Thursday, October 15, 2009

Focusing on the Right Affiliates

I recently concluded a client engagement that included a number of demand generation initiatives, both through direct and in-direct channels. Affiliate partners played an important role in helping to drive demand for the client's consumer software suite.

In a post-mortem of the activities, two things jumped out at me -- it was clear that of the scores of affiliates that were signed up as partners, the majority of lead flow (and revenue) came from a small percentage (~10%) of those partners in the program.

Second, many partners had preferences (and differing results) for certain products.

This illustrates some key points with respect to affiliate marketing and how to best manage your marketing investments around where the success comes from. It will be true that for many partners, the investment provided to them in the way of resources (time, programs, messaging, tools, support, training, etc.) will be inordinate compared to the results you derive from that relationship. Good reporting and analytics should help you to identify and isolate those partners that can and do perform. Once known, that data should help guide where your organization should place greater emphasis in helping affiliates to maximize their (and your) marketing outcomes.

As well, your analytics and reporting should also help determine those partners who drive demand for certain solutions only, those partners who are fully engaged but for some reasons are unable to meet/surpass certain quotas or requirements and those partners who do not provide a corresponding return for the investment you're making in them.

The capability to isolate and understand your partners is therefore crucial to maximizing affiliate performance. Some will require (and have earned) more incremental time and resource allocation based upon performance (or potential). Some will not. The trick is to have the data and analysis available to you to make those types of calls. It's also important to note that it's natural to expect churn within your partner portfolio as a result of systematic review and appraisal of your partners. Which also supports the importance of an ongoing and aggressive affiliate acquisition program.

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