tl;dr Successfully foster your merchant relationships from the ground up using strategies proven to help achieve your partnership objectives.
As an affiliate, it is your responsibility to educate merchant partners on your marketing methods. Allowing merchants to understand how you will be promoting them is the first step to a successful, long-term relationship. One consequence of not doing so is getting all set up, finding some success and then having the merchant terminate the relationship with no warning or explanation. More often than not, this negative experience forces a permanent end to your relationship with the merchant. One pattern I have found consistent in these sudden shutdowns is the merchant’s reasoning: they don’t understand the affiliate’s promotional methods, and instead of reaching out to the affiliate for clarification, they simply pull the plug. If you introduce your affiliate brand upfront, the merchant is less likely to shutdown when they have questions about your promotional methods. In fact, the increased transparency will give the merchant representative a better understanding and will allow them to provide their superiors (the decision makers) with information on how successful you have been in promoting. This new understanding could lead to more opportunities down the road.
Document Your Relationship
Once you’ve contacted a merchant and explained your preferred marketing methods, you should document the relationship. Keeping track of your communication with a merchant can aid you in various ways, including acting as a quick form of education should someone within the merchant’s organization question your course of action. When you get these inquiries you should always include your main point of contact. Keeping them in the loop will help simplify your explanation to anyone who is new or unfamiliar to your active relationship as an affiliate partner.
Maintain Consistent Communication
Next, you should maintain regular communication with the merchant to find out about special promotions, opportunities, etc. This will not only provide information to help you successfully promote, but it will also keep you top of mind for the merchant when new opportunities arise. I have seen this lead to increased commission tests, new traffic sources, exclusive offers and countless additional opportunities that otherwise may not have been offered.
Provide Useful Data
Most importantly, merchants may look at data for their overall program but not for specific affiliates. Try providing as much data as possible to your merchant partners, reporting both the successes and the failures in your promotional efforts. A good tip is to talk with your network partners to see if they can provide merchant-specific traffic data. Networks can sometimes retrieve additional data from their reports that you may not have known to ask for. The merchant will appreciate the information and will also help them provide more informed updates to their superiors. The more your contact thinks about you and the more information they can provide up the chain of command, the better.
Transparency within your affiliate program is essential to your success. Documenting your relationships, maintaining consistent communication and providing actionable data will lead to successful relationships and will help grow your affiliate business long-term.