Retail, Performance Marketing

The Power of Effective Affiliate Program Management

With years of experience auditing and taking over management of many affiliate programs previously managed by networks, the MERGE team offers key perspective and insight to brands looking to increase revenue and return, in addition to increasing traffic and acquiring new customers.

BY: MERGE Retail Team

PUBLISHED: 4/11/2024

We have seen affiliate marketing programs managed in a variety of capacities over the years. Whether it be a network, a public relations (PR) team, or an affiliate-only agency, there are numerous pitfalls that can trip up advertisers depending on the approach to managing an affiliate program.

There are plenty of reasons why a brand has its affiliate program managed by a network – it’s cheaper, they have more access to new features, they probably know every publisher out there…the list goes on. What is missing, however, from many of these network managed programs is someone with expertise and dedicated time to manage your program correctly. That, plus a cost structure that increases your revenue – not just the affiliate network’s revenue.

When looking at network managed programs, we consistently see commission structures that aren’t trying to increase new customers or content site exposure, paid placements that aren’t pushing the brand forward or increasing revenue, and a group of text links that only promote discounts and sales. Some of this is due to overworked and under trained program managers, but some of it is in the network fee structure itself. If your brand is paying a network fee plus a percentage of commissions, the network is now incentivized to maximize your costs, not your revenue. When that’s the case, we often see brands paying higher commissions for coupon sites than for content sites – the exact opposite of what you should do. 

With years of experience auditing and taking over management of many affiliate programs previously managed by networks, MERGE has helped brands increase revenue and return, in addition to increasing traffic and acquiring new customers. 

Case in point, in the first year managing a previous network managed program, MERGE client revenue increased 43% while spend only increased 26%. Traffic also increased 25%, while new customer rates increased from 55% of orders to 65% of orders. 

The more impressive results come after year one, largely due to implementing foundational elements, including minimizing your coupon reliance, increasing exposure of your onsite content, and introducing new ideas and promotional methods to grow your audience and revenue. 

Within three years of taking over a network managed brand, client revenue increased an average of 96% compared to the previous three years, while spend only increased 37%. Traffic for all of the network managed brands increased an average of 68% after taking over management, and new customer rates increased from 53% to 72%.

You may be getting a “deal” with your program management, but that “deal” may be limiting your program from maximizing its revenue and return while at the same time minimizing how many new customers your brand could bring in.

Integrating PR teams with your affiliate program can also unlock a wealth of opportunities for brand promotion and growth. PR professionals excel at leveraging their extensive networks to amplify your brand's presence, laying a solid foundation for visibility across various platforms. This expertise in brand promotion is a crucial first step in building a successful affiliate program. However, the true power lies in the synergy between PR efforts and specialized affiliate partners who are experts in driving traffic and transactions. 

By harmonizing the strengths of PR teams with the strategic insights of affiliate partners, brands can create a dynamic and effective ecosystem. This collaborative approach not only maximizes the reach and impact of your brand but also ensures a sustainable model for generating revenue. In short, embracing the combined forces of PR and affiliate marketing strategies offers a comprehensive solution that propels brands towards achieving their business goals.

Lastly, there are affiliate-only agencies. While they know affiliate marketing, do they also know how your affiliate channel can benefit from your display channel? Or how your affiliate program can help grow your paid social program, your paid search, your SEO, and your email programs? Integration across the digital marketing landscape is at the core of everything we do. This assures we are driving incremental growth to drive sustainable growth for our clients.




What are examples of tailoring approaches to managing affiliate programs for brands in different industries? 


One approach to managing affiliate programs for brands across different industries is by first conducting an in-depth analysis of each brand's unique market position, target audience, competitors, and overall industry trends. This meticulous approach allows brands to customize strategies that resonate with their specific needs and challenges, whether they operate within the fast-paced tech sector, the dynamic fashion industry, or the health and wellness space. By leveraging data-driven insights and harnessing the power of advanced analytics, brands can craft affiliate marketing strategies that are not only aligned with the brand's goals but also adaptable to the evolving landscape of their respective industries.


What are some specific examples of innovative promotional methods or ideas that have been introduced to grow client audience and revenue?

One effective strategy has been the creation of exclusive partnerships between brands and high-performing affiliates. These partnerships often involve crafting unique promotional content, special offers, or limited-time discounts that are tailored to the affiliate's specific audience, thereby creating a more personalized and compelling incentive for potential customers. Additionally, the use of cutting-edge technology and platforms can enhance the reach and impact of affiliate marketing campaigns. One example includes utilizing influencer affiliate marketing tools to identify and engage influencers who align with the brand's values and target demographic.


Are there examples of brands that have significantly benefited from integrating their affiliate program with PR and other digital marketing channels?


MERGE has successfully integrated affiliate programs with PR and other digital marketing channels in several notable cases. One such success story involves a prominent retail brand that sought to expand its online presence and sales. By closely coordinating the affiliate program with ongoing PR campaigns and leveraging digital marketing tactics such as SEO and content marketing, MERGE was able to significantly increase the brand's visibility and attract new customer segments. This holistic approach not only boosted the brand's affiliate-generated revenue but also enhanced its overall market position and brand recognition. 


There are a lot of ways you can manage your affiliate marketing, but at MERGE, we work with all of your digital marketing channels to not only increase your affiliate revenue, but also your brand awareness, total site traffic, and total site revenue. For more, connect with MERGE's team of experts.