UpSellit Partner Spotlight: Rick Magennis of Bearcat Media

JJ TysonEcommerce

UpSellit & Bearcat Media Title Card

Affiliate Marketing and Management

While virtually every industry has experienced disruption this year, affiliate marketing continues to stand among the best investments advertisers can make. Though many marketing budgets have contracted, performance-based marketing guarantees a positive return on investment, something especially attractive in an uncertain time. 

However, while affiliate marketing is an excellent way to generate new traffic and boost sales, the process of building, growing, and managing an affiliate program can easily become overwhelming. This is especially true as we enter Q4, traditionally the busiest time of the year for publishers and advertisers.

Fortunately, affiliate management agencies like Bearcat Media make it simple to achieve scalable growth and build a program that works for each client’s unique needs. As a full-service affiliate management agency, Bearcat works with every client to provide comprehensive services, including program setup, management, recruitment, and more. 

UpSellit had the opportunity to sit down with Rick Magennis, President of Bearcat Media to discuss the importance of affiliate programs in the current climate, how Bearcat approaches affiliate management, and what we can expect during Q4. 

How has your year been so far? How has the uncertainty of the past year affected affiliate programs at large? 

2020 has been a year like no other, that’s for sure. I am thankful that my family is safe and we are getting back to some sense of normalcy with the kids back at school. As far as business is concerned, Bearcat Media has had to make adjustments, but we are still growing and will end 2020 on a strong note. 

The pandemic has definitely affected affiliate programs, but since they are performance oriented by nature, they haven’t been as hard hit as other channels. There are affiliate programs being launched daily because brands have realized that the investment is relatively low and the ROI has the potential to be large. I expect affiliate marketing to continue to grow rapidly in 2021. 

The one observation that I have noticed is that there are affiliates that are now looking to monetize upfront due to the current conditions, but overall, the affiliate marketing industry is stronger than ever. 

Do you have any predictions for Q4 based on trends over the last 9 months? What should advertisers be preparing for, and how should they go about getting ready?

I expect this Q4 to be the biggest ever. People are not going to be going to malls and exposing themselves to COVID-19. Rather they will be doing their shopping from home. Amazon is running their Prime Day on October 13, which will entice people to buy their holiday gifts. 

It’s unfortunate, but brick and mortar businesses are declining and that’s where affiliate marketing comes in. Brands that had physical locations that have closed can now invest more in digital and their affiliate/partner programs. 

Advertisers should have their entire Q4 promo calendars complete by now and should be working on all the necessary assets for those promos. In addition, they should have them ready to distribute to their affiliates weeks in advance. It’s all about planning and preparation. In order for brands to see positive rewards from Q4, they need to arm their affiliates with everything quickly and efficiently. 

Another aspect of Q4 is the traffic surge websites see. Advertisers should make sure their websites are able to handle the potential influx of traffic and also optimize the shopping cart.

What makes contracting with an affiliate management agency a worthwhile investment, both in Q4 and beyond? 

There are multiple reasons why contracting an affiliate management agency is a solid investment, but the number one reason, in my opinion, is the relationships they have with affiliates, SaaS companies, and other vendors. 

When a brand contracts with an agency, they are investing in the agency’s experience and connections. An agency in Q4 can be vital because many brands do not have a dedicated affiliate manager – instead, they have a person wearing multiple hats. The agency can focus on the affiliate program and connect with affiliates to grow it. 

What I have noticed is that there is a lack of education for brands on running an affiliate program. There are tons of sites that talk about how to be an affiliate, but very few talk about how to successfully manage an affiliate program. I am currently working on something that will hit this topic and will be available to help brands grow their programs through education. 

Having an agency assist in managing an affiliate program can be the difference in success and failure. I often see affiliate programs shut down because the brand doesn’t know enough about affiliate marketing. As a result, some give up because they rush to the conclusion that it wasn’t working. With an agency, a lot of the friction in managing a program is taken away. 

What’s the most common mistake you see advertisers making with their affiliate programs? How do you suggest they address it before the holidays? 

There are two common mistakes I see advertisers making. 

First, they do not give their programs enough time to mature. Like I mentioned above, affiliate marketing is not a quick solution; it is all about creating and building relationships. 

That brings me to my second point: Advertisers often recruit affiliate marketers to promote their brand, but do not take care of them or treat the affiliates as a partner. The more advertisers build relationships with their affiliates, the more successful their program will be. 

This can be addressed before the holidays by reaching out to current affiliates (and prospective ones) and asking them what they need to be successful in Q4. It may be as simple as a custom coupon code or banners, but advertisers won’t know until they ask. A simple dialogue could be the difference between a successful Q4 and a really successful Q4. 

What steps can advertisers take to make sure their programs stand out from other affiliate programs, especially as competition increases around the holidays? 

This is a great question. I always tell advertisers that they should be doing a competitive analysis at least once per quarter. Things change very quickly, so if advertisers are not on top of their competition, the results will be average at best. 

Advertisers should be looking at their competitors’ commission rates. Another thing to watch out for is whether competitors are offering special commission to certain affiliates. This can help advertisers remain competitive in recruiting and activating affiliates. 

I often advise advertisers to sign-up for their competitors affiliate programs so that they get their newsletters; I even tell them to sign-up for their customer newsletters on their website. It shows them the types of offers being run, allowing them to adjust their strategy. It’s not complicated, but it is necessary – it just requires time. 

How can advertisers effectively support affiliates for large campaigns and promotions? What sorts of assets are most helpful, and why? 

It’s all about planning and preparation. For large campaigns, there are usually many moving pieces, so having everything an affiliate needs in one place is vital. 

I like to recommend that advertisers have a folder with as many assets and as much information as possible about their promotions and products. Included in the folder should be a brand style guide telling the affiliates the color palette, font styles, etc. This will eliminate a lot of back and forth communication. 

Along with the brand style guide, I recommend a Social Media Guide, which outlines the do’s and don’ts on social media when promoting an advertiser’s brand. We also recommend advertisers have all their evergreen assets included, along with videos. Videos are a vital part of marketing in 2020 and that’s especially true in affiliate marketing. 

What are you most excited about in the coming year? Going forward, what do you think is in store for advertisers and publishers? 

Besides looking forward to 2020 ending? 

I am really excited to see that so many brands are starting to see the true power of affiliate marketing. 2021 is going to be great because I know several brands that are launching programs that have never had one prior. 

What has my team and me so excited is the technology being developed that is great for advertisers and affiliates. Gone are the days of affiliate marketing being seen as just another marketing channel. I truly think that it will become the number one profit center for more brands, which will in turn grow the industry. 

Rick Magennis is a 10-year affiliate industry veteran, who spends the majority of his time on the brand side managing affiliate programs. He is the owner of Bearcat Media, an affiliate program management agency based in New Jersey.