Your affiliate manager can make or break the success of your affiliate marketing program. Choosing (or being) the best affiliate manager is a challenging and high-stakes task.
Without the right resources, expertise, and experience, even the most dedicated and enthusiastic affiliate manager can’t steer an affiliate program to its full potential!
So, what does it take to manage a truly successful affiliate program? And what does an affiliate manager actually do?
To find out, we consulted the experts Perform[cb] Agency, an award-winning affiliate marketing agency, who have managed dozens of successful programs and know exactly what it takes to pull it off.
In this guide, we’re covering what an affiliate manager is, the tasks they need to perform, what they earn, and when to outsource your affiliate management. We also look at the pros and cons of outsourcing vs. hiring an in-house affiliate manager.
Let’s get straight to it!
An affiliate manager is responsible for the management of an entire affiliate program, from end to end, for the affiliate merchant/advertiser.
Affiliate managers handle all your affiliate management tasks, including program strategy and goal setting, finding and recruiting affiliates, setting affiliate commission rates, managing pay-outs, measuring key KPIs to monitor performance and optimize the program, and keeping affiliates engaged and motivated.
Brands work with affiliate managers to ensure their affiliate programs are as effective and profitable as they can be, from establishing new programs to growing and scaling existing programs.
Every affiliate program needs a manager and you can manage your own program, hire an in-house affiliate manager or outsource to a professional affiliate marketing agency or platform (we’ll explore these two options in detail a little further down).
Summary: What is an Affiliate Manager?
An affiliate manager handles all aspects of the affiliate program for the affiliate merchant/advertiser. Their responsibilities include strategy and goal setting, finding and recruiting affiliates, setting affiliate commission rates, managing pay-outs, monitoring performance and key affiliate KPIs, optimizing the program, and keeping affiliates engaged and motivated .
Affiliate managers have various tasks and responsibilities to manage and maintain a successful affiliate program. These tasks vary depending on the program’s objectives and how it is performing at the time, however, the tasks almost every affiliate manager needs to perform include:
The core of an affiliate manager’s job is to attract, engage and retain high-quality affiliates. These professionals will find the best channels to connect with affiliates that match your target audience. They may also use email, backlinks, and social media to find and engage affiliates outside typical networks.
According to the affiliate managers at Perform[cb] Agency, it is also important to select a variety of affiliates that can drive sales at different levels of the buyer’s funnel. Doing this means you can maximize conversions and sales because your brand is exposed to a broader range of interested buyers.
This stage is crucial because how well your affiliate program performs depends on who your affiliates are and how well you engage them. Engagement doesn’t end after the recruitment process. Affiliate managers must establish positive brand-to-affiliate relationships. This is where communicating with affiliates and motivating them becomes relevant.
Your affiliate manager may use strategies like affiliate contests and automated emails or create rewards to incentivize top-performing affiliates.
These engagement strategies also help managers retain your affiliates.
Unfortunately, not all the affiliates you onboard will contribute to your business. If affiliates don’t secure web traffic or sales within a specified period, we consider them inactive. By no means should brands keep inactive affiliates in their networks. This mistake would waste your resources, time, and money because you’re working with affiliates that don’t meet your sales targets.
You must identify inactive affiliates to reward and invest more resources into those that are active. Affiliate managers rely on data and tracking to determine which % of your affiliates are inactive and active. With this information, affiliate managers may attempt to re-engage inactive affiliates, find new affiliates or modify their affiliate recruitment strategy to find better-suited marketers.
Affiliate managers must measure your active to inactive affiliates ratio consistently. Doing this will prevent your affiliate program from failing. You’ll have the insights you need to make data-driven decisions to keep active affiliates happy and replace inactive ones.
Setting and measuring the right affiliate program KPIs is an important part of an affiliate managers job. It allows them to gauge the overall performance of the program, as well as the performance of individual affiliates, against their goals for the program as a whole.
Monitoring the right KPIs provides valuable insights that will inform your affiliate strategy on every level and the KPIs specific to each program may vary depending on the type of program, it’s objectives and the type of affiliates involved.
However, there are essential affiliate marketing KPIs that are applicable to every program:
AoV, EPC and Affiliate Conversion Rate should be measured on an individual affiliate basis to identify your top affiliates, so that you can pay extra attention to them, and so that you can recruit more affiliates like them.
Assume affiliates won’t remember your businesses because countless other brands are most likely competing for their attention. The more renown and popularity an affiliate has, the harder it is to connect with and onboard them.
The best way to get the attention of top-tier affiliates is to understand what the market wants. Your affiliate manager will track market trends like affiliate compensation, popular niches and products, and effective recruitment channels to find the best affiliates.
