The fastest method to jump starting sales for most affiliate managers relies heavily on big coupon, loyalty and search affiliates known for often time delivering 90% of sales in typical programs. In the affiliate marketing industry, a good rule of thumb states that 10% of affiliates often contribute 90% or greater sales in a given program. The 10% big earners typically include big coupon/deal sites, loyalty/cash-back sites, and expert PPC search marketers. Note that a great number of those coupon/deal sites are also expert PPC search marketers, and are driving traffic to their coupon sites via ppc ads.
This is the situation in most affiliate programs, where a heavy reliance exists on a few affiliates at the top to really drive high sales numbers. A more ideal program scenario can exist though with 50 affiliates bringing in 1 sale a piece per month rather than 2 affiliates bringing in 35 and 15 sales respectively.
To find, activate and manage 50 affiliates bringing in 1 sale a piece however, can be a long process. To be successful, affiliate managers have to be dedicated to the task and merchants must be patient for long-tail results. Granted, it’s much easier and quicker to make a noticeable impact in the short-term (but also risky) by focusing on relationships with a few affiliates rather than work and nurture 50 affiliates.
It is the path of least resistance, when merchants push for sales NOW with short-term rapid sales gains. Who can blame them? They’ve made an investment in the affiliate program and want to see sales results to judge whether or not the investment was and will be viable.
Once those top affiliates that find the shortest route to the sale keep generating high results, they are rewarded with higher commission levels. With the higher commissions, they can start bidding higher on keywords, its starts a virtuous cycle for the fast moving/quick-sale generating affiliate and soon there are just a few affiliates dominating all of the program’s affiliate channel sales.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to criticize these top performing affiliates. They are doing their “job” and they’re doing it well. They are professionals and are generating the best returns they can for their efforts.
It’s up to the diligent affiliate program manager to guard against getting locked into this scenario. Along with supporting those high performance / high impact affiliates, the affiliate manager must take time and effort to bring on board smaller affiliates to broaden the base and overall health of the program.
Next post I’ll discuss the main reasons why this is so critical, and how a good affiliate manager can accomplish this.