This is the first article in a small series of articles I plan to write that addresses the unique issues and possible pitfalls of using your affiliate program to promote your marketing campaigns and coupons as part of an overall online marketing strategy.
If you are a merchant who uses coupons and special promotions - such as clearance sales, site-wide free shipping or other marketing tools that have a limited life span - and if you also have an affiliate program which you use as sales channel to promote those campaigns, then this article is intended for you.
Avoid mistakes that can cause problems during or after the campaign. In most cases these are customer service issues which probably harm your image in the minds of your existing or potential customers, and which will potentially hurt your brand in the long run.
Part 1 - Announce it, but announce it right
Before you launch your marketing campaign through your affiliate marketing channel, consider the following tips and check to make sure that you have everything in place so your affiliates can do their job properly. This article is focused on the proper announcement of the launch and discontinuation of your marketing campaigns.
Always provide an expiration date and time.
Provide your affiliates with the expiration date and time for any coupon or marketing campaign you want them to promote. If it is an ongoing promotion, let them know.
If you don't know the expiration date of a promotion, let the affiliate know how long you expect it to run and the goal you want to accomplish with it. This will have important impact on the expiration because you will probably discontinue the promotion early if you don't meet your goals or extend it much further than originally planned if it exceeds your expectations.
Use your affiliates' campaigns to boost yours
You can also announce a campaign before it launches, but make sure that you provide the date and time of the launch and make clear what affiliates can and cannot do with that information. Specify whether you allow or even recommend affiliates to announce an upcoming campaign to their customers.
You don't want your affiliates to announce all the details of the campaign (of course not!) because that would put a damper on the effectiveness of the campaign in general. Give your affiliates enough details to get their customers' attention and make them curious about what might be coming.
Provide "teaser material" in those cases. Even without having a teaser it can help to increase the effectiveness of a campaign if you announce it to your affiliates, because it gives them more time to plan and make preparations on their end.
Affiliates might be preparing a campaign for their site at the same time and your campaign would be perfect to launch concurrently to increase each other's "bang." Or, your campaign could be incorporated into their campaign via mention or referral. This is often the case with campaigns for specific holidays (Christmas, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, etc.) or national events (Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, Olympic Games, Mardi Gras and Spring Break etc.).
Discontinuation of long running promotions
There are only a few cases where you would not know, at least a few days before the fact, when an ongoing promotion would be discontinued.
Send a notification before it expires to give your affiliates some lead time to prepare and to be ready exactly when you want them to be. Don't do it on the day of expiration or worse, after the promotion expires, demanding the immediate removal from the affiliate site and a complete stop of any other promotional activities.
The earlier you can send notification the better. Don't give the impression to your affiliates that your company decided unexpectedly to discontinue the campaign today and had your own webmaster jump through hoops to get it off your own website the very same day.
This manner of notification is employed too often, and it is very unprofessional. I will explain the case where it is appropriate a few chapters later.
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©2006 Carsten Cumbrowski
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