Affiliates Need to Consider the Brands’ Customer Service Rep

affiliate customer satisfaction

As most affiliates work to establish themselves as a brand, it’s worth putting more emphasis on the customer service of businesses they opt to promote.

Since affiliates are not the actual sellers of a product or service, they don’t always consider the quality of the customer service of the retailers they work with. But similar to the manner in which affiliates choose to represent a brand can have an impact on the brand itself, it cuts the other way as well. Affiliates working with brands that have less-than-stellar reputations for customer service could actually end up negatively affecting the affiliate’s brand.

That’s because often the experience of buying through an affiliate link is so seamless that consumers don’t differentiate between the affiliate and the brand. So, if something goes wrong there may be some people looking to blame the affiliate.

Satisfaction is Job 1

Customer satisfaction plays an important role within business. It is the leading indicator to measure customer loyalty, identify unhappy customers, reduce churn and increase revenue. It’s also also a key point of differentiation that helps businesses to attract new customers in competitive business environments.

And keeping a current customer is valuable. According to White House Office of Consumer Affairs, on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. Some research says that it is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Econsultancy data shows that around 70% of marketers say it costs less to retain a customer than it does to acquire a new one.

Additionally, social media has given a voice to those that are dissatisfied. According to data from New Voice Media, 59% of people share poor customer experiences online. On the flip side, happy, satisfied customers become the repeat buyers who keep your business alive and well. They also bring new customers your way. American Express noted that one satisfied customer can equal up to nine referrals. And data from Temkin Group suggests that companies with happy customers have as much as a 16% advantage over competitors in consumers’ willingness to buy, reluctance to switch brands, and likelihood of recommending them.

So when looking to promote offers from a business, here are some things that affiliates can do related to customer service:

Social media – Check out the social media accounts of the business. Look for how they publically respond to complaints – both the tone and how quickly they react. Also, do searches on each social media platform for what people are saying about the brand. This can be a good indicator as to issues that may crop up in the future.

Be a customer – It’s always a good idea to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. One way to do that is to make a purchase and see how smoothly – or not – the process is. Even if you don’t have an issue with the product, you can also call the customer service line. Ask some questions to see what kind of response you get. Is it a live human? A chat bot? This lets you evaluate a typical customer service experience.

Check their website – Review the retailer’s website to see if they prominently display a contact information and a customer service number. You want to make sure there is an easy way for customers to contact the brand in the event there is a problem.

Know the policies – Check out the retailer’s policies. Do they accept returns? What are the guarantees/warranties they offer?  Read the fine print and make sure you are okay with all the policies for replacement or repair and liability.

Ask questions – It’s perfectly acceptable to ask the affiliate contact about customer satisfaction. Does the company measure satisfaction? Conduct regular surveys? Is the feedback taken seriously? Are changes actually implemented? What happens if you get caught in the crossfire of an angry consumer? These are all questions that you should ask before promoting an online retailer.

Understanding how those you work with resolve customer disputes and work to improve customer satisfaction can only help you select partners to promote that will benefit your business and increase the loyalty of your customers.

Affiliate Business Planning for 2018

affiliate business plans for 2018

As an affiliate this may be your busiest time of the year. You’re finalizing holiday promotional efforts, executing on Q4 plans, and let’s face it – sometimes pushing just to keep on top of all the holiday marketing madness. But during all this holiday craziness, you also need to be thinking about planning for next year. Yes, 2018 will be here in just 2 short months.

Of course, you can simply head into the new year just doing what you’ve been doing. But the start of the year is a chance to evaluate what worked over the last 12 months, what didn’t, set new goals, and develop a plan for moving your business to the next level.

Having a yearly plan (or even a five-year plan) sets a clear path for success that can be adjusted as you go along. It also helps you prioritize. That means you can spend time more efficiently and rather than spinning your wheels.

Intensive Review Process

Data

Hopefully, you’ve been looking at all your data throughout the year and making adjustments as needed. If you haven’t been reviewing all of your data and looking at it year-over-year, month-over- month, you need to evaluate those numbers. This will give you a glimpse into the trajectory you’re on, and possible where you need to make changes. It will also provide some insight into setting percentage growth goals for the future.

It’s time to go deep and review all areas of your business – social media, conversions, earnings with each merchant, sponsorships, paid advertising, search, etc. For each of those areas, you’ll want to look at your ROI, and be sure you’re measuring the right things.

Processes

Streamlining how you do things is also worth reviewing. Look for ways to improve efficiencies – whether in terms of time or resources needed to perform specific tasks. What can be automated to save time? Are there tasks that can be outsourced? Additionally, think about how adding new functionality or setting goals will impact existing processes.

