Getting Executive Buy-In for an Affiliate Program

Starting an affiliate program is a great idea, but chances are that if you work in a corporation, you’ll need to get your boss, your boss’s boss, or the executive team to sign off on it. In order to make sure you get the go-ahead, you’ll need to devise a strategy for getting executives to buy-in.

The first step is to identify the stakeholders. An affiliate marketing program can impact a number of departments including marketing, IT, creative, operations, human resources, corporate communications, and more. Involve some one from each of these departments in the process. Get their input; solicit feedback; ask them to list their concerns and the potential risks and benefits. Having input makes these constituencies feel in power. If these people are left out of the process they may take steps to derail the project. You’ll need their cooperation.

Each of these groups will have different goals and varying agendas. Be sure to customize your proposal in such a way that it speaks to their specific needs. For example :when talking with the marketing director, they are more likely to be in favor if you focus on how the program will integrate with existing marketing efforts; when presenting to the creative type let them know what type of creative you’ll need and how they can participate in the process. This personalization of information is more likely win you supporters.

It’s a good idea to find an ally. If you have a friend in a position of power that also has the ear of the executive team (or better yet on the executive team) you’ll be more likely to get an okay for affiliate program. This person can champion your cause and fight for it in ways you might be uncomfortable doing.

Make sure you have mapped out all the expenditures associated with starting and maintaining the program for at least 6 months. Be realistic with your projections. The nature of performance marketing means that many of your costs be precisely measured and tied directly to your results. Of course, there are some costs and resources that you will need to estimate to calculate your return on investment (ROI). (See Affiliate Program Start Up Costs)

Again you’re also going to have to be patient and convey that to those whose approval you are seeking. It’s likely to take at least 6 to 9 months to get a program firing on all cylinders. Make sure everyone is committed to a realistic time frame. You don’t want to have them kill the program just when you are getting it running smoothly. It takes time and patience.

Make sure to skip the hype. Overselling the program isn’t going to help you or the company.

If you oversell the program as a savior for the company or a huge profit center, you may have egg on your face if there are unforeseen circumstances. There are just too many factors you cannot control.

You’ll also want to highlight and mitigate the risks. Just as you will talk up the benefits, you’ll need to point out any potential risks and look for ways to minimize them. Understanding all these risks is likely to come from your discussions with other stakeholders. They can help you figure out any pitfalls and have responses for them. You don’t want to be blindsided or seem unprepared.

If you do all of these things, it’s likely you’ll get the go-ahead to launch your program.