Affiliate Marketing: How to Choose the Right Network

If you’re new to affiliate marketing, you may be wondering where to start. If you’re currently running an affiliate program in-house or through a network, you may be wondering if there’s a better fit out there for you. In working with several different retail clients, the Lever Interactive affiliate marketing team has been able to identify a few main points to consider when selecting an affiliate network as well as the strengths and weaknesses of two of the top networks.

Things to Consider:

  1. Network start-up costs

Most affiliate networks charge an initial one-time setup fee ranging from about $500 to over $2,000. This includes the technical set-up of the account and getting new advertisers educated about the network.

Some of the smaller affiliate networks, including LinkConnector, don’t charge a setup fee, but keep in mind that the number and quality of affiliates within the network will most likely be low compared to those in the more expensive networks.

  1. Monthly minimum

All affiliate networks charge a transaction fee, which is just a small percentage of the commission paid out to each affiliate for each sale. What you need to look out for is the monthly minimum, which is the amount in transaction fees an affiliate network requires each month. So if the monthly minimum is $100, and you only pay the network $75 in transaction fees, you will owe an additional $25 at the end of the billing cycle.

This varies widely from network to network, so depending on the volume of sales and revenue you expect to come through affiliates, you will want to choose a network with a suitable monthly minimum.

  1. Span of affiliate network

If you have certain affiliates in mind, you’ll want to make sure they’re in the network you plan on joining. You can either look them up within each network, or you can contact them directly to find out. However, if you’re new to affiliate marketing, you’ll probably need a network that provides a large affiliate base from which to choose. As mentioned earlier, this could mean higher setup costs and monthly minimums, but it may be worth it in the long run.

  1. Ease of communication

Ongoing communication with affiliates is essential to maintaining a successful relationship. You’ll need to send out regular newsletters with tantalizing incentives to ensure you stay top-of-mind within the affiliate community. Read about each network’s messaging capabilities ahead of time so you know what to expect. Make sure there are no costs involved and that the process of formatting and sending out the emails is simple and not time-consuming.

Affiliate Newsletter Schedule Example

  1. Tracking & reporting capabilities

The nice thing about using a network to manage your affiliate program is that they provide tracking and reporting for you. In addition to basic transaction reports, each network has their own unique reporting features, including performance by link type and affiliate first sale reports. Choose a network that will provide you with the type of reporting that best suits your company’s needs.

Affiliate Network Reporting Example

  1. Customer support

If you’re used to running things on your own, this may not be as important, but if you’re new to affiliate marketing, you may have a lot of questions at the beginning. Read up on reviews and ask others in your industry about the customer support they’ve received on their affiliate networks.

Affiliate Network Customer Support

  1. Multiple networks

If you have the time and money, you can join multiple networks, widening your pool of potential affiliates. However, many of the bigger “super affiliates” are actually members of a variety of networks themselves, meaning you can find them on almost any network you select. Therefore, when managing affiliate programs on multiple networks, you face the issue of duplicate (and sometimes triplicate) transactions. So at the end of the month, there is the extra step of determining which network and which affiliate should receive the commissions and voiding the sales on the other network(s).

Reviewing Two of the Top Affiliate Networks:

Commission Junction

Pros:
  • Large number of affiliates within network
  • Detailed reporting
  • No extra cost for sending newsletters to existing affiliates
  • Ability to search for new affiliates within interface
  • Ability to auto-approve/auto-decline affiliates based on certain criteria
  • New PayPerCall feature offers an additional way to increase sales
  • Responsive customer support representatives
Cons:
  • High network setup fee
  • High monthly minimum ($500 in transaction fees)
  • Higher than average transaction fee (30% of commission)
  • Historical reports can only be accessed for up to one year
  • Cost to implement product fees

ShareASale

Pros:
  • Reasonable setup fee ($550)
  • Low monthly minimum ($25 in transaction fees)
  • Low transaction fee (20% of commission)
  • Detailed reporting
  • No extra cost for setting up product feed
  • Responsive customer support representatives
Cons:
  • Smaller number of affiliates within network
  • Cannot easily search for new affiliates within interface
  • Reports must be exported as pipe-delimited files

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