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Should you hire an affiliate marketing agency?
/Best Practices/By Streamline Marketing

Should You Hire An Affiliate Marketing Agency?

Whether you’re a small startup or a major corporation, placing your product in front of the right eyes is key to increasing your business.

That’s where affiliate marketing comes in.

If you’re interested in growing your business through an affiliate marketing program, keep reading.

Today we’re answering the question that so many new businesses and existing companies want to know:

Should I hire an affiliate marketing agency?

What Does an Affiliate Marketing Agency Do?

Let’s start with a quick recap of how affiliate marketing actually works.

A company has a product or a service to sell. They pay a small fee to a publisher (aka another website, blogger, or influencer) to promote their product. A customer on the publisher’s website sees the ad or promotion, clicks on it, and makes a purchase. The publisher then gets a small fee or a percentage of the sale that they drove to the company’s site.

So how does an agency factor into the mix?

An agency connects a company to the affiliate partners and publishers best suited to drive traffic to the company’s website and, in turn, increase sales.

How Can an Affiliate Marketing Agency Help My Business?

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There are several ways.

Agencies use the connections they have in your industry to identify the best affiliates for your business.

They also work with numerous clients in different industries, so they offer a wealth of knowledge. They hold the keys to complicated topics like attribution, incrementality, and the value of individual publishers. In some cases, that might even include knowledge about some of your direct competitors.

Affiliate marketing agencies have access to social media influencers, content creators, and other unique and creative types of partnerships. This allows them to design clear and focused marketing solutions for your specific business and cater to your unique needs.

Related: What is Partnership Marketing?

And because they work with an extensive network of affiliates and publishers and manage millions of dollars in advertising spend, there’s one other big perk:

They will be able to negotiate lower or more favorable commissions than if you found the affiliates yourself.

But that’s not all.

Successful affiliate marketing agencies have the tools and software needed to measure your KPIs. And understanding those key performance indicators plays a considerable role in the overall success of your affiliate campaign.

A good agency can also offer a diverse marketing strategy to manage your existing campaigns, or build new ones to bring in more business.

What to Look For When Choosing an Affiliate Marketing Agency

Your agency should work with clients in your industry and understand your key demographics and audience. Look at the clients they currently work with. Are they recognizable brands? Are they your direct competitors?

It’s vital that the agency has a track record with other brands and businesses whose focus aligns with your own.

Make sure both parties have the same goals in mind. Some agencies have a benchmark for success to deliver X% month over month growth. Others measure success by bringing in a specific dollar amount per month.

Decide how you want to measure your own growth and find an agency with the same ideals.

Last but not least, make sure they can provide your desired level of analytics and communication. Think about how much time they will be able to dedicate to your account.

Some affiliate marketing companies will devote one account manager to your company. Some may assign an entire team to your account alone. Others may only provide one or two account reps that handle dozens of accounts at the same time.

Before you decide who to hire, think about how much time and consideration your account will get.

What Questions Should I Ask Before Hiring an Affiliate Marketing Agency?

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Before you hire an affiliate marketing agency for outsourced program management (OPM), consider these nine key questions to determine if they are the right partner for you.

1. How many other affiliate programs will my account manager oversee?

You’ll need some level of personal attention, so make sure your account manager won’t be overwhelmed with too many other accounts.  Remember that the agency is running a business too, and they are going to put their resources towards clients that make them money. If you’re paying a small monthly amount, you will get a small fraction of an individual account team’s attention.

2. What will the first three months of working with your agency look like?

It’s essential to know how hands-on or hands-off you’ll need to be. For instance, you may want an agency with formal processes in place, or you might prefer one that offers a bit more flexibility.

A successful affiliate marketing agency will provide you with a 90-day plan, clearly laying out a successful path for your program as you launch your engagement.

3. How will you handle any potential conflicts of interest?

There are benefits and downsides to hiring an affiliate management agency that works with your competitors. Make sure you understand how they’ll approach this if the issue arises.

4. Can I see some of your past work?

Some agencies may provide you with examples of marketing campaigns they’ve done with prior clients. Others may not.

To make sure you’re hiring the right agency, look for case studies or online reviews that speak to the quality of their work and expertise.

Always ask for references and the ability to speak to existing clients.  Good agencies should be able to provide multiple options.

5. Where are your account teams located?

It’s always good to know if your account manager/account team will be working remotely or in house.

Streamline has found incredible success handling complex campaigns by staffing their account teams in-house in the same office.

6. How large are the programs you currently manage?

With this question, you’ll get a better sense of who they are currently working for. In other words, do they have experience with large enterprise brands, small businesses, or high growth startups?

7. How familiar are you with the network that my company is working with?

Make sure they are familiar with your current affiliate network(s). If they plan to launch your program on a new network, ask how familiar they are with that network.

Don’t allow yourself to be the guinea pig they use to test out a new network or technology.

8. What is your pricing structure?

You should be cautious when working with an agency that charges solely based on performance. Agencies who work entirely on performance are often misaligned and can lead to poor behavior by the affiliate managers.

Most agencies in our space work with a fixed retainer plus a performance on revenue so they are aligned in driving growth for their clients.  At Streamline, we use the performance fees of our clients to contribute to a profit-sharing pool so your account team shares in the success of your campaign.

Choose an agency with integrity.

9. What does your compliance department look like?

Before you hire an agency, ask what their policies are regarding working with affiliate software, trademark search monitoring, and coupon/voucher auditing. And make sure that they have a system in place to monitor anyone who violates the agreement.

Do I Need to Hire an Affiliate Marketing Agency?

The short answer is yes.

Here’s why:

1. They have existing relationships with publishers.

Their connections with various companies and different audiences and marketing channels can benefit you. You won’t need to build your own relationships from scratch.

2. They usually have some performance-driven component, so when you succeed, they succeed.

However, you should avoid agencies that work strictly on a performance-based system. Disreputable affiliate agencies have, at times, been known to skew the metrics to make their performance seem better.

Reputable firms, like Streamline, structure things a little bit differently. Streamline has a base retainer fee and then adds performance incentives on top of that via a profit-sharing model.

This innovative approach makes the success of an affiliate program crucial to the bottom line of both the agency and the company they’re working for.

3. Historical data and insights offer a competitive advantage. 

If you handle your affiliate marketing program on your own, you are starting from scratch with no historical data or insights into which partners perform well in your vertical.

You would also only have access to your own metrics. You would never have access to the data and insights of a well-established agency.

Streamline has managed and driven billions of dollars of transactions to clients in various industries. They use this vast amount of historical data to determine which partners and campaigns work best for each brand.

Affiliate marketing continues to grow year after year. It is expected to become a 6.8 billion dollar industry in the U.S. by 2020. If you aren’t already working with affiliate marketers, it’s time to start.

And if you want to grow your business through the right affiliate channels, it’s time to hire an agency.

Streamline your affiliate marketing
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