Cristian is the first speaker interviewed leading upto Affiliate Management Days London 2014, he lives and breathes affiliate marketing working at Avangate as the Senior Affiliate Marketing Manager. He is a positive and engaged member of the affiliate marketing community and is active on social media.
Cristian is speaking on Day 1 at 5:00-5:45pm on “Affiliate Retention Campaigns: Don’t Let Affiliates Leave Your Program“.
Do you mind telling us a little bit about your background and your current role at Avangate?
CM>> When looking back I can say I got a taste of several activities. I studied piano for 6 years (yes, I can still play), I did intensive programming during high-school, I got my bachelor’s diploma on Engineering for Telecommunications and my master’s degree on Journalism – Multimedia Production.
I worked for PC World Romania, part of International Data Group, as an Editor-in-Chief. That helped me a lot getting acquainted with the IT&C field and the global trends. Then, in 2008 I came onboard Avangate and helped grow the global software and online services specialized affiliate network that we have today.
I am currently in charge of Avangate’s affiliate management program for merchants, working with our in-house team and outsourced program manager partners. Working within the software and online services vertical, my responsibilities revolve around the relationship with our merchants and partners, turning the services we provide into successes.
You have written an interesting post on Avangate blog about retention campaigns last year which of these drivers would you suggest affiliate managers start exploring first?
CM>> First of all I would suggest affiliate managers to make sure they have the relevant data to weigh the status of their affiliate program, including the competitive analysis. After that it’s very easy to see where they should act.
From what I saw, most of the merchants start at the commission level, which is the most important according to the AffStat survey. Although I would say that a healthier and proactive approach would be the one where the affiliate managers communicate with the affiliates and know of their potential issues before it’s too late.
I saw that the AffStat 2013 report shows a big shift to commission and relevancy, how can affiliate managers best respond to retain affiliates?
CM>> Actually in the 2013 survey the percentages have not been normed to 100%, but put there based on the frequency of choice in the multiple selections of affiliates.
That said, the shift I see is more related to relevancy and that is only natural with affiliates identifying niches on which they can be “kings” without much competition to go against. The best way for affiliate managers to respond to this is nurture their top affiliates with personalized programs (exclusive opportunities) to help each grow their way. I would also advise them to develop a pipeline of long-tail affiliates, to minimize the revenue impact of a potential top affiliate leaving the program. That can be managed via the affiliate programs that vertical networks run – like Avangate on software & online services.
If affiliates are managed right what are some of the benefits for merchants? Revenue? Traffic? Retention?
CM>> Ultimately it all comes down to revenue – that should be the end goal. Judging from the “take one small step at a time” point of view, it really depends on the affiliate program development stage the merchant is in. For vendors that are just starting to work with affiliates, getting relevant traffic is the first goal. With that you will also get revenue. Then, you aim to maximize the revenue by getting more affiliates onboard. Finally, retention is the way to go when the merchant’s revenue can grow mostly from existing affiliates. And we mustn’t forget that given the rise of subscriptions and longer term customer relationship, the affiliate managers must take into account rewarding the affiliates in the retention phase as well. Affiliate networks already provide ways to incentivize the affiliates for both acquiring new customers and also retaining them.
There’s no universal method of managing the affiliates the right way. The guidelines are there as best practices, but a smart affiliate manager has to integrate those to the specific of each of the affiliates in order to get maximized efficiency
I have like many affiliates have experienced being thrown out of a program without notification due to becoming inactive or not driving enough revenue. Is that the best course of action?
CM>> I certainly hope the affiliate manager who was handling the program at least took the time to speak with you (email, IM, phone) prior to throwing you out of the program. I generally do not recommend that, especially for the affiliates driving some revenue. I think every affiliate is a potential partner that can help move business for you so the least you should do as an affiliate manager is make sure that lead is “gone-dead” from a business perspective before disabling them from your program.
What I’ve seen some merchants I’m working with do is create a “drop tier” with a very low affiliate commission rate to which they temporarily assign policy violators – that can be a solution for inactive affiliates as well, just so the affiliate manager knows they’re all in one place and also keep the relationship.
6. What is the best way to track inactive affiliates or those that swapped to promoting a competitors product?
CM>> First of all, every affiliate manager should look over the stats of the program at least once a week. That way they can see any changes in revenue and traffic from the affiliates and can get back on those.
Also, with big affiliates it’s always useful to check their website, be subscribed to their email campaigns and be connected with them via social media (Facebook, Twitter), just to see what they’re communicating to their audience. There are also paid tools out there (e.g. WhatRunsWhere) which you can use to get more info about your publishers
7. How do you find is the best way to evaluate if a poorly performing affiliates can improve with coaching/support? Is it the type of traffic they send? The amount of traffic? or is it your knowledge of the product/industry?
CM>> I think that understanding how an affiliate promotes your products is the key. It encompasses both the traffic (volume and quality) and the targeting of it. There are affiliates that send hundreds of thousands of people in traffic and get no sales, but if they have the right traffic, they do not need so much in order to generate revenue.
From the affiliate manager perspective, they can also share their advice with affiliates on how to best promote the products.
8. What do you find are your best channels to building relationship with top affiliates?
CM>> Events help very much in schmoozing with your affiliates and building a relationship – it’s always best to associate a face to a name. Unfortunately we don’t get to meet all your affiliates (not even all our top ones) at events, so we can also try to have periodic phone / IM calls with our affiliates, to keep them close and build the relationship. That’s more cost effective as well – the trouble is not all of them prefer these methods of communication, so we might be left with the email. Some nice gifts sent around holidays also help building the relationship.
What are some of the best channels you find for distribution of affiliate news, new offers and changes to your affiliate programs?
CM>> Emails (newsletters) work fine with affiliates usually. For top affiliates, an additional personal reach (IM, phone, email) is recommended, so they see you care about them. You can even throw something extra for your top performers along with the offer for general affiliates.
What is the main ideas/points that you hope people get from attending your session?
CM>> Affiliate managers attending this session should leave with a clear retention campaign plan for their affiliate program: getting in touch with affiliates, updating their competitive analysis, constantly analyzing their current program status and using the guidelines we’ll go through to ease the retention efforts.
What other AM Days speakers or sessions are you most looking forward to attending?
CM>> There are several sessions I’m looking forward to attend, but the ones that I’m especially waiting for are the panel on understanding your affiliates and the one on growing affiliate programs in Europe vs. US.
So where can people found you if people want to follow/engage with you online?
Thank you Cristian for your time in answering these questions. If you want to catch Cristian Miculi speak and save ££££ on tickets for AM Days London you can use our discount code LOSTAGENCY14 and you can register and find out more here.