The affiliate channel has always offered advertisers the opportunity to
deliver large volumes of leads; the challenge remains both assessing
the value and assigning an appropriate reward for those leads.

Here are
five tips for advertisers to help them to run a successful lead-based affiliate

Have suitable backend processes in place 

Backend processes are crucial to the measurement of success for lead based campaigns. The ability to track a lead right through to transaction allows advertisers to understand the value of the affiliate channel. It also allows for a strategic alignment with individual partners while providing greater visibility for publishers on the progression of leads.

Streamlined backend processes are even more important when a number of stages to secure a transaction. A good example would be a conservatory company. As they are selling high ticket items a more considered purchasing decision is needed which takes time.

The initial lead could be a simple form to declare interest; the next process would be receiving a follow up call to qualify if the lead is genuine. A sales representative could then visit and provide a quote for a chosen conservatory and the final process would be the eventual purchase.

A complete backend process would allow advertisers to monitor each lead from initial interest right through to transaction. It would provide the possibility to track leads for each individual affiliate, allowing conversion analysis and the ability to reward publishers according to the value they provide.

Establish the value of the lead 

The above point is crucial in being able to ascertain the value of a lead. The greater visibility provided allows advertisers to attribute this correctly. This enables appropriate commission rate structuring (covered in more detail later).

If advertisers know their current conversion rates across other online channels from lead to sale, it is possible to determine how much they should be paying for the initial lead. As a lead based program matures, it is possible to analyse the contribution of individual publishers and determine the value of their leads.

The value that is associated with leads is especially important when it is not possible to track from lead through to transaction.

Correct commission structures  

With the right backend processes in place it is possible to reward publishers on a value based model, potentially premised on different commissions paid out depending on how far through the transaction process a customer is.

For the initial lead a minimal amount could be paid to remunerate the publisher. This will ensure they are able to reinvest in the campaign and continue to deliver leads. The further the customer proceeds through the process the more commission is attributed to them; in other words the lead is reflective of the perceived or actual value of the lead.

Some lead-based campaigns could be as simple as a lead is submitted, a sales representative will make contact with the customer and the transaction will be completed. In this instance it is possible to pay an initial commission for the delivery of the lead (a minimal CPL) and then a further CPA on the completed purchase (potentially a % of basket value).

Other lead-based campaigns can have more complex processes in place. For example, a cosmetic surgery company may have an initial lead that is submitted that will be followed up with a courtesy call.

This could then progress to a consultation with the ultimate goal being undertaking surgery. Due to the lag time between the initial lead and undergoing surgery, a proportion of commission could be paid at each stage, rewarding the publisher on the quality of the lead delivered. A successful completion of surgery would result in the publisher receiving the greatest chunk of commission – again potentially a percentage of the cost of surgery.

With robust processes in place where a lead can be tracked right through to a sale, advertisers are able to assess the value of the leads on an individual affiliate basis and tweak their promotions through these publishers accordingly.

When it is not possible to track through to sale, a flat fee CPA is the most suitable payment model. This could be based on conversion rates from lead to sale through other online channels and must be continually monitored.

Know the affiliate types to work with 

The nature of lead-based campaigns mean that advertisers should be selective with the publishers they work with.

By opening a lead-based campaign to all publishers it could be open to abuse. For example, if a lead campaign accepts incentivised traffic then the lead quality is likely to be low. Members of incentive sites would fill out a form purely to receive their cashback. 

However, if the correct backend processes are in place and the lead can be tracked through to a sale, incentive sites could be paid only when the transaction is completed. If this process is in place then incentive sites still have potential to add value.

Email publishers should be considered. They possess the potential to deliver relevant leads to a merchant. With the ability to segment their databases in line with the target audience of the campaign, they are able to generate a significant volume of targeted leads.

Content publishers that tie in with the advertiser’s offering are also a great source of leads. For example a car enthusiast site has the potential to deliver valuable leads for test drives.

If the form that needs to be completed to submit a lead is able to be hosted on the publisher site, leads can increase drastically as a step to the conversion is removed – taking place on the publisher site rather than clicking through to the merchant.

As mentioned in the above points, publishers can be treated in a bespoke way once their value and conversion rates from lead to conversion have been ascertained.

Stringent terms and conditions 

With any lead-based campaign it is important to have clearly defined terms and conditions. What constitutes a valid lead? Will all leads be contacted to verify their authenticity?

It is also important that you state what the backend processes are and if different commissions will be paid for each phase of the process. Publishers need to be clear on what they will be paid in order to promote the campaign.

Furthermore it is important to state the publisher types that you are willing to work with so that there are no issues when leads start to be submitted.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to run an effective lead based campaign via a typical affiliate network but with the appropriate checks and balances and with the ROI carefully worked back, lead campaigns can be an invaluable standalone or extension to your affiliate programme.