Choosing the Best Affiliate Management Agency for your Business

You’re done. You just can’t handle it by yourself anymore. You’ve tried, and tried, and tried but it’s just too darn tough. Hey, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Admitting you need help is the first big step towards a lifetime of happiness and success.

Clearly we’re talking about outsourcing your affiliate marketing program. Now, whether you just don’t have the time to do it yourself anymore or you’re just starting out with an affiliate program and have no idea what you’re doing, an Affiliate Management Agency can be a lifesaver.

When you build a house, you need a contractor, right? They know exactly what’s needed to get your home built. Permits, electricians, plumbers, etc. They manage it all so you don’t have to. It’s the same thing with an Affiliate Management Agency. They can support your affiliate marketing efforts in a variety of ways–from managing the entire channel to helping you work more efficiently and strategically with the publishers promoting your brand.

Thing is, there are so many Affiliate Management Agencies and outsourced program managers (OPM’s) out there. Some are fantastic. Others are a bit, shall we say, shady. And plenty fall in between. So how do you know which one is the best fit for your business? We’ve put together a list of the 7 Golden Rules to follow when choosing an Affiliate Management Agency.
Rule 1: Experience

Find out how long the affiliate management agency has been in business. But be aware that just because an agency has been managing affiliate programs for years doesn’t mean they’re complete experts in managing a program around your core business. So ask them what similar programs they’ve managed and see if they’re currently handling things for any of your competitors. This industry is constantly changing at the speed of light, so besides finding an agency that’s been around the block a few times, be sure to see how up they are on the latest market trends.

Rule 2: Reputation

Perception and industry reputation matters–especially in performance marketing. If you sign up with an agency that’s mired in controversy or associated with some pretty questionable (i.e. “adult” oriented) brands, it may reflect negatively on your program. Investigate what other clients think of an agency, as well as what other affiliates and partners think. It’s a big industry, but also a small one, where everyone seems to know everyone else. It shouldn’t take you long to learn what it’s like working with a particular agency.

Rule 3: Strategy

Every company has a plan, some more detailed than others. Unearth a company’s strengths as well as what they bring to the table every single time to ensure success for each of their clients. While an agency will always want to show you their best, it’s also interesting to ask about some of their non-successes (a.k.a. failures). In those cases with less than stellar results, find out exactly what went wrong and what the agency did to make sure the same mistake won’t ever happen again.

Rule 4: Accountability

Some of the best salesman out there are fantastic actors. Just like psychics, they’ve learned to tell you exactly what you want to hear. You quickly become spellbound and believe every word they say. But are they really telling the truth? Can they back up what they’re saying and prove it with real results and real data?  Ask if they have any case studies or success stories from customers similar to your business.

Rule 5: Activity

Like the internet itself, the performance marketing industry is constantly in a state of flux. New trends, new markets, and entirely new ways of communicating are popping up in the blink of an eye. Is the affiliate management agency you’re considering aware of the latest industry trends, challenges and changes? What specifically are they doing to keep their finger on that rapid pulse? Ask the agency how it regularly gets involved with the industry. Find out which trade shows they attend annually. Do they put on webinars? Write white papers? What, if anything, are they doing to give back to performance marketing as a whole?

Rule 6: Value

Before signing your affiliate program over to an agency, look at the hard line of items that you’ll be getting for your hard-earned money. Find out specifically what an agency is going to do for you. At the very least, you’ll want them to be continually fine-tuning your affiliate marketing strategy, hopefully increasing affiliate engagement. But what other services do they specifically offer? Some may be able to develop affiliate tools, web design, article writing, etc. Depending on the needs of your business, different agencies may be a better fit thanks to the added value they can bring to the table.

Rule 7: Flexibility

There are a number of large affiliate networks you may consider running your program through. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some agencies work directly with only one or two networks, while others work with anyone and everyone they can. It may not matter at all to you but find out how flexible an agency is before you sign on the dotted line. See if they’re limited to only a few affiliate networks or if they have the ability to take a partner directly and run the program themselves. You may even want to run it on several platforms or networks to maximize your exposure.

Doing your homework will make it easier to choose the best Affiliate Management Agency. It may take a little bit of time but by following these seven rules, you can make an educated decision and find the right affiliate management agency for your business.