Q: When measuring the success of an affiliate program that you manage, what do you consider to be successful? Doubling the sales of the program from the previous year… tripling it? I have some clients that are still unhappy, no matter how high sales amount to, because their profit margins are very small.
A: It’s important to set expectations at the start when you’re taking on the management of an affiliate program on an outsourced basis.
Success is defined markedly different from one company to another depending on their margins, expectations, and success or failure of other forms of marketing and advertising.
At this point, I’d say you have a couple choices. The easy way out would be to just not renew with this client. While you don’t want to make a habit of this, there are just some companies that refuse to be satisfied by any results.
Otherwise, I would suggest putting together documentation that demonstrates the success of the affiliate program.
Point out the growth of the affiliate program since you took over. Also, try to pull together data on the competitors. You can get some of this information easily if they share their EPC and other benchmarks, as well as their commission structure.
Otherwise, and this is much more of an investment on your part, become an affiliate of the competition and actively promote them to get a sense of their performance.
After gathering as much information as you can, work to extrapolate these numbers to create a side by side comparison with the affiliate program you are managing.
Maybe you’re paying more to affiliates than the competition, or perhaps you’re outperforming everybody else in the vertical and you have an unreasonable client.
In the future, I’d encourage you to ask for the past stats on the site – conversion rates, volume of transactions, satisfaction with other marketing and advertising channels, etc. Also, be sure to set expectations with them.