Forward Thinking

New Technologies

As you look ahead, you’ll want to contemplate any new technologies that might impact your business. Are there technologies or innovations that would improve your internal processes and run your business? What about ad technologies or marketing tools that make it easier to interact with customers, do retargeting, maximize your social media, etc.? Also look for tech that will improve the customer experience and increase conversions.

The Changing Marketplace

Additionally, it’s a good time to evaluate the overall landscape of your specific market. If you’re focused on apparel, look at data about how the market may have shifted including any changes in consumer shopping behaviors, changing demographics, areas that are underserved, and more. Think about how other factors such as the economic climate, social issues, etc. might change the market or present new opportunities.

Competitors

How do you stack up? Don’t focus on your rivals. But it doesn’t hurt to see what similar businesses are doing. Look at websites like Similarweb.com to get information about where competitors’ overall traffic, where their traffic is coming from,  bounce rates, etc. You can also look at their social media and see who they are engaging and how they are doing it. Have they broken into segments you’re not reaching? This can give you an opportunity to put new plans in place for

Set Goals

Have a Timeline

Come up with a realistic timeline for implementing all the new things you have planned. And set specific times to review those plans once they are place. Have specific goals in mind for what you plan on achieving. Is it  to sign up and be productive with a dozen new merchants? Is it to increase conversions by 20%? Whatever you opt to do, measure, review and adjust as you go on a regular basis.

Be Flexible

You should think of your plan as a set of guidelines – not an unchangeable set of rules. Keep your marketing plan where you can easily access it throughout the year. Write different marketing timelines on your calendar so that you know when to look again at your plan. Make changes to your plan as unforeseen events occur, and keep going.

A strong yearly business plan doesn’t have to be flawless from the start. It simply needs to be detailed enough to get you smoothly through another 12 months by incorporating your goals and methods for achieving them.

The Recipe for Affiliate Success

Recipe for affiliate success

Ever try and duplicate your favorite dish? Your mom gives you step-by-step instructions on how to make her famous apple pie. You find the recipe for the ultimate roasted chicken from your beloved local bistro. But when the cooking is done your creation just doesn’t taste like the original.

Or maybe you’ve tried to replicate one of the many beautiful creations on Pinterest. We’ve all seen the Pinterest fails.

So what went wrong? You used the same ingredients or products, measured with precision, and followed the directions to the letter.

Affiliate marketing can often feel like one of those cooking or DIY creative efforts. You follow all the best practices information, take the advice of experts, and try to duplicate what has been successful for others in the past. Yet you’re not immediately achieving the level of results you expected.

Getting Tactical

That doesn’t mean that using proven tips, tricks and techniques won’t yield results. Instead it means that following any single step for one part of your affiliate business doesn’t guarantee overall success.

For example, you can do everything right when it comes to creating the most effective landing pages that result in higher conversions. However, if you’re not driving traffic to those pages through a variety of methods – retargeting, social media, emails, etc. – you’ve only dealt with one part of a complicated, intertwined process.

Like any business, there are some universal guidelines and foundations that need to be in place for affiliate marketing success. But You need to tailor the tactical execution to your specific business. And there are  myriad of factors that need to be considered including the size of your business, your target demographic, the types of offers you are promoting, the type of affiliate your are (reviews, content, coupons, etc), your revenue model, the current market conditions, and evolving consumer behavior, and more.

According to Leigh Watson Healy, Chief Analyst at market research firm Outsell, it’s all about tactical execution when it comes to driving business growth. Having focus, gaining market share, building trust, innovating organically, and execution against best practices and benchmark norms are necessary.

Adding Your Unique Spice

Best practices are best practices for a reason. They work. They are professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective. And while following them provides a proven way to achieve goal, don’t discount the effectiveness of adapting them to fit your unique business.

Like a chef, putting your unique twist on things, can create a compelling creation that reflects your individuality and differentiates you from the competition. Any restaurant can have a mac & cheese dish on their menu. And for the most part they all use the same ingredients and techniques. But the one that adds bacon and then deep fries it into bite sizes morsels, has immediately set themselves apart.

The bottom line is that achieving success in affiliate marketing requires a holistic tactical approach. In the end, it’s hard to follow an exact recipe for success. Instead, is about adapting, innovating, evolving while using best practices as the foundation to build a successful affiliate business.

