February 25, 2004, 12:00 AM

Affiliates merit extra attention with top-producer status

Top-producing affiliates generate top sales, but similarity to each other may end there. To push those sales even higher, affiliate networks assign different types of resources to where they are mostly likely to have impact.

It’s a general rule that a relatively small percentage of the affiliate population delivers the biggest chunk of sales, and those top-performing affiliates get extra assistance from affiliate network service providers to push sales even higher. But affiliate service providers who don’t look beyond top-line numbers in deciding what-and how much – help to extend to top affiliates are missing the boat, contends LinkShare Corp.CEO Steve Messer.

Top–producing affiliates that merit the affiliate network’s extra attention are generally distinguished first by the volume of sales they generate, but exclusively so. They may qualify for very different tools, services and programs from the network, depending on the affiliate’s business model, size, rate of growth and other factors. And because the extra services and attention may draw on the resources of the network, its merchant partners, or both, it’s the network’s job to invest them where they’re most likely to have an impact.

Under those rules, an affiliate network isn’t likely to develop a coupon program or free shipping offer for a top-performing charity-focused site, for example. “Those things don’t create higher value for the type of buyer that goes to a charity site,” says Messer. Because that buyer`s goal is to have more of the purchase go toward the charity, creating a program that drives 5% more of the sale back to the charity or cause, for instance, produces a better lift for that type of affiliate, he says.

LinkShare currently has 35 different categories of affiliates that it tracks via an internally created software system that segments them according to different attributes. Within those categories, affiliates receive different technical support, merchant partner offers and other services based on a blended ratio of sales volume and growth rate, for Messer points out it isn’t just the biggest or longest-established affiliates that can move the needle on sales for the merchant partners. “If someone is an up-and-comer,” he says, “we want to make sure that the merchants and the affiliate get the benefit of the fast rate of growth that affiliate is having.”

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