Researching and implementing affiliate marketing trends will help you leverage market opportunities before they become saturated. For example, in 2022, 84% of brands work with influencers for affiliate marketing because influencers have high followings and loads of organic traffic to their social media channels.
Another key trend for affiliate marketing is cross-device tracking. As 62% of smartphone users have purchased at least once on mobile, brands must use cross-device tracking so that it is possible to identify an affiliate’s web traffic even when a user has switch devices. Cross-device tracking is something to highlight to potential affiliates when you’re recruiting, as it makes your program more desirable to them.
Affiliate marketing managers will ensure your brand and affiliates leverage these market trends and opportunities to maximize your results.
We just explored how working with influencers is a booming affiliate marketing trend. However, not all the influencers you reach out to are affiliate marketing pros. Some may have experience, but perhaps your campaign uses different processes, making it imperative for them to learn how to become an affiliate for your brand.
Businesses like those in the finance sector must also adhere to strict marketing guidelines. You could have to stick to rigid advertising rules based on your location. For example, perhaps calling your brand the best is against the advertising rules in your niche or country. Your affiliates must know this to ensure they don’t put themselves and your brand in hot water.
Affiliate marketing managers will oversee the entire affiliate training process. They will create or assign affiliate marketing courses and branded resources to teach marketers and influencers about your affiliate marketing program.
Enterprises with large affiliate networks and complex processes and rules may have training that extends a week or two. Startups and small businesses with complicated processes may have shorter training.
Your affiliate manager will create and manage your affiliate training and evaluate how effective their tactics and which affiliates make the cut.
We explored affiliate engagement and briefly looked at communicating with affiliates. Affiliate communication is a crucial aspect of campaigns that drive results. We need to discuss it as a separate component. Your affiliate manager will create an entire communication strategy to engage with affiliates and keep them connected to your brand.
Affiliate managers build brand-to-affiliate communication plans to:
Your affiliate manager will create a communication strategy for your brand that entails:
Summary: Affiliate Manager Tasks
The biggest reason to hire an affiliate manager is that these professionals have expert affiliate marketing experience. They know which affiliate networks to target, how to profile your ideal affiliates, the best affiliate management software to use, and KPIs to measure. And that’s the tip of the iceberg!
Many business owners don’t have this affiliate marketing experience and expertise. So strategies and approaches that you think work may not be the best fit for your business. Consequently, you’ll waste your resources on trial and error rather than reaping revenue rewards.
But with the help of an affiliate manager, businesses can rely on results-driven strategies and affiliate marketing tactics proven to work.
How much you and your affiliates earn is the core of affiliate marketing because it’s why you’re doing it in the first place! But managing how much you spend vs. earn per affiliate is tricky if you don’t have affiliate marketing experience.
Working with an affiliate manager eliminates this risk because these experts know which data to track and measure for affiliate cost vs. revenue. They also know how to manage your resources, marketing materials, and affiliate recruitment and engagement to maximize your earnings.
Affiliate managers create reports reflecting your affiliate cost vs. revenue. These reports highlight your top and least performing affiliates and how they manage your budget among your resources.
As you can see, there are many components to consider for affiliate marketing. Running an affiliate marketing campaign (especially if it’s high-level) demands a lot of time and effort. All these tasks, combined with running your business, are challenging, and you’ll lose track of other aspects of your business that require your expertise and management.
Brands that hire affiliate managers don’t have to stress about this concern. Instead, they benefit from an organized and streamlined affiliate marketing campaign and management strategy led by an expert. You won’t have to communicate with teams yourself, handle affiliate communications or attract and retain affiliates.
Top-tier affiliate managers bring fresh perspectives to the table. These professionals have most likely dealt with loads of affiliate marketing programs before. So they have a lot of inspiration to refer to. It’s also easier for these professionals to suggest new ideas because they can view your business from an outside perspective.
Ensure you give your affiliate manager a voice and respect their opinions and suggestions.
It’s vital to take a cutthroat approach to finding an affiliate manager. You want a professional that’s made a significant difference to businesses and has a track record of ideas and strategies that have worked.
Who says you can’t get brand loyalty from affiliate marketing?
Well, with the help of an affiliate manager, you can!
The start of any brand-to-affiliate relationship covers the basic concept – they promote your products and earn commission on every click or sale via their affiliate link.
But the point of successful affiliate management and marketing is to develop affiliate relationships that run deeper than this. You want your affiliates to feel a part of your brand and mission. They should be passionate about your products and value proposition because this makes it easier for them to market your product and contribute to your revenue.
