This post contains affiliate links. Because this is an affiliate marketing blog, so, #duh. This means I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post.
Going to a conference for the first time can be intimidating — add to that going to an affiliate marketing conference as a blogger for the first time and you've got a whole heap of “yikes!” staring you down. I would know — I've been there. Entering this world armed with little knowledge as to what the hell you're doing or what you're about to get yourself into can be “holy shit, I need a drink” inducing, but it doesn't have to be, as long as you come prepared for your meetings and other events.
One of the biggest benefits of ShareASale ThinkTank is being able to schedule one-on-one time with your current or prospective merchants and OPMs (that's Outsourced Program Managers). Sure, you might email back and forth with them throughout the year, but it's not very often you'll get to sit down and have legit face time carved out to go over how you can be of benefit to one another, so it's my recommendation that you take full advantage of this opportunity. And if you're doing this as a total n00b, these meetings have the potential to open a whole new world of possibilities (trust me). However, since the meetings are a bit short — most are going to run about 15 minutes — you're going to want to come locked and loaded to get biz done. Oh, and don't forget to grab your free downloadable spreadsheet to help you keep track of your meetings (available at bottom of post).
So, what kinds of things do you cover in these meetings?
- Available programs: Not all programs are going to be a fit for you, but most OPMs will have a list of clients, usually in a one-sheet that you can take home. Take this home.
- Commission: Your earnings. This will be based, likely, on one of two things: Whether a purchase is made or a membership / signup is completed. For a purchase situation, you'll likely be offered a percent of the sale amount. For a membership or signup, you'll likely be offered a flat rate upon completion or first purchase. The initial offerings for these numbers are rarely astronomical. You can expect around 4%-15% or $1-$5, depending. It will vary widely based on the merchant.
- Cookie: How long a cookie will remain active before you no longer get the credit for the purchase or lead.
- Average Order Value (AOV): Obviously, the bigger the order, the bigger your commission.
- Earnings Per Click (EPC): This is a helluva metric, but a good one to know. It's really Earnings Per (Hundred) Click(s), which is basically how much the program pays out per 100 clicks. In ShareASale, you can easily find metrics for 7-day EPC and 30-day EPC when searching for merchants. You want this to be a bigger number, rather than smaller.
- Reversal Rate: Ah, the bane of my existence. This is also known as returns — as in, your reader returned their $200 order and you now lose the commission you earned on that sale. It sucks. And it's very real, especially in fashion. You want this number to be loooowwww.
- Creatives: Are banners and text links available? Good. That's a start.
- Contact: Who is the actual person who will be managing the account? What is their best contact information?
This is where you start working toward the meat and bones of your relationship with your OPM or merchant.
- Long Term Benefits: How will this relationship change if you end up performing well? What kinds of indicators is the merchant or OPM looking for, beyond sales? Is there a possibility for increased commission? How about cookie length?
- What Works: What have other blogs similar to yours been doing that has been successful? Have there been huge successes or is there anything particularly noteworthy?
- Top Performers: Aside from having a range of products to appeal to your audience, what performs really well? What are the merchant's top 10 products? When is peak performance taking place during the year? Q4 will be the likeliest answer for most, but if you have a specific niche that tends to be seasonal (think: weddings) then they might have an answer more tailored for you.
- Custom Creatives: Can you make custom banners that better fit my site? Are you able to offer vanity codes and special offers for my readers? Is deep-linking available? Can you provide product shots?
The Nitty Gritty
This is real talk, y'all. If you're brand new, you may not get here with your merchants, and that's OK. But if you've been at this for a hot minute and have proven you can hang in the affiliate world, you might want to start digging in.
- Special Opportunities: Would you be willing to explore a sponsored campaign? Can you send product for a photo shoot? Can I get exclusive discounts or post opportunities?
- Two-Tier: Can I get a kickback, of sorts, if another affiliate signs up for the program through a link I provide?
- Advanced Rules: Do you have leapfrog click attribution to protect me from traditional or coupon sites?
The No-Go Zone
There are a few things merchants and OPMs hate to hear, especially right out of the gate.
- How much will you pay me for a review? Nothing. You may be able to receive product and write a review, but as far as monetary compensation? Well, that's what affiliate marketing is all about. You earn that through the use of the product links in your post.
- Why won't you pay for a sponsored post? Again, this is affiliate marketing, not direct advertising. Sponsored posts *may* be a possibility with some programs after a show of significant and consistent performance, but it's never guaranteed.
- How much free stuff will you send me? Product reviews are great, but there's much more to selling a product than sharing your opinion. And there's much more to the relationships in affiliate marketing than free shit.
- Why don't you get back to me ASAP about this thing I don't like? Remember, OPMs manage the merchant account and may not have complete control — ultimately, decisions about the affiliate program likely rest in the merchant's hands. And you're not the only affiliate OPMs have to communicate with — there are thousands of us. Be patient, be kind and be flexible.
A Few Notes
Time will go by quickly. Go in to the meetings organized and ready to talk business, but be amiable too. You're going to deal with these people a lot, so it's a good idea to strike up a good relationship.
Be punctual. Just as you've scheduled many meetings for the day, they have too. Everyone's time is precious.
Don't panic. If you don't get around to asking all the questions you want or you forget something, don't worry — there will be follow-up emails (sometimes even that day!), so you will have plenty of opportunity to circle back.
Take notes. Seriously, I can't stress this enough — you'll want to remember some of the topics you touched on.
And, to help you out on that last one, I've created a simple spreadsheet to help you keep track of who you met with, what you talked about and anything else you might need.