Different ways to manage your affiliate programs...you can use a 3rd party to do the managing while you focus on what you do best.

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Affiliate Management Programs

Successful affiliate programs require a lot of maintenance and work. The number of affiliate programs just a few years back was much smaller than it is today. Having an affiliate program that is successful is not as easy anymore. The days when programs could generate considerable revenue for the merchant even if they were poorly or not at all managed ("auto-drive") is over.

Those uncontrolled programs were one of the reasons why some of the not so positive examples of affiliates were able to do what they did (spamming, trademark infringement, false advertising, "cookie cutting", typosquatting etc.).

The increase of number of internet businesses in combination with the increased number of people that trust the current technology enough to do shopping and business online caused and still causes a further maturing of affiliate marketing. The opportunities to generate considerable amount of profit in combination with a much more crowded marketplace filled with about equal quality and sized competitors made it harder for merchants to get noticed, but at the same time the rewards if you get noticed much larger.

Internet advertising industry became much more professional and online media is in some areas closing the gap to offline media, where advertising is highly professional and very competitive for a lot of years already. The requirements to be successful are much higher than they were in the past. Those requirements are becoming often too much of a burden for the merchant to do it successfully in-house. More and more merchants are looking for alternative options which they find in relatively new outsourced (affiliate) program management or OPM companies that were often founded by veteran affiliate managers and network program managers.

The OPM are doing this highly specialized job of affiliate program management for the merchant as a service agency very much like Ad agencies are doing the job to promote a brand or product in the offline world today.

Affiliate manager
Affiliate managers are those people in a position of managing an affiliate program, and assisting the affiliates of their program in generating more sales. Affiliate managers are sometimes the business owner who created the affiliate program in the first place, but are also sometimes people who have been hired by a business owner to either create an affiliate program and/or manage an existing affiliate program.

An affiliate manager's duties may vary considerably depending on the dedication and success of that affiliate manager. To become an affiliate manager does not require any particular credentials or prior training, even though such training would be an asset. Many affiliate manager's do not do too much to manage their affiliate programs aside from keeping track of sales made by affiliates, as well as writing and sending affiliates their commission checks at the end of each pay period. This is often the low end of affiliate management that is done by business owners that are focussing their main efforts on other aspects of their business, but have created an affiliate program to stay up to date with the latest marketing trends on the internet.

Affiliate managers that have been hired to focus on maximizing an affiliate programs earning potential usually have many more duties, skills, and credentials.

These duties may include:
Creating or building the affiliate program from the bottom up, or improving it.
Keeping in close contact with their top affiliates both through e-mail and over the phone.
Training affiliates in both offline and internet marketing.
Providing up to date promotional materials for the affiliate programs products or services.
Keeping their affiliates up to date with new product/service upgrades, enhancements, or launches.
Motivating affiliates to promote and sell more products/services.
Recruiting more affiliates into the program.
Keeping track of sales made by affiliates, as well as writing and sending affiliates their commission checks.

Outsourced Program Management
Quality affiliate managers are in short supply for merchants who prefer in-house management. The most seasoned affiliate managers operate as Outsourced Program Managers (OPMs), providing affiliate program management and consulting on behalf of merchants. OPMs traditionally manage multiple affiliate programs, with some maintaining a support staff of affiliate managers which are dedicated to each merchant client.

OPMs often provide greater value and lower costs to merchants than in-house employees. OPMs typically bring a loaded rolodex of existing affiliate partnerships to their merchant clients, and can extend the merchants offer to their personal network if the program is salable. Additionally, merchants find cost benefits in OPM firms, as OPMs operate as independent contractors who do not incur health/401k benefit expenses, office space/computer costs, or training expenses.

OPM fees typically range between $2,000 and $10,000 a month in flat rates, most of which typically operate on a monthly rate and performance compensation hybrid model. Many OPMs also offer consulting services for merchants, including single-run affiliate recruitment, affiliate program optimization, program launch services, and affiliate tools/technology development.