C20_1x1

Chateau 20 News & Happenings: #VegasStrong

vegas strong

Chateau 20’s headquarters and heart are firmly rooted in Las Vegas. The tragedy that took the lives of 58 people, injured 489, and impacted thousands on October 1, 2017, was a heart wrenching event that many are still struggling to process.

Now is a time for love and healing, and the Chateau 20 team remains focused on helping those affected. The team embodies #VegasStrong and is dedicated to supporting those in need in the wake of this senseless event.

If you, too, would like to help — here are some of the organizations that Chateau 20 hopes you will continue to support as Vegas seeks to emerge stronger, brighter, and more vibrant than ever before.

Donations

Las Vegas Victims Fund

Three Square

T-Shirts (100% of proceeds support victims)

Vegas Strong

Strong House Project

Make More Money: Build a Solid Foundation of Trust

Building trust

Online marketers who think the cries of “fake news” doesn’t apply to how they do business are very mistaken.

Establishing trust in the era of fake news (being called out on all political sides) is critical and getting more difficult – and not just for media outlets. Marketers and ecommerce players are experiencing a trickle down effect as fake news bleeds into so many facets of life, including online shopping.

Trust is Everything

However, with so much information available to people, it’s not just news stories. Everything from websites, blogs and more are  being viewed with growing skepticism. Consumers aren’t sure who to trust about anything online.

A big part of convincing people on the path to purchase is creating a sense of trust with potential buyers. This is especially important for new and upstart companies. But consumers are struggling to discern if websites have an agenda, if they are legitimate, if reviews are real, whether product recommendations really come from objective sources and actual testing, and other questions. Consumer skepticism is rampant.

Baymard’s Checkout Usability study reveals that 18% of users have abandoned a checkout flow during the last 3 months because they didn’t trust the site.

This is a big problem for internet marketers that are constantly competing for attention and dollars in an increasingly crowded online marketplace. Without consumer trust a brand can wither.

Traditional Methods are Eroding

In the past there were a variety of proven ways for marketers to foster trust. But those traditional methods are eroding and no longer as effective.

Paid Recommendations – Buyers now understand that influencer marketing (including so-called mommy bloggers, celebrities, and content bloggers with big audience reach) can be bought and paid for by brands with sponsored posts and run of site advertising.These bloggers are required by the FTC to disclose if they are paid by a brand and if they make money for promoting or recommending products. And while most bloggers are adamant they wouldn’t recommend a product/service they don’t believe in, the financial compensation from the brand can taint that endorsement for some consumers.

Media Mentions – In the past, highlighting all the places your product or service received a mention in the press, was a good way to foster trust. Many brands would have (and still do) a section on their website – maybe even showcased on the homepage – where they would gather all their accolades and present them to visitors as a way of touting legitimacy. Having a third-party saying positive things about your company was a well-proven way to build trust with consumers.

However, the effectiveness of that tactic is lessening. Using media mentions on your website or in marketing efforts (such “Appeared in the NY Times”  or “As Seen on CNN” or “Reviewed by whateverwebsite.com”) no longer carries the same weight as many people question the basic legitimacy of many media outlets – both in print and online. In fact, there can be negative connotations of associating with some media, depending on the target demographics of your product or service.

Reviews – There’s also an air of distrust around reviews based on evidence of fake reviews on Amazon and Yelp. Until last October, Amazon permitted so-called “incentivized reviews,” whereby reviewers were given free or discounted products in return for reviews, so long as the reviewer made the arrangement clear. However, after incentivized reviews started flooding the site, many clearly fraudulent, Amazon banned them for the vast majority of products.

Tactics That Still Work

There’s still credibility in some traditional trust methods such as trust logos (Google Trusted Store, BBB Accredited, TRUSTe) that convey trust through business authenticity. As well as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) seals  including Norton, Thawte, Trustwave, Geotrust, Comodo, etc., that denote trust through technical security.

Additionally, highlighting partnerships with businesses you work with engenders trust by association with recognized, established  brands. This old chestnut continues to foster trust because people will make the mental leap that if you are partnered with Apple or Microsoft or Cuisinart and those are respected brands, your business must also be trustworthy.

What’s Next?

So, with some traditional trust methods declining, the future is still in flux as to what will be the most effective tactics for creating trust.

  • Social recommendations – Social circles (from only friends, family and direct social connections) continue to be given more weight in purchasing decisions and establishing trust. People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend, according to a report by Nielsen
  • New tools – A handful of new tools and plug-ins are coming out to allow brands to show peer reviews and mentions in real-time on Facebook and other social platforms. Because shoppers can see real-time reviews and actually verify the reviews are coming from a real person, it could equate to more trust for brands.
  • Artificial intelligence – AI will be used by many brands to help customers with everything from finding products to providing customer service. If these bots can effectively solve customer problems (and that’s still being determined), customers may find more effective customer service fosters increased trust.
  • Increased personalization – Like relationships in real life, trust is built over time. Better tools for creating a more personalized experience should help brands develop trust with customers.

