Breaking up is hard to do. But sometimes you’re just left with no choice in the matter. At least in terms of switching affiliate networks, that is.
Whether a network completely just shuts down (like what happened with the Google Affiliate Network), or you’re just not happy with your current setup–deciding to switch affiliate networks is a pretty big deal. There’s no magic wand that just instantly switches your program from one network to another–especially if you want to retain historical data. Just like when you first set up your program, you need to plan appropriately, communicate effectively and follow through!
Figure Out the Why
Before you do anything, you need to figure out exactly why you want to switch affiliate networks. Does tracking continually break down? Is the reporting pretty lackluster? Are you paying out way more than you’re actually making in sales? There are plenty of reasons you may want to switch, and when the bad gets bad enough, you’ll know it’s the right time.
Sometimes, as in the case of GAN, a network just plumb shuts down. Usually you’ll be able to read the writing on the wall and plan ahead. But in some cases, you’ll find out last minute and have to completely scramble to move your network to a whole new platform.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve made up your mind to switch affiliate networks, it’s time to do some serious snooping. There are tons of affiliate networks out there like Affiliate Window, Avangate, AvantLink, ClickBank, Commission Junction, eBay Enterprise, Rakuten Linkshare, ShareASale, and loads more. Or maybe your program is big where it’s worthwhile to explore in-house tracking solutions such as Impact Radius or Performance Horizon Group. Working with affiliates “direct” can be a significant cost-savings and improve your return on ad spend (ROAS).
Depending on the route you go, understand the differences between each network. You’ll want to consider their technology, merchant and affiliate tools, as well as the fee structure. If you are working with an affiliate management agency, ask them about their experience working with different networks. They can help you with the evaluation process and may be able to get you a break on fees. In the end, you will get what you pay for, and the more you want, the more it’ll cost.
Take a look at each networks basic program information and then contact them for a demo, details and more. Be sure to look at and talk about both the merchant interface, as well as the affiliate admin. You want to make sure that you don’t just have the best tools at your disposal but that everything makes sense from an affiliate standpoint.
Ask as many questions as you can and don’t be afraid to try to bargain a bit to get the monthly price down. Many networks will create custom programs for merchants, so you always have a great opportunity to work on price and features overall.
Communication, Communication, Communication
Get the hint? Yeah, communication is critical at this point. Once you’ve signed up with a new affiliate network, make sure you go over everything with the new network. Find out how long it’ll take to set up, how exactly all of your affiliates will be migrated over, how will you perform X, Y and Z, etc. At this point, your new network should set you up with a tech contact who will help you through the entire migration process. Make sure you fully understand the plan, so as not to leave anyone in the dust.
If you haven’t already, it’s also a good time to brush up on the contractual language of the network you’re leaving. Many networks have non-solicitation clauses in their contracts, so you will want to make sure your communication plan does not violate any terms of your agreement. Understanding what you can and cannot do in terms of affiliate communication is an important element in avoiding a love letter from their lawyers.
Once the new network is set up, you’ll probably bring over a handful of affiliates to make sure all is working properly. Again, communicate personally with this small group to get them properly set up. When they’re all moved over, keep bringing more and more affiliates over in chunks. Early on, it’s a good idea to send out a mass email to your affiliate base giving them a heads-up of what’s to come. Let them know you’re switching to a new affiliate network and it will be amazingly awesome because of… well, list out the specifics for them.
Once your program is fully moved over, keep the communication flowing. Be sure to thank your affiliates for a smooth move and let them know how valued they are as part of your team. If you can, it couldn’t hurt to toss some sort of bonus or incentive bonus for the first month or two to really show your affiliates how much you care.
Whatever the case, keep the lines of communication wide open. Request feedback from everyone and even reach out to some of your top affiliates to get their thoughts on the new platform and how the migration went. Before you know it, you’ll be moving full speed ahead in a brand new network. That old platform you hated (Or that shut down in the middle of the night)? By this time, it’ll be nothing more than a faint memory.