I have worked with thousands of affiliates over the years on multiple programs and brands. Over that time, I have made every effort to attend as many affiliate marketing conferences, shows and seminars as possible. The wealth of knowledge among the affiliate community is overwhelming. Regardless of the product or brand, I have been able to take away great tricks and strategies from these channels to help make the most of whatever program I am working on.
There are several philosophies on proper management and recruiting techniques and tons of information on how to make the most of your program in affiliate forums like Abestweb and Affiliate Classroom, but before you begin pouring through the forums to get advice, the best tool on optimizing your affiliate program is to become an affiliate yourself. This is the absolute best way to grasp how your program looks to the outside world. In addition to the visibility to program announcements and messaging, you will be able to keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on with your program in term of feeds, product links, conversion rates and more.
I would not just stop there. Locate your competitors affiliate programs, sign up and begin promoting their brand temporarily as well, analyze how they are recruiting publishers, generating traffic and driving revenue. What promotions are they putting together? What links and products have killer conversion rates? What are they doing wrong? How could you do it better?
Having to opportunity to understand how to best promote the product effectively through various marketing channels will make you and your program stronger. In some networks it is the only way to view your program and assess your competitive landscape.
With cost-per-acquisition partