Running a successful iGaming affiliate program is not always as straightforward as many make it out to be, there are many moving parts that need to align in order to ensure a smooth and profitable operation.
In this article we will highlight some of the key areas we believe are pivotal to the successful management and optimisation of your affiliate channel.
Budget and Campaign Planning
Knowing that within affiliate marketing there is a high reliance on third parties to make changes to assets and promotions, this point is one of the most critical as the affiliate team needs to be aligned both internally and externally.
Internal alignment starts within the team in order to understand what opportunities are available with the different affiliates as well as with the rest of marketing and commercial in order to ensure that campaigns are in line with plan and budget available. Most importantly, the budget needs to be agreed and signed off with Finance, having a budget prepared ahead of the year is obviously beneficial but most of the time not the reality.
What is important is that there is an understanding internally that affiliate campaigns are not able to be switched on and off like other media channels, so planning ahead is even more important. Agreeing on budget for a quarterly basis rather than monthly is also critical in the affiliate department knowing that planning ahead of time is crucial to coordinate plans with affiliates.
External alignment is with all the affiliates, many affiliate programs can have thousands of affiliates, but it is important to have a tiering structure and a good communication strategy in order to efficiently utilise internal resources. For tier 1 affiliates, when positions on their pages are in high demand there may also be the requirement to book and commit to certain budgets in advance and this is when the internal and external alignment become even more important.
Business development may take different shapes and forms depending on the brand and market in question. Some brands may have a strong enough brand image that affiliates contact the brands to get a deal in place directly, in which case the business development strategy does not need to be so aggressive. However, especially in saturated markets, a good outreach strategy will need to be put into place.
Before building one’s outreach strategy it is important to understand the market landscape and target customers and where potential customers go to search for their content and recommendations. How do such potential customers engage with this content ? All this information will allow you to understand which are the affiliate channels best to target.
With a good plan in place, it’s time to execute, find your new affiliates and start reaching out. This can be a very time consuming task especially when done for the first time and if it is required for multiple markets. Ensure to research the tools available to assist in this exercise, both in terms of searching for such new affiliates as well as how these are managed.
We usually suggest implementing a CRM in order to ensure all outreach activities are recorded and shared across the team. By doing so, it will make reporting back on the results of such an exercise more straightforward and also if the exercise needs to be done again in the future all past work can be referred back to.
With a good budget, campaign and business development plan in place, account management becomes more straightforward. At this point, Account Managers have a clear direction on what is expected in terms budgets and targets, the affiliates are segmented by tier and new affiliates are being fed into the account management team proactively.
The trick with Account Management is really to be proactive, it is very easy for the account management team to become more of a support function rather than a strategic unit.
Trying to keep up with incoming requests and internal projects can become tedious and overwhelming. If this is the case it’s time to pause and take a look at the key areas of the team to ensure the right structure, tools, processes and procedures are in place.
Once everything that has been discussed up until this point is running smoothly, the last and most important part of having a successful affiliate performance marketing team is the profitability and return on investment from all the affiliate deals in place. We will talk about reporting and optimisation in the next and final section, however before that the deal negotiation part of account management needs to be addressed.
Before negotiating deals with any affiliates it is important to understand all traffic sources that these affiliates own, use analytics tools to understand the traffic and potential of such traffic sources together with any historic data.
Should a budget approval be required it is essential that this is quick and easy for the team to use and get feedback on, in order to ensure that negotiations can be fluid. Having a CRM system in place can also facilitate and ease this process, whilst also providing an archive to look back on any past deal negotiations and keep track of all communication and decisions taken in that regard.
Performance Analysis and Optimisation
As within any marketing channel there are many metrics one can look at in order to get an idea of campaign performance, the important thing here is to define a set of KPIs across the team that will be used to evaluate affiliate performance.
The following are the KPIs we usually define to evaluate such performance:
- Click to FTD conversion
- Estimate Cost per FTD
- Average Deposit Value
- NGR LTV
The Click to FTD conversion will be an important one, not so much for profitability but more for traffic volume from affiliates. If affiliates have other brands with a better conversion rate then these competitors will get preference on positions and traffic, unless the deal is negotiated up to substitute this lack of conversion. Having a good conversion therefore is important as to be more attractive to affiliates and negotiate better deals.
When negotiating a deal with an affiliate, these can be in the form of revenue share, CPA or fixed fees as well as a combination of these. Whatever the agreed deal may be it is important to gather the total amount and divide this by the amount of FTDs in order to calculate the Estimated Cost per FTD. This will then be used to compare to the average player value to understand if a deal is profitable or not.
The Average Deposit Value is a good indication of the player value, having this data across all your traffic sources will allow for benchmarking and forecasting, in order to provide as a first indication on the quality of the traffic being received from certain campaigns.
Nevertheless, in order to calculate the ROI of an affiliate deal, the LTV on NGR should be your go to KPIs. Comparing this to your Estimated Cost per FTD will allow you to understand the breakeven month and after what period of time you become profitable on certain deals. Therefore if the business has set their budget and targets on a 3 Month LTV for example, the affiliate team will have a clear number to work towards when negotiating deals with their affiliates.
With these KPIs defined and a strong reporting tool in place, affiliate managers will have the ability to negotiate the best possible deals, in order to aim for the maximum ROI. It will also allow any internal budget process to be straightforward, quick and easy, which is essential to ensure that deals can be communicated and closed efficiently and in a timely manner.
This however can only be done with a strong budget and plan, together with good internal communication and processes. Knowing that the affiliate team has a lot of coordination to manage both internally and externally, these aspects become ever more important to nail down and get right from day one.