Regardless of what form it takes – tools, better service, more verified reviews – creating trust with customers is a foundation of marketing that can’t be ignored and must be in place for success.

Branding is Key for Affiliates

affiliate branding is keySavvy affiliates understand establishing their website as a brand is key to their long-term success. Even though the foundation of affiliate marketing is based on marketing and  promoting offers from other brands, affiliates need to be a brand in their own right.

That’s because brand building comes with many benefits including recognition, loyalty, a perception of size and quality, and the the image of experience and reliability.  All of these combine to provide a significant comfort level for potential customers. Establishing that overall trust helps shoppers eventually become repeat customers, which can increase average order value and lifetime customer value – all important success metrics for affiliates.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Some of the largest affiliates (RetailMeNot.com, Coupons.com, and LowerMyBills.com) have done a great job at creating unique identities and name recognition for their respective websites. In fact, most online shoppers simply view them as a destination rather than an affiliate site.

Kim Rowley, founder of KEY Internet Marketing, has several affiliate sites (including ShoppingKim.com, WorkInMyPajamas.com, and ShoeaholicsAnonymous.com), and has  been in the affiliate space since 1998. Rowley, who received the 2012 Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Affiliate Marketing Legend, says branding is crucial for affiliates of all sizes.

“Branding is one of the most beneficial things any affiliate can do to stand out from the crowd,” she says. “I have a handful of affiliate sites and by making sure each has its own look, unique value proposition, and clearly defined market position, I am making them memorable to visitors. That gives me a leg up on my competition and fosters loyalty with my audience. And that branding brings repeat visitors because each site is a known entity.”

affiliate branding is keyBuilding a Brand

There are many ways to cultivate your affiliate brand identity including:

  • Creating consistent visual branding (colors, design, logos, fonts, etc.) across all platforms and communications
  • Establishing messaging that solidifies market positioning
  • Touting differentiators
  • Doing SEO for higher search rankings
  • Establishing and sustaining a social presence
  • Marketing and advertising efforts to gain mindshare
  • Consistent engagement  with existing and prospective customers via retargeting, emails, newsletters, social media
  • Providing relevant content and information

Unfortunately, there’s no one size-fits-all for how to implement each of these elements. Specific tactics and execution largely depends on many factors, including:

  • The size of your business
  • Your target demographic
  • The type of offers you are promoting
  • The type of affiliate your are (reviews, content, coupons, etc)
  • Your revenue model

However, there are some common, over-arching themes to keep in mind when working to build your brand. You should be thinking about these cornerstones as you execute on specific initiatives. These are all intertwined and work together to create your brand.

Establish Trust/Credibility

Everything you do should be working towards letting people know you are a trustworthy business. From design to messaging to content you create to partners you work with and everything in between. A big part of that is transparency. Be sure to comply with all disclosure regulations, privacy laws and make those easily accessible to visitors.

If customers feel like are you are legitimate business, they will want to give your their business. There are too many scams out there and people want to know they can trust you.

“Consumers have almost limitless information and more choice than ever,” Lisa Riolo, Chateau 20’s Vice President of Operations and Special Projects, says. “With all the digital noise it’s important for marketers to build trust at every touch point in the purchase journey. Otherwise the consumer will just bounce.”

Put the Customer First

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think about how they will be navigating around your site. How they want to find the best deals. What they would want to know about products (details, specifications, images). How they might need to contact you if there is an issue (is there an email, contact name and email address). Focus on solving problems for customers. That includes telling them what problem is solved by a product, why they need it, etc. Give them good information in your content. Have them sign up for newsletters or email alerts so you can contact them with good deals that are relevant to them.

Be Authentic

Building a brand means showing who you are as business. A human element can make you more relatable. If you’re all about busy moms getting a deal, share your perspective about things that you found useful. Or deals that helped you in some way. Think about what you stand for. Your ethics. Your position. People want to do business with people. And the best brands have a clear message of what they stand for (quality, good deals, great content, finding helpful item, etc.) .

It takes some effort to build your affiliate brand. But in the end having a recognizable brand will make you stand out, increase repeat customers, protect you from increasing competition, and create a long-term sustainable business.

