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There’s no doubt that the affiliate landscape in our industry is changing; while more operators recognize the value of affiliate partners, the opportunities for affiliates to really partner, and profit, from maturing and often merging brands seem to be diminishing. So when evaluating potential affiliate partnerships, you have to ask yourself, "is this really going to be worth the effort?" We’ve created a quick four point test that we think can help guide you in evaluating the myriad opportunities and focus on the ones that are most quickly going to drives profits back to you. They are:
- The Opportunity
- Brand Differentiation
- Player Value Maximization
- Communication and Cooperation
Just who are you getting into bed with? Sure, if you’re just going to throw up a bunch of banners and go PPC some keywords, the most-recognized brands are going to perform the best for you—the big boys; at least from a sign-up perspective. Ah, but then they tell you they already have that player amongst their millions of registered players, so sorry. Even if it WAS your efforts that re-activated or re-engaged or even just reminded the player of the brand when they were finally actually in the market to do something. Hate that.
So smaller, newer programs are often more attractive as they DON’T have that massive db of previously acquired players. But nor do they have the name recognition or even competent management behind them. It’s a tough call, but if you’re going to go beyond throwing a banner up and optimizing your traffic, you’ll want to hook up with experienced industry players who know the market with a decent, intelligent brand. So you have to ask your potential suitor: who’s behind this, where are they from, what have they done. Just like a potential investor in the operator, you NEED to know that there IS solid, seasoned management behind the endeavour before you tie yourself into them. A new BRAND to the market is good for you; a bunch of wanna-be newbies, not so good.
The next question to ask these late to market guys: how the hell are they going to differentiate themselves from the dozens or hundreds or thousands (depending on the specific market) of others? If the answer is “we’ll differentiate with superior customer service,” RUN. That’ll work on retention values (see next point), but it ain’t how you win players in the first place.
Brand differentiation of course varies market by market—what you need to consider in North American sports betting is very different than a Brazilian online casino. So core to this question is what market expertise do YOU bring to the table and how does that align with their strategy. Generally the better programs will bring you opportunities to monetize ALL of your traffic, not just your UK 24-44 ABC1 males. With like half of the world now online, it’s better to have a partner who can service a world-wide audience, even if it is through multiple brands as is often necessary to meet specific market requirements.
Promotions and bonuses are still KEY to this industry when it comes to attracting players; what are they planning in this space? Competitive or repetitive? Demand to see their banner inventory, their promotion plans—these are going to be the vital communication tools, they should have them up and ready for at least the next quarter! Out of date banners make your site look as bad as them—be sure they have their ammunition well stocked.
Player Value Maximization
This is of course now KEY to an affiliate program’s success; going from a single sign-up/deposit to real player development and value maximization. It’s not an exercise or the meek or under-staffed. It takes time and manpower; players of value build relationships with reps, not email or twitter accounts. Players have real needs that the brand must fulfil, and that’s often a voice at the end of a phone line—even if it’s a Skype line.
As ways to communicate to players proliferate, like through Skype, twitter, facebook, good old email, even snail mail, you want an affiliate partner who is not afraid to USE those channels for one-to-one communication. Anyone can tweet out about a bonus or freeroll; it’s when your player gets a personalized birthday card in the old-fashioned post that a corner is turned in the relationship.
Communication and Cooperation
The same rules of engagement for player value maximization really apply to your relationship with the brand’s affiliate manager. Are they there for you, thinking about you, looking at your site, participating, supporting; or do emails go unanswered. Both parties do have to find their place in the relationship, but the only way to do that is to be communicating and working together.
The days of dropping into someone site, hitting the affiliates text link on the bottom, grabbing some banners and making a pile of cash are over. Forge your relationships with experienced teams, with interesting, innovative brands, who go all lengths to maximize player value and work with you to do what’s best for your site, your traffic, your players. There is still plenty of upside opportunity in our industry; no one has cracked it in every market, for every product. Team up with programs that are moving the goal posts and making a difference.
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