptake, what happens when you have new merchandise? New initiatives? And what if your reps aren’t seasoned vets?
Here’s a real-world example of what can go wrong without the proper education: a tech merchant started receiving complaints from new customers about a “bait and switch” on their basic vs premium tiers. An important feature that was advertised as being part of basic was actually not. Turns out, the affiliate rep had a fundamental misunderstanding of what the differences in the tiers were. Uh oh.
At the end of the day, a 15 minute education on the service tiers could have prevented a slew of complains and even worse, bad reviews online. No matter what contract your reps do or do not sign, they are representatives of your brand. The more they know, the better they can act as a face of your company to their niche.
While educating your partners is the start, the next thing they need is to be equipped with the right weapons to attack your niche market. We’ve harped on this before but generating content is not easy! It’s a lot to ask of your reps to write descriptions, craft emails, Photoshop images, etc. Instead, the merchant should be creating most of this and propagating content to their reps to reuse.
To equip them well, you need constant passive communication. Be it an affiliate newsletter or a Facebook or Slack group, send out a regular stream of content for their use. You don’t need to wait for any responses, and it’s not a back and forth. But they’ll feel appreciated and thankful to see your communications with content that will make their job much easier.
If you’re not monitoring how your reps are performing and what tactics they are using to market your business, and providing constructive feedback, then you are not maximizing your partners and the overall effectiveness of your affiliate marketing campaign.
As we’re fond of saying, affiliate marketing isn’t “set it and forget it.” Rather, there should be a constant feedback loop that improves and optimizes their efforts. And this all starts with you looking at the data.
Your affiliate metrics and benchmarks will tell you which reps are lagging behind in clicks and conversions, and what they might be doing wrong. Remember, only you have insight into this data. For all the rep knows, everyone else is about on-par with their numbers. It’s up to you to let them know how to increase their productivity.
Encouragement and Enjoyment
A happy rep is a productive rep. Merchants seems to view them as more marketing tools than real people, and this often leads to failure or burned-out reps who leave for greener pastures. Even a crazy high commission rate can’t overcome them not really enjoying their work. After all, they are freelancers and are more prone to jump ship if the work is dull or too difficult.
There are 3 ways to use good communication to make sure that they are enjoying their work and are encouraged:
Office Hours —Holding a set time once a month for your reps to connect with you is a great way to keep the lines of communication open. This way, they know they’re not interrupting you with their questions, and it makes them feel that the brand they are working with cares about what they have to say. Make sure each of your reps know that this time is available for any and all questions, and encourage them to use it.
Online Groups — Be it via Facebook or some other online chat space, this provides a convenient, real-time, public, and lasting forum for your reps to not only communicate with you, but to ask questions with the other reps as well. A strong community encourages each other, and if you spend the time to foster your community, you’ll reap the benefits down the line. This is also an easy way to quickly hold polls to gauge what your reps like or do not like.
Thank You Letters & Gifts — Real physical mail is rare these days and goes a long way to encourage partners and keep them in your good graces. Showing that you care about their happiness is important to foster loyalty among reps. For best results, send them outside of the holiday season. It’ll make more of an impact, and a fantastic way to open up better communication.
The Bottom Line
These four E’s of affiliate marketing communication should help you understand why it’s so important, and a part of the effective ways to motivate your reps. Take the time today to pick up the phone and give your partners a friendly call! Don’t worry, it’ll go to voice mail.