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Finding the Right Team Members

The team will have the responsibility of targeting, identifying, and recruiting potential affiliate partners and designing win-win programs for them. They should also be responsible for managing existing affiliates by communicating personally with your top performers, communicating via email and telephone frequently with your other affiliates, and creating ongoing promotions for all affiliates and rewarding highly successful ones.

They should also be prepared to offer any technical assistance necessary without having to bother your existing IT staff. Your affiliate staff should design the promotional banner links; write contextual links; create coupons and gift certificates; track stats, promotions, and special offer pages; and fulfill many other merchandising needs for an active affiliate program. The team is also responsible for developing best practices and education materials for the affiliates.

Finally, whoever they are, your staff members should be easily accessible via email and phone. When building your team, your affiliate manager is key. Choosing the right kind of manager will set the tone for your entire program. Don't expect to find someone with years of experience in affiliate management. The industry is too new for that. Also, don't look for someone from the corporate world or a recent business school graduate. What's important here is experience with Internet marketing and some experience with affiliate programs, or the ability to recruit and manage business partners.

Look for someone who is high on people skills and can adapt to change quickly. You're looking for out-of-the-box thinkers who can see relationships that others don't see. This is particularly important when choosing affiliate candidates. Knowing the web well and having good browsing experience are prime skills necessary for targeting, identifying, and recruiting good affiliates. Look for people who have experience buying online. They may not have e-commerce experience on the business side, but they should at least know what it means to be a customer on the consumer side.

A person who has joined an affiliate program or two is another good candidate. She would be exposed to the mechanics of affiliate programs and would know from day one what works for affiliates and what doesn't. In fact, it's a good idea to have both your affiliate manager, when hired, and her staff actually join some affiliate programs themselves. Have them set up a web site on one of the free domain servers and experience first-hand those programs that closely match yours. Then, to help educate your other company employees about affiliate marketing, have them set up their own sites and join those programs. This way, you'll be establishing more awareness and support for your programs.

Above all, you're looking for a person with vision—one who will set the direction of your program and be its evangelist to the rest of your company. The focus should be the customer first—that is, your affiliates—and your affiliate manager should have very good communications skills. He or she will be responsible for showing your face to your affiliate partners, and what they see and hear from the affiliate manager will drastically affect the success of your program.

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