Crisis Response for Small Business Leaders

By Lisa Riolo

crisis management

It’s Monday morning, October 2, 2017. How do I respond to everyone today? How do I lead on a day like this? Because today will be different than most.

Our agency is headquartered in Las Vegas. Several of our clients are also in Las Vegas. The community is suffering. We’re all upset. We keep reassuring family and friends that we’re “safe.” But are we ok? We again check our social media feeds hoping to understand what happened last night. We’re exhausted.

This past Monday involved tragedy, heartbreak and fear. Again. It wasn’t the first time our screens were filled with stories that overwhelm. Just weeks ago it was not one, not two, but three epic hurricanes halting business as usual. And there will inevitably be future days that challenge our ability to perform.

Leadership in business is hard during times of intense distress. The people around us react in unpredictable ways; they’re fragile and sensitive. A well-intended comment may ignite unexpected anger and accusation: You did what?! An ordinary request is suddenly totally unreasonable. Plus, those same inconsistencies happening around us, are also happening within us–making us off kilter, too.

So, how do we proceed with our professional obligations? When do we get back to normal? What is (and what’s not) appropriate?

There isn’t a right-right answer. Nor is this post intended to spell out step-by-step what to do in a crisis. Partly because a response to hardship may call for the exact opposite of telling others how to act or what to think. A morning like this past Monday’s is less about expressing opinion or giving advice and more about acknowledging what the people around us are experiencing.

Acknowledgment is Key

By listening and responding to our customers, our partners, our vendors, we’re letting them know they’re not invisible. Acknowledging their responses to a tragedy–without trying to ‘fix’’ things–is a great way to react. On days when we are dealing with so much human tragedy, we might want to eliminate big proclamations and directives. Or avoid comments that begin with “You should” or “Here’s what I think…”

Chateau 20’s Chris Park put together a thoughtful message on behalf of one of our Vegas-based clients that was sent to affiliates and partners. It involved a request to pause any paid ads or promotions for one day. Chris’ words struck the right tone. He emphasized people first and then shared our client’s request. When I read what he wrote, I  immediately felt like I’d just gotten an understanding pat on the back.

Another recipient came back with a very different reaction to that same email. Instead of a comforting gesture, their response felt like a slap. Maybe I misunderstood their reply? My first thought was to confront that affiliate. Fortunately, our founder and CEO, Karen White cautioned everyone to let the apparent insult go.

I still considered logging in to expire that affiliate’s insertion order. But even without Karen’s good advice, I probably wouldn’t have acted on those thoughts. It’s better to pause in times of stress. I inhale a little deeper and exhale slowly. I listen more carefully. I consider other perspectives and plausible alternatives to what just happened.

But I am not perfect.

Even when making a concerted effort to be on time, I’m rarely punctual. So me saying I was late for everything on Monday means I was super late. I was also impatient. And tired. And frustrated with everyone and nobody in particular. I kept forgetting to ask “How are you today?” which was all that mattered. All day I felt not myself.

Then I remembered THIS leader recognizes when she too is experiencing the same heartbreak as her clients, and team members and neighbors. We behave differently on days like Monday. And that is okay. We just do the best we can.

There are no best practices for leading your business during a crisis or national tragedy–except to simply acknowledge our shared pain with kindness and grace, and patience.  

Selling Travel as The Ultimate Holiday Gift

Selling Travel as a Holiday GiftAffiliates focused on promoting travel as a holiday gift face some unique challenges. But they also have a good opportunity to cash in as they ramp up for the holiday season. By focusing on the experience, minimizing buyers perceived hurdles, and offering flexible options, travel affiliates can make the holiday very merry.

The Challenges

Selling travel to an individual using it for themselves is much easier than selling it to someone who is buying it for another person. When buying travel as a gift, potential buyers may have some concerns. It’s likely that most hurdles involve the complex logistics that surround travel due to strict booking requirements and current security regulations.

As a travel affiliate you’ll need to address those challenges head on (locking in specific dates, the cost, choosing the right destination, etc.). This will help assure buyers that the gift of travel will be the ultimate present and not an expensive mistake.

Sell Experiences

The idea of giving a trip, vacation or even a staycation at a local hotel,  as a gift is a good one. Increasingly, people value experiences over material things. Travel is often recalled as an “extraordinary experience” just below life’s major milestones, according to a study on happiness done by researchers at Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. More importantly, experiences like trips are far better remembered over time than material gifts and get a rose-colored patina with the retelling of memories, found Cornell University researchers in a 2014 paper aptly titled “We’ll Always Have Paris.”

