Questions to ask when evaluating an Affiliate Outsourced Program Management agency

There are numerous reasons to consider when deciding to use an Outsourced Program Management (OPM) to manage an eCommerce affiliate program from the cost factor, to leveraging the affiliate expertise of the OPM. We have seen over and over again that there are some affiliate management companies that will focus on making a quick buck, put your company’s name in jeopardy and spend little attention on managing your affiliate program. There are many capable program managers in the industry but at the end of the day, you will need to find a affiliate manager that you feel comfortable with knowing that they are working for you and looking after your interest.

Here are some basic question that you might want to ask before signing anything with a affiliate management company.

    1. How many hours will you spend on the program?
      Depending on the size of the affiliate program, and the stage of the program, you can anticipate that an average of 15 hours per week to be spent on an affiliate program. There is no hard and fast rule, but a more complex program, or larger might need 20-40 hours and some newer program might require that affiliate management focus in the initial stage of launching a new program.


    1. What is the breakdown for those hours?
      Recruitment, communication, etc are part and parcel of affiliate management and there are numerous tactics that an affiliate manager will use, but it is good to know the breakdown of those hours spent on doing those activities. You don’t want to be a micro-manager but getting a sense of how the OPM will spend their time doing that might give you a sign as to how they plan to help grow, or launch your affiliate program. Secondly, ask them if they are working with dozens of programs, or just a handful as a person managing dozens of programs might result in little attention given.


    1. What is your core niche? ecommerce, lead generation?
      Affiliate program managers have different focuses. Not a lot of people will admit it, but that is the fact. Some management agency might excel at local affiliate marketing, while some will struggle at that but will not acknowledge that. If you are looking to launch an affiliate program that is localized to your state, then find an expert that is doing that. There are also companies that have expertise in online lead generation, so leverage that experience. Identify your needs, and find an agency that will work to address your needs.


    1. Is the affiliate agency you are hiring an an affiliate?
      This is a taboo discussion and not a lot of companies will bring it up. We have seen affiliate agencies that are working with an ecommerce company come in and become an affiliate. To add injury to the wound, the agency would then be an affiliate of the program that they are paid to manage. We see this as a conflict of interest as affiliate managers have confidential information which can be used to help their own affiliate activities, thus getting paid from the ecommerce company to manage a program, and getting a commission on top of that. We believe that those should be mutually exclusive and if the agency is making more than $50 (or $xxx threshold), they should disclose it to their clients.


    1. Do you work with toolbars, Adware, and other 3rd party installs?
      The Adware market is not new, but is constantly evolving since the early 2000’s, but it cannot be denied that there are numerous bad player in the market from Zango to less known applications. The last thing you want to have is to get a letter from the FTC for questionable practices as the downloadable software was flagged for stealing commission, or other issues. It is a judgment call for the ecommerce company, but we strongly discourage companies that utilizes toolbars/ downloadable software.


    1. Do you work with paid search trademark bidders?
      Paid search affiliates (aka pay per click affiliate) can greatly help with an affiliate program when it comes to supplementing an ecommerce’s paid search activities. The only time that it becomes tricky is when the affiliate is competing with the company for placement which will result in a higher cost, or displacing the ecommerce company’s Ad. We find it rare that a paid search affiliate that does brand trademark bidding will bring any value to the table as trademark, or brand terms does not have a high CPC cost, and usually converts well as people are searching for your brand and will likely convert.


    1. What are some of the value added benefit of an affiliate program management?
      Other than the day-to-day affiliate management, does the affiliate agency provide other value added services? Will the affiliate manager help with recommendation on addressing toolbars, guidelines to prevent the FTC from sending you a notice to other suggestions to help your ecommerce site grow?


    1. What industry events are you involved with?
      It is good to know that an affiliate manager is involved in the online community to keep abreast with the important changes. There are numerous affilaite conferences, and destinations that will provide a wealth of information to help that agency sharpen their tools. Ask them about it.


Those are some of the honest questions you want to ask an affiliate program management company, and in many instances, you will find similar answers between those companies, but work with a company that you feel right working with.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us by filling up the form on the right, and if you are looking for help with your affiliate program, we will be more than happy to assist you.

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