Affiliate Marketing – Part 4: Choosing the Right Affiliate Marketing Software

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By CT Moore

In my last post, Affiliate Marketing – Part 3: Choosing the Right Affiliate Marketing Partner, I went over some of things you need to consider before partnering with an affiliate network to launch your affiliate program. Whether you partner with an existing network or decide to set up your own standalone program, the most important consideration to make is the technology behind it.

No matter how attractive your commissions are, the software that powers your affiliate program can make it or break it. Affiliate marketing is a symbiotic relationship between advertisers and publishers, so the software behind that relationship needs to support the needs of both parties.

One key software feature, for example, is being able to provide in-depth tracking reports for both affiliates and merchants. This allows both parties to optimize their respective marketing efforts and get the most out of the relationship.

Not only should affiliate marketing software accurately track all conversions, but it should also have an array of functions and features that allow you to efficiently manage your various kinds of affiliates and product promotions. Basically, a piece of affiliate marketing software should offer both comprehensive analytics and enhanced program management features:

1. Comprehensive Affiliate Reporting

To best analyze your campaign performance, you’re going to need information on affiliate traffic, conversion rates, revenue, and commissions. You will also want to be able to run specialized reports that let you easily monitor account balances and transaction details. Being able to group these reports according to factors such as month, affiliate ID, or transaction will also enhance your data analysis.

2. Customizable & Brandable

If you’re going to white label an affiliate marketing software solution to set up your own standalone affiliate program, then that software needs to reflect both your brand and your business model.

On the customization side, you should be able to control what functions, features, and fields are available to which affiliates. On the branding side, you should be able to skin it to reflect, well, your brand.


3. Advanced Marketing Tool Support

For your affiliate program to succeed, you need to help your affiliates succeed by offering them pre-made marketing materials such as banners, text links, datafeeds, and HTML mailers.

Being able to also group marketing tools into banner groups that point to specific landing pages will optimize the process: it will increase conversions which mean more sales for you, and more commissions for affiliates.

4. Flexible Commission Structuring

The software powering your program should be able to handle a variety
of commission structures so that you can retain your top-performing
affiliates. Whatever software powers your affiliate program should be
to provide for hybrid commission structures, product-specific
commissions, and special commission groups.

5. Solid Tracking and Transaction Processing

If you’re going to enjoy real-time tracking, you’ll need a
combination of cookie and pixel tracking is necessarily. This will both
prevent fraud and support your tracking reports. Your affiliate
managers should also be able to review and approve/decline transactions
through the software.

6. Sales Driving Software

Like any online initiative, an affiliate marketing campaign is only
as effective as the technology behind it. The software you choose to
run your affiliate marketing program not only has to track conversions
and provide analytics, it also has to be usable for both you
and your affiliates. After all, if you’re spending too much time trying
to make sense of whether or not an affiliate program is worth it, it’s
probably not.

Conclusions

Affiliate marketing can offer one of the safest online marketing
solutions for ecommerce merchants. In this four part series, I’ve gone
over how:

  1. The medium has definitely evolved into a mainstream marketing channel.
  2. How affiliate marketing can safeguard your ROI and better target consumers.
  3. What you need to look for in an affiliate network.
  4. The features that solid affiliate marketing software should possess.

Of course, like any online medium, you have to make an effort to
keep up to speed on the latest in affiliate marketing. So if you’re
considering it as a strategy, or are just curious, I’d check out the
following sites:

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4 thoughts on “Affiliate Marketing – Part 4: Choosing the Right Affiliate Marketing Software

  1. CT Moore

    Guy,
    I work at Share Results, and we offer a complete affiliate marketing suite (which has just been upgraded). It offers all the features I talked about above, and can be adapted to a variety of ecommerce products and business models.
    In addition to those actual features, however, there are a few other things you should consider when choosing what platform is best for you:
    1) Are you constrained by database or server consideration? What language do you want to use?
    2) Do you want to set up an entire network, or just a program?
    3) Do any of your options currently power another network?
    4) Are you after a certain niche of affiliates to promote a certain kind of product offer?
    5) What’s your budget?
    A platform that’s being white labeled by a company that uses it to power its own affiliate network will probably be more robust than one offered by a mere software solutions provider or an open source option.
    Some industries, however, have very distinct and well developed affiliate cultures — such as online gambling. If the products you are wanting to promote fall into one of these, then you want to consider a software provider that specializes in that niche. For example, Share Results would not be appropriate software to promote an online casino.
    Finally, if your budget is slim, you have to be careful. For instance, if you have developers on-hand, but not a big budget to blow on software, then you might be better off hacking an open source option rather than buying a cheapie option off the shelf. Most of the time, you’ll get what you pay for.

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