Using language that assures the buyer they will be providing a memorable experience for the recipient is key. You want the buyer to know they are giving a unique experience. It’s one that may be a dream gift or even one that lets the recipient cross an item off their bucket list. That’s priceless.

Put Flexibility First

The biggest issue with buying travel for someone else is often being locked into specific dates, destinations and other things that once determined cannot be changed or carry a hefty price for the recipient to modify. Travel affiliates can avoid this by offering open ended options. These can include gift cards and vouchers. Most hotels, airlines, cruise lines offer gift cards that will allow recipients to book at their convenience.

Think About Themes

It’s the time of year when gift givers are searching online. Having Holiday Travel Gift Guides can help you get noticed as well as offer great suggestions for potential buyers. Be creative in curating these gift guides. Think Girls Getaways, Dream Vacations. Family Fun, For the Wine Lover, Best Travel for Empty Nesters, Bucket List Trips, Adventure of a Lifetime. You probably already have some of these lists, but putting a gift giving spin on them with seasonal graphics could prove to be a powerful motivator for buyers.

Selling Travel as a Holiday GiftSell Around Travel

Travel affiliates should also consider promoting gifts that go with travel such as guide books, luggage, travel accessories, etc. Because giving someone a trip or a vacation as a gift most likely involves a gift card and there’s not much for the recipient to unwrap. Having a physical present such a travel guide to the destination or a new carry on bag, can be a great way to have a themed present.

Offer a Variety of Price Points

Travel is an expensive gift, but as an affiliate you can promote a range of items and experiences at different price points. Even if someone can’t afford to send their parents to Barcelona, they could send them to a luxury spa at a swanky local hotel. Or those shoppers who know that someone is going on a trip could contribute to the experience by getting them a gift certificate for a local attraction or day tour. Additionally, if you know someone will be vacationing or travels frequently, you could purchase a membership to a travel service such as Medjet that offers comprehensive medical coverage and transport to a hospital in the event of emergency.

Be a Resource

As an affiliate you naturally want to promote offers that make you money on commissions. However, it’s also important to be viewed as helpful and knowledgeable. You don’t need to monetize everything on your site. Including links to things such as online passport services, Honeyfund (where people can contribute to a couple’s honeymoon fund), or services like Clear (for no-hassle TSA airport security check-ins).

Using Social to Sell Visuals

Using social media platforms that rely heavily on visuals is also a perfect way to promote travel as a gift. Be sure to put all your holiday gift guides on your Pinterest Boards and on your Instagram feed. Images are powerful and a great motivator – especially for purchasing travel.

Naturally, you’ll also want to do all the basic things associated with having your affiliate site in tip-top shape – optimizing landing pages, being mobile ready, readying holiday homepage promotions. Those efforts along with also taking some of the extra steps to aggressively promote travel as gift should make for a successful and lucrative holiday season.

Meet the Team: Tips for Effective Communication and Maximum Productivity

Affiliates often operate as solopreneurs. Or perhaps, they have some help in the form of virtual employees or contractors that work remotely. It can be isolating to work alone – even if you have co-workers in other locations. Some of the biggest challenges of working at home include finding effective methods for communicating and being productive.

We understand. Chateau 20’s team of experts are spread across the U.S. Everyone approaches working at home differently. What works for one person, may not work for everybody. But here are some tips that help our team stay engaged and maximize productivity.

tips for communication and productivity

COMMUNICATION

It can be hard to interact with others when you work alone. Luckily, there are so many tools and technology that can help facilitate communications. There are also plenty of proven tactics that can make communicating with remote co-workers, partners, and peers more satisfying and more effective.

Karen White, Founder and CEO: I think the biggest failure in communication with others, is that our first go to for most folks is email.  Two rules I follow: If the discussion requires more than three sentences to discuss, I move to hop on the phone.  If the communication requires less than three sentences, I use email or text.

Brandie Feuer,  Director of Strategy: I’ve recently become a fan of Slack. It took a minute, but when you start using it, it’s awesome to chat daily with people on your teams or that you’re working with. I’m also a big believer in face time and try to video conference in whenever possible. I also love people who can make email conversations fun and have a knack for always inserting the perfect LOL gif.

Chris Park, Partner Relationship Manager: Telephone. Email. Text. Skype. Instant messaging. There are SO many ways to keep in contact these days, I try to keep tabs on how each contact prefers to hear from me. By doing so, I can expect quicker and better interactions. I’ve learned that with some contacts, a text or IM is answered relatively immediately, while emails take days or weeks for a response, if at all. It’s also beneficial to keep track of where contacts are located so you don’t call them early in the morning, or late at night. You used to be able to simply check the area code, but with people taking their cell phone numbers with them, now, that is no longer reliable.

