How can I administer a Global Affiliate Program? Originally featured on Quora: The place to gain and share knowledge, enabling people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Robert Glazer, founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, answer to Quora:
“First seek to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen Covey
Over the centuries, brave explorers have traveled by land and sea to see what lies beyond. Letting go of familiar things to discover new information and resources can be exciting. But it can also be fraught with dangerous twists and turns, especially for those who are unprepared.
Many e-commerce companies are embarking on such an adventure by taking their affiliate programs global. In their native environment, a performance marketing program (affiliate marketing) has proven to be a profitable and agile way to increase revenue. So as they expand other aspects of their business into new global markets, it makes sense in the world that they want to include their affiliate program in the journey.
While technology has made operating and managing a global e-commerce business easier than ever, technology alone is not enough to ensure the success of a global affiliate program. In fact, companies may find that expanding their affiliate program internationally is anything but straightforward. Common pitfalls include:
- Differences between network and agency
- Difficulties building brand awareness
- Various compliance standards
- Finding, hiring and managing local branches
- Language barriers with both publishers and partners
Fortunately, by taking two important steps (explained below), many of these pitfalls can be avoided.
1. Walk on the road
In motor racing, many teams literally walk and paint the roads that will be driven on race day. Before rubber met the road, walking the track, getting a sense of the scenery, and dating what was found were just as important as spark plugs and safety helmets.
In the context of the global expansion of your partnership program, getting on the right track should include in-depth market research. Here are some important questions you should ask yourself and your team before entering a new market:
- Is our product or service needed in X Market? If you’re looking to expand into an area where people rarely buy products online or won’t have a strong interest in your products, even the most well-run affiliate program is unlikely to succeed.
- Do we have brand recognition? If yes, how powerful is it? If you have some brand awareness in a market that is not very strong, as well as a large number of quality publishers in your industry, your affiliate program can help to amplify your brand recognition in the region. However, if there is little or no brand recognition, starting your affiliate program will be much slower and it can be difficult to convince publishers to invest in your program.
- What are the unique customs and best practices of the region? The audience varies by country and can be made up of different subcultures. Make sure someone on your team is familiar with local customs and best practices — or partner with an agency. Companies that fail to address cultural differences often encounter skeptical and resistant consumers and may have more difficulty winning over some publishers.
- Are there quality affiliate partners in the region? These partners must understand both the affiliate industry and your sector in order to provide insight into how your brand will impact the customer base in the region you are looking to expand into. And since each country has its own laws regarding affiliate marketing, taxes, and disclosures, these partners should also be able to help you overcome various legal challenges. Without these partners, your software is likely to struggle in this new market.
- How are technical services and resources organized? In the United States and Canada, networks often charge an additional fee to administer the program, and large marketing agencies are usually not very familiar with affiliate marketing strategies or best practices. By contrast, in Europe, networking usually includes software management services along with technology services. In addition, large European advertising and marketing agencies tend to have well-developed affiliate management practices and expertise. These regional differences can lead to a confusing array of technology and service options that have different levels of cost and sophistication.
- Do you have existing affiliate partners that operate internationally? Talk to them and assess how they can help you connect with established partners and resources in the areas you are expanding into.
By walking the path before entering a new market, you will be better equipped to identify quirks and address any nuances, marketing challenges, and cultural complexities that arise.
2. Choose your partners carefully
The exciting adventure of expanding your affiliate program abroad can turn into a nightmare if you join the wrong partners. Global expansion is a big step with many steps involved. This is why you want to be discerning about who you choose to take the trip with.
Just because an agency or network advertises that it has coverage in a particular area doesn’t mean it’s the best option. There is no single globally leading network or platform in every market. They may be #1 in one market and #11 in another.
We’ve also heard of companies offering a “one-stop shop” experience to brands for their global expansion initiatives. While this may make the process seem easy, it is not the best. For example, an agency may be adept at commission marketing in its home country, but not in other regions. A large digital marketing agency may have a global footprint, but they lack experience or expertise in affiliate marketing. To make it look like they do, they often quickly put together an account team by bringing in people from other channels, such as the Display Network or Paid Search, who aren’t that good at affiliate marketing.
In some cases, the ideal solution may be to partner with a single agency that works with local partners in the country you are looking to expand into. If so, the agency partner must have the resources and knowledge to act as a global core, ensuring that you work with the best platforms, networks and agencies for your business in each region.
When you choose the best partners in each region, you will have a better chance of seeing your referral program thrive and increase sales.
Go global and prosper
Most of the challenges businesses face when they transition to a global partnership program can be overcome simply by asking the right questions and working with the right partners.
As mentioned recently On why companies are increasingly taking their affiliate programs globally, it is important that your program is part of a larger marketing and branding strategy and integrated with other digital channels.
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