KarenHudgins - 5:43 pm on Aug 16, 2004 (gmt 0)
One of the first steps you should take is begin looking more closely at your affiliates as individuals rather than 1 large group. No two affiliates are the same and as such what works for one, what motivates one, may not work for the other. Looking at your affiliates in terms of various groups may work best with regards to setting incentive/bonus offers. For example, you may have one group of affiliates that consistently generates 10 sales for you monthly. Perhaps with this group you could give a bonus or rate increase if they reach 15 sales in a month. On the flip side, you may also have a group that generates 100+ sales monthly so you may want to offer bonuses for 150+ sales or a % bonus of total sales over 150.
With regards to allowing your affiliates to develop and customize their own links, some affiliates will do this better than you could tell them simply because as you stated, they know their site's visitors and behavior better than you, but be cautious as well. Be sure that those you do allow to change your links are to some degree monitored. These affiliates generally are the best of the best and can generate lots of volume for your program. Be sure that you are receiving high quality traffic.
Communicate and assist. Be available to your affiliates through phone, email, IM, discussion forums, and in person at conferences. Not all affiliates like to be communicated with in the same manner. Some will prefer phone chats now and then and some simply want very quick emails. Being able to meet the affiliate where they want you to be not where you want them to be, is the key to effective communication.
Stats and Tracking. More is better. Affiliates from my experience want to know generally more than most basic programs provide so check with your affiliates and make sure that you are reporting what they want to see and if you're not, find the best way to fix it. Not all affiliates will look at the same data, but you want to make sure that it is all there for them to see in case they would like to review it.
Finally, run the best darn program you can. Always pay on time, always do something when you say you're going to. Do not compete with affiliates on ppc campaigns and stay away from AdWare/Spyware. Believe me affiliates talk and if you run a good program they will know and if you do not they will without a doubt know must faster.