Lisa Riolo Vice President of Operations and Special Projects: My best communication tip involves a set of questions–mostly related to the phone – that I use to facilitate effective conversations. I learned from a realtor friend to always ask: is now (still) a good time to talk? Give people the option to express if they can’t give you their full attention. I prefer not having the conversation if the other person feels as if they’re stuck, if it wasn’t scheduled, or ambushed. I’d rather set the moment as well-timed and we are both ready.  

Years ago I replaced “do you have any questions” with “what questions do you have?” It gives people permission to ask. I do this during conference calls, training sessions, etc.

The third question is “how do I help?” This tends to focus a conversation and moves thinking toward a solution or path forward. Sometimes I phrase this question differently: what do you need from me? Is there an opportunity here we aren’t seeing?

I think there is value in collaboration and discussion. Open ended questions facilitate a dialogue. So the second and third questions on this list are designed to help information flow.

Tiffany Ponds-Kimbro, Publisher Development Manager: I like to look for points of similarity, whether it’s personal or professional. It really helps to break the ice and get others to open up. People tend to trust those who are more like them. And trust can foster honest, candid communication.

tips for communication and productivity

PRODUCTIVITY

With no one looking over your shoulder, it can be hard to remain self-motivated and productive. If you’re working at home, there can be so many distractions. It’s crucial to find out what works for you and then create a routine that boosts your productivity.

 

Karen White: My Smartphone (iPhone 6 Plus) is my #1 communication tool. It would be the kiss of death for me to not be able to use it.  I keep a running log of “To Do” tasks in my notes.  I set priority/rank to tasks, as I jot them down.  Each morning I identify my top three priority items of the day, and I determine how much time is needed to complete them.  Once completed, I identify the next three priority items.  Each morning, my priority might change from the day before, but I never concern myself with the idea of trying to complete my entire “to do list” or all the items on the list. 

Brandie Feuer: I’ve really spent the last few years figuring out when I am my best self for certain things and work to structure my day around that as best as possible. For example, my creative brain turns on around 7pm. I kick ass at analytics between 9:30-11am. And I am a waste of space around 3pm. If I can do things in these buckets then I’m 10x more productive and efficient. For example, if I tried to brainstorm in the morning, it would be unfun, painful and take me a good 60 plus minutes to come up with an idea. But, if I brainstorm after 7pm, I’m jazzed and can knock out a great idea in 15 minutes.

The other thing I’m a big believer in – the Post It Note To Do List System. I make myself a Post-It Note of To Dos every day. Usually only 3 things fit on a Post It Note and they are BIG things. I believe that once you knock those things out, you’re good for the day. If you’re working from home, it’s an incentive to get things done or figure out ways to be productive. I can’t shut down until those 3 things are done, whether it takes me 3 hours or 10 hours. It’s also a way to prioritize your workload. If your tasks can’t fit on a Post It Note or they’re not in your top 3, then really ask yourself, ‘Why?’. If the task isn’t important enough to make it to your list, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. And, if you do think it should be on your list, then what do you need to remove from your priorities to make it happen?

I’m not always 100% at this, but another productivity tip that I work towards is “Be Here Now.” Whether you’re working on a task, in a meeting or on a call, really be present in the moment. When your mind is divided, it’s unfair to the other people in the meeting and it’s unfair to yourself and your work. Multitasking is not always the best. One app that helps you practice this is Headspace (another thing I’m a big fan of!)

Chris Park: I have a dedicated office space with a real door that keeps my officemates out (a yellow lab and miniature schnauzer) when I need it to be quiet. I also get up at the same time each morning, get ready to “go to work”, and then drive into town to get a cup of coffee. I did that every morning when I didn’t work from home, so it keeps me in the same pattern of going to work in the morning.

Lisa Riolo: My Not To Do List is as important as my To Do List. This approach helps me manage competing priorities, and make deliberate decisions about what actions are most or least valuable. I also recognize when items on the To Do list aren’t getting checked off. They might have to go on the Not To Do. I am forced to acknowledge when something is just not happening.

I also walk when I talk. Rather than sitting through every call, I realize a lot of conversations don’t require me being on the laptop. So I get up and start walking around the block. The fresh air and activity helps me maintain a higher level of energy, which keeps me productive longer.

Additionally, I Unsubscribe. It’s too easy to get bogged down by info overload. So quit pulling the info in. Just go get what you want when you want it. Stop opening the emails – just Unsubscribe.

