Oct 01, 2013

Keeping Affiliate Communications Business Casual

Selling stuff is not everyone’s forte.  That’s why brands turn to affiliates, who put forth a ton of effort to sell your stuff for you. Their effort coupled with your stuff, can lead to huge revenue boosts for your brand. Thus, the relationship program managers have with their affiliates needs to be a camaraderie AND a business partnership.

One of the more effective communication tools for large brands to converse with their affiliate base is a newsletter. It may seem monotonous, but when utilized effectively newsletters can be a great tool to help define your unique voice as a program manager. It allows a forum for engagement that helps negate the branded “sales person” and connects with people in a comfortable and educational way.

Just like if you were speaking in public, speaking to your entire affiliate base at once takes a bit of getting used to. Here are some tips to help focus your time and attention:

TIP# 1 First and foremost, you need to be organized. You, as a program manager, have a responsibility to consistently come up with creative tools to give affiliates so they can do what they do best. This means having your sales strategy coordinated far in advance. I used three separate newsletters to keep this type of information flowing:

  1. General Newsletter: This goes out at the beginning of every month. Announce dates of sales and what to expect from the brand during the month. This is also a good time to remind your affiliates of updated catalog feeds or new coupons added to the network bank. Most importantly, this is a great time to release new creative assets, especially ones related to holidays in the given month.
  2. Follow-up newsletter: Normally sent out around the middle of the month. Use this to remind affiliates of current program initiatives and display what to expect next month. Don’t worry about going in depth here, just focus on the headlines. For holidays that occur in the beginning of the following month, follow up newsletters are a great time to release corresponding assets.
  3. Announcements: This is where communications can make all the difference. Announcement newsletters are reserved for prominent news such as commission increases or flash sales on the client’s site. These headlines are BIG and BOLD and are meant to portray urgency.


TIP #2 Issue scheduled text links that reflect onsite promos in announcement emails. Affiliates who are paying attention can really capitalize on the SEO and social aspects of a brand sales campaign with a corresponding text link. Just be sure to match your sales campaign dates to your scheduled links.

TIP #3 Define your voice in your newsletter. I can’t tell you how easy it is to connect with affiliates when camaraderie is the general sentiment of the conversation. They love that in a program manager because you are taking the time to understand their specific niche. Yes, you should own the relationship, especially when negotiating ad placements. But, you will be surprised how much traffic can be generated when each and every relationship is optimized, regardless of the size of the site.

Overall, I would describe the optimal tone of newsletters and overall affiliate communications as “business casual”. You shouldn’t be stuffy and suit-like, but at the same time casual shouldn’t be taken to the Hawaiian shirt level. Wherever you land, be sure that your communications are consistent and useful.

TIP #4 Include a snippet of company info or history in each email. Some of my clients have been extremely influential in their vertical, so imputing a few historical snippets here and there may help increase a bit of brand awareness.

These are just some of the tips that help frame our affiliate communications and management programs. Hopefully they will influence and create some buzz between you and your affiliate partners.

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