Practical Ecommerce

Importance of Affiliate Marketing Managers

Simply launching an affiliate program does not guarantee revenue. I’ve seen many affiliate programs fail because of the “if I build it, they will come” mentality. Affiliate programs need to be managed on an ongoing, daily basis.

Consider the thousands of affiliate programs that exist. Now consider this: According to the 2013 Affiliate Summit AffStat Report, 63.4 percent of affiliates focus their efforts on fewer than 20 programs. If you’re not actively managing your affiliate program, the chances that your program falls within one of those 20 slots are slim to none. Affiliate managers continuously work to keep their brand front and center in the affiliate’s mind by providing a steady flow of content and promotions.

According to the 2013 Affiliate Summit AffStat Report, 47.1 percent of affiliates promote 10 or fewer programs. And 63.40 percent (47.1 plus 16.3) promote 20 or fewer.

According to the 2013 Affiliate Summit AffStat Report, 47.1 percent of affiliates promote 10 or fewer programs. And 63.40 percent (47.1 plus 16.3) promote 20 or fewer.

I am frequently asked if a company needs to hire a dedicated affiliate manager. My answer is “yes.” From ad trafficking, to trademark monitoring, to reporting and affiliate support, it is easy for an affiliate manager to fill 40 or more hours per week. There are two options for hiring: (a) a full-time employee, or (b) outsource the role to an agency.

Affiliate Manager: Employee or Agency?

The benefit of hiring a full-time employee is that your affiliate manager is fully immersed in your company. By being on-site, she can (a) easily learn of upcoming new products, (b) quickly access data, and (c) easily gauge key drivers of revenue. Plus, if tracking goes awry, she can harangue or cajole the tech team in person. The disadvantage to a dedicated internal affiliate manager is cost and training. Affiliate manager salaries typically range between $50,000 and $100,000 depending on the individual’s experience and size of the company. Additionally, while it’s easy to find candidates who understand marketing, it is more challenging to find someone who has specific expertise within the affiliate marketing field. Affiliate managers must have a thorough understanding of tracking technology and code, of industry-specific legal issues such as tax nexus and trademark protection, and of how to identify quality affiliates and keep them engaged. Ideally, they will also have established relationships with affiliates that they can recruit into your program. If you can’t find someone who fits that bill, but you have a bright, driven individual with potential and a willingness to learn, then definitely invest in training.

The other option is to outsource management of your affiliate channel. The benefit of outsourcing is that you get a seasoned manager with established affiliate relationships. A good outsourced program manager can quickly recruit or activate proven affiliates in your program. Additionally, a new affiliate program will benefit from the credibility and visibility of an established agency. Costs associated with outsourcing your affiliate program vary, depending on experience and level of support, but you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $5,000 per month, plus a percentage of sales. The challenge is that your agency is likely managing multiple accounts. When interviewing agencies, be sure to ask how many accounts your manager would oversee. Fewer than five accounts would be desirable. Also, since the agency’s personnel are not on-site, they are not immediately aware of company news and developments. This is easy to overcome, however, with frequent communication. Expect weekly meetings and reports.

Regardless of whether you hire an in-house manager, or you outsource the affiliate-management function, look for these key skills.

  • Marketing focused. While your marketing team drives the consumer promotional calendar, the affiliate manager should drive the affiliate promotional calendar. For example, if there is a new product launch on the horizon, what can the affiliate manager do to get affiliates geared up to boost promotion of the new product?
  • Relationship oriented. Affiliate managers work directly with a variety of individuals, from your internal IT team to a mommy blogger. As such, they need to have strong communication and relationship building skills.
  • Analytically advanced. Any marketing expenditure should be tied to revenue, and an experienced affiliate manager will ensure the proper tracking and attribution is in place to account for all promotional activities. He should also be able to ask the right questions and manipulate data to get the answers.
  • Tech savvy. From testing the affiliate-tracking pixel to coding content for affiliates, affiliate managers need to have basic HTML and code knowledge.
  • Detail oriented and inquisitive. There are many nuances when it comes to affiliate marketing — from understanding different state legislative requirements in regards to tax nexus, to tracking the success of a single paid placement. Affiliate managers need to be detail-oriented so that they can manage the specifics, but inquisitive enough to see the big picture.
  • Fits with company. Most of all, regardless of whether you hire an in-house or an outsourced affiliate manager, you want to hire someone who is a good fit with your brand and culture, and who can be an ambassador of your brand.
Carolyn Kmet

Carolyn Kmet

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  1. dare July 28, 2014 Reply

    And here are several factors or aspects that must be measured:

    (a) not enough demand means not enough people are going to buy
    (b) too much competition means not enough of a profit to go around
    (c) too much advertising drives up the price of pay per click ads, and competition as well
    (d) not enough general interest, combined with low demand, means there may not be a good market even if there is competition trying to make the sales.

  2. Jeffery July 29, 2014 Reply

    Great article, Carolyn!

    • Carolyn Kmet July 30, 2014 Reply

      Thank you! Will you be at Affiliate Summit in a couple weeks?

  3. Cassie August 5, 2014 Reply

    Great Article. People have a tendency to undervalue an internal resource managing affiliate programs on a day to day basis!

  4. steve August 10, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for sharing this article.Great work!

  5. Peter August 18, 2014 Reply

    Wow great in-depth article going above and beyond working as a simply affiliate marketer. This comes to show hard work overtime can lead to greater and better things such as starting your very own affiliate network. I never knew how hard it could be to find affiliate employees selling for you. I figured the hardest part would be managing your product and making sure there’s great value in it. However, it looks like there’s a lot more to it than just that.

    Thanks for this!

  6. Ashok Patel August 27, 2014 Reply

    Hi Carolyn,

    My name is Ashok Patel from India and working as an individual affiliate manager. I have few projects running successfully. But as people are getting aware with this kind of marketing the negative approach is also coming in industry. The main issue i am facing is that today merchant is expecting all the affiliates should join and start promoting / selling their product within same day and starting earning revenue and that all things they expect from an affiliate manager So, my request is to write something about how tough is an affiliate recruitment and how much time minimum time require to make any program run successful. plz..

  7. Carolyn Kmet August 28, 2014 Reply

    Ashok, that is a very great point. I’ll write about the challenges involved in recruiting and activating affiliates and how long it takes to ramp up an affiliate program. It’s nice to meet you!