Tiffany Ponds-Kimbro: I used to do it everyday when I worked in a corporate setting and stopped once I started working from home – a brain dump first thing in the morning. Some things I write down and some I add to the Notes section of my phone. It also helps to distance me from whatever may be going on in the house (the people). My other productivity key is music. It’s usually contemporary jazz instrumental.  It helps me stay on an even keel even when I’m about to lose it, COMPLETELY. Instrumental is best because then I can’t sing the words that may distract me from actual linear thought.

‘Tis the Season for Affiliates to Start Holiday Marketing

Affiliates Holiday PrepAffiliates should be in the process of finalizing their holiday marketing plans. Ideally, you started planning early and are now ready to execute on those plans.

Here are some things affiliates should be doing now.

Get an Early Start

The most important step toward taking advantage the holiday season is getting an early start. Retailers often start their planning as early as June or July. For affiliates, this means that keeping on top of retailers you work with to ensure you know what they have coming. Affiliates should have their holiday campaigns up and running by October. The National Retail Federation reports that over 40 percent of people plan to begin their shopping by October, with over 12 percent planning to begin before September. Getting an early start increases the chances of capturing early birds.

Leverage Paid Placements

During the holidays retailers are looking for opportunities to reach new audiences or target specific demographics. This is good news for affiliates. Even if you don’t have huge traffic numbers. Having an engaged, loyal following in a specific niche can mean retailers looking for paid placements may contact you. But you don’t have to wait for them. Develop a hit list and reach out to those you think would be a good fit for your audience. Have a rate card ready that includes pricing, positions that are available and size of ads. Also have a terms sheet to formalize the agreement.

Maximize Major Dates

The holidays are comprised of much more than Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the week leading up to Christmas. Of course, those are huge, but the season has developed some other major days and periods that can also be lucrative.  

  • Singles Day (November 11th)
  • Thanksgiving (November 23rd)
  • Black Friday (November 24th)
  • Small Business Saturday (November 25th)
  • Cyber Monday (November 27th)
  • Giving Tuesday (November 28th)
  • Green Monday December 11th)
  • Free Shipping Day (December 15th)
  • Super Saturday (December 23rd)
  • Boxing Day (Canada) (December 26th)

Be Mobile Savvy

Expanding digital channels, such as mobile and social media, have added to the immense opportunities the holidays provide. In 2016 mobile accounted for 50.3 percent of all ecommerce traffic, surpassing desktop traffic for the first time ever. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise 38 percent of shoppers  say they will not return to a website if it’s not mobile optimized. If your affiliate site isn’t ready for mobile shoppers, you will lose out. According to CJ’s Affiliate’s 2017 Holiday Intelligence Report, mobile sales in CJ’s global affiliate network jumped 21 percent last holiday season, giving mobile commerce a 30 percent share of total holiday sales.

Get Optimized

The good news is that with just a few simple adjustments you can improve your holiday conversions. On landing pages, be sure the value proposition of any product you’re promoting is front and center. Highlight all the features and specifications, as well as the problem the product addresses (if applicable). And don’t forget to include multiple images. Including images on landing can improve conversions by 161%, according to Hubspot. You can also consider providing user reviews, which increases trust about the brand.

Promote Free Shipping

The cost of shipping can make or break your sale. According to a recent UPS Pulse survey, free shipping was deemed the second most important factor for shoppers when purchasing online. And a whopping 93 percent of shoppers take action for free shipping. So, if you’re promoting a product and the retailer is offering free shipping, let people know up front.

Finalize Gift Guides

Many holiday shoppers search terms such as Hottest Toys for Christmas, Gifts for Co-Workers, Most Popular Teen Gifts. Having gift guides in a variety of categories will put you front and center for those searching. It also allows you to promote a variety product together and gets potential buyers to stay on your site longer. Thus, increasing the chance of a purchase. So, no matter your niche, create as many gift guides as possible and promote them heavily on your homepage and through your social media channels. And be creative. You don’t have to just have the Best Gifts for Tween Girls. Think about offbeat and creative curated lists as well. For example, Gifts to Help Tweens Unplug or The Must-Have Cool Tween T-Shirts.

Don’t Forget the Procrastinators

There will always be last minute shoppers. Make sure to have some gift card options for those procrastinators. You could also include travel vouchers as well as memberships to food and wine clubs.  If you work with online retailers with a brick-and-mortar component, you can also tout in-store pickups as way to entice last minute shoppers.

Starting immediately and crafting your campaigns to run over a longer period of time enables affiliates to improve their chance of overall holiday success.