Kicking Off Your Affiliate Marketing Program In 2019: A Step By Step Guide

January 7, 2019

It’s a New Year, which means it’s time for new objectives, fresh ideas and a renewed focus on developing strategy for success in 2019!

Affiliate marketers: If you’re anything like our team, your minds are likely buzzing with thoughts about preparation for the upcoming year. What’s that phrase again? No rest for the weary? All joking aside, in affiliate marketing, a critical component of optimizing your programs is thorough planning. This means taking a comprehensive look at new learnings and opportunities from the previous year, establishing budgets, and setting quarterly to yearly goals that position you for growth in the new year.

As we’re gearing ourselves and our clients up for 2019’s fresh start, we’ve compiled this list of checkpoints and helpful methods for determining how best to access your strategy and move forward with your brand for the coming year.

Step One: Review 2018 Learnings

Before you look ahead, it’s helpful to look back at the previous year’s wins, challenges and learnings for your brand. A great place to start is to look at your top performing publishers, to see if these are the usual suspects, or new affiliates you should consider deepening work with in 2019. Pinpoint any notable increases or declines in publisher performance throughout the year – do you know what caused these drastic metric changes? If not, see if the publishers themselves can provide any further insights. For instance, maybe their site was having issues on the whole, or perhaps your brand isn’t striking their site’s audience as well as it could.

Next, review how placements performed in 2018. Similar to the publisher analysis above, were there any new tests that went well? It may be worth reviewing their Q1 rate cards to test more extensively with them this year. Take a look, too, if applicable, about the differences in performance based on placement type. If newsletters tend to have a higher ROAS than category placements, for instance, it may be worth considering a strategy change for the new year.

Finally, a careful analysis of the results from peak holidays throughout the year, as well as Q4 as a whole, will help set you up to capitalize on the strongest days of the upcoming year.

Step Two: Set Goals For 2019

Outline the big picture goals for your program. More than anything, what KPI’s are you looking to target? Do you have specific percent lifts you’re looking to see for revenue, conversion rates, etc.? Set a timeline for these big picture goals, whether that’s over the course of the whole year or a specific quarter or two. If you’re looking at a more abstract goal, such as increasing brand exposure, determine what metrics you’ll use to measure your progress. Plan to check on the progress of these goals on a monthly basis, so you can stay aware of how you’re pacing to goals, and if you might benefit from any tweaks to your plans as you see how estimated vs. actual performance is comparing.

Additionally, don’t forget about opportunities to expand your program past traditional affiliates. From in-store programs, to content sites and video reviews, there’s an ever-increasing array of affiliates through which to promote your brand.

Step Three: Define Your Budgets & Investments

You’ll want to determine not just what your overall monthly and quarterly budgets are, but how you’re looking to focus these budgets. Affiliate programs necessitate a variety of payouts between affiliate commissions, network fees, flat fees for placements, and integration fees for new affiliates. It’s important to know where you’re willing to spend more than expected, and where you’re willing to pull back if necessary. Think ahead about the risks with budget you might be willing to take throughout the year, and if you can roll over monthly or quarterly budgets if needed. It’s great to set ambitious goals for the new year, but don’t forget the logistics of funding these goals!

Step Four: Outline Your 2019 Strategy

Now that you know where the program has been and where you’d like the program to be headed, take the time to break down the smaller steps you’ll take towards your big picture goals on a month-by-month basis. Additionally, look on a monthly or quarterly basis to outline any other more targeted goals you’d like to hit. Perhaps you usually have a slow Q2, excess inventory at the beginning of summer, or want to push Back to School offerings sooner than usual. Taking the time to outline these goals now will ensure these opportunities don’t fly under the radar as you continue to work on your big picture goals.

Happy planning, all!

And Heidi Solchenberger
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