This is a much debated question in the affiliate space, so only right I should approach it.
As an agency ourselves, you might think we always going to advocate using an affiliate agency, but that isn’t always the case. There are many positives and negatives for using in-house team members or relying on your chosen affiliate network to grow your program.
For large accounts networks can provide dedicated account management which is actively delivering opportunities and optimisation ideas. It is for accounts below £5-6m revenue where the brand requirements can often outweigh the networks deliverability. Floating somewhere between mid and low level management can mean optimisation is less forthcoming, and you are provided generic opportunities from the ‘same’ faces.
A cynical view would be to offer the opinion that networks are paid on override from commission spend so naturally lean towards the big publishers who can make them more money. The mid and long-tail publishers take more active management and relationship building to return revenue. Time that account managers can’t provide due to managing multiple brands. I know this isn’t always the case but having had experience from multiple networks I’m not regularly convinced on the proactive management of some affiliate programs.
Working with an in-house team reduces the ineffectiveness that can sometimes hinder affiliate programs. An in-house team has a direct dialect with stakeholders on a daily basis, Being able to manage budgets and internal sign-off like this can speed up decision making around specific campaigns.
The negative is that there is a siloed approach to the affiliate channel, and in-house teams can lack the specialist insight of the affiliate industry needed to actively deliver YoY growth. Time management is always weighted towards the channel that is providing most revenue, the result is the potential of the affiliate channel can sometimes be overlooked.
Relationships are key to a successful affiliate program. Whether it is by having regular contact with your brand to ensure you are fulfilling the brand’s online objectives, or by having face-to-face conversations with publishers. Great affiliate agencies are built on their relationships.
The strongest agencies have the best of both worlds. They have specialist management from team members that have worked in the industry for a long time. But also insight from working with different brands to scope out missed opportunities and areas (or publishers) that can help take your affiliate program to the next level.
Depending on your agreed contracts it can also be a cost saving working with an agency. On your behalf, an agency will renegotiate your network contract to a lower management SLA, as they pick up the publisher relationships. This could provide a cost saving of around 10-15% in override over the course of the year. For mid-to large accounts this can be incredibly beneficial. For smaller accounts, talk to agencies like us that offer flexible management fees to brands of all sizes.
If you feel your brand isn’t getting the love it should from the networks or you are struggling to see good ROI from the affiliate channel then it would beneficial chatting to an affiliate agency.
Here at SJB Affiliates we would be happy to offer some impartial advice on your affiliate program. Contact us below for more details.