Affiliate managers have the experience and industry connections to turn your affiliates into brand advocates. They understand what affiliates want and how to keep them connected to your brand. Affiliate managers will also find the best possible ways to scale your affiliate marketing program while keeping it a win-win for you and your affiliates.
Summary: Why You Need an Affiliate Manager
How much affiliate managers earn depends on their experience and location. Affiliate managers with extensive industry experience and impressive track records will cost much more than entry-level managers. Brands would find it more cost-effective to outsource these affiliate managers than hire them full-time and pay a monthly salary.
As we mentioned, location also impacts how much affiliate managers earn. The average salary for affiliate managers in the UK is £39,400 per annum, while top-tier managers earn around £41,428.
Affiliate managers in the US earn much more than those in the UK, with the average annual salary at $69,118. Top affiliate management earners make around $106,260 every year.
If you outsource your affiliate manager, how much you pay them will differ from these annual salary figures. Outsourcing affiliate managers through agencies or working with specialists means your payment structure may change.
You might have to pay an upfront retainer and a per-hour or per-project rate. The per-hour rate you pay depends on the agency and specialists and their experience. And how per project rate depends on how complex your affiliate management is and how much an agency or specialists quote you.
Hiring an in-house affiliate manager or outsourcing to an agency or platform each have their pros and cons. These methods also work for different businesses and affiliate management strategies.
Let’s explore outsourced vs. in-house affiliate management and which will work best for you:
Your relationship with an outsourced affiliate manager will last the duration contract, making it ideal for small businesses or businesses testing the affiliate marketing waters.
Startups and small companies aren’t likely to have complex affiliate marketing programs but they often need help to configure, implement and measure their programs. The level of skill they need at this point often prices them out of hiring a full-time affiliate manager in-house.
Enterprises and large businesses can also benefit from outsourcing an affiliate manager if they have a large or complex affiliate program and do not have the expertise or resources to manage it effectively in-house.
So, when should you outsource your affiliate management?
The simple answer is that you should outsource their affiliate management to an affiliate marketing agency or platform if you do not have the skills or resources in-house to:
If any of the above sounds like you, you should definitely consider outsourcing your affiliate management!
Here are the pros and cons to consider before you do:
Pros of outsourcing your affiliate manager:
Cons of outsourcing your affiliate manager:
Hiring an in-house affiliate manager means finding and hiring a new employee, or investing in the training needed to upskill an existing one. It also means investing in the affiliate management tools you’ll need to run the affiliate program in-house.
In-house affiliate managers are ideal for businesses that need a separate sub-marketing department for affiliate marketing. Or for brands that run complex affiliate marketing programs and need a full-time professional to manage their program, and perhaps some complementary marketing strategies like PPC ads or influencer campaigns.
Hiring an in-house affiliate manager is more permanent commitment, and depending on their level of skill and experience, it can be just as costly (with a long-term commitment).
Many businesses choose to use a less skilled or experienced affiliate manager because that is what they can afford. This approach works if your affiliate program is well-established and largely automated, or if your program is a low-priority and you wish to keep it ticking over but do not wish to invest heavily in its growth at this stage.
Whatever your needs are, here are some of the pros and cons to consider before you decide to use an in-house affiliate manager:
Pros of an in-house affiliate manager:
Cons of an in-house affiliate manager:
Hiring a great affiliate manager is essential to leverage expert industry experience and accurate affiliate cost vs. revenue management. You can streamline your affiliate marketing efforts too. Affiliate managers can also bring fresh perspectives and ideas and help you turn affiliates into brand advocates.
Businesses can outsource or hire an in-house affiliate manager. Which option will you choose?
An affiliate manager is a professional that handles affiliate publishers on behalf of the advertiser. Affiliate managers have the experience to find the best affiliates for your brand, manage publisher commissions and engage and retain affiliates. Read this article for the best tips on hiring an affiliate manager and how much they earn in 2023.
Affiliate managers attract, engage and retain affiliates, manage active vs. inactive affiliates, set and measure affiliate marketing goals and provide affiliate training. These experts also research and implement affiliate marketing trends. This full article covers the top affiliate manager tasks and benefits and how much to pay your affiliate managers.
You can outsource or hire an in-house affiliate manager depending on your budget and project. Businesses with huge affiliate marketing projects may prefer to hire an in-house affiliate manager for on-going support. Smaller brands prefer outsourcing affiliate managers to help them configure and maintain their programs. Our article covers the top affiliate manager tasks and benefits.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
Reed.co.uk: Average Affiliate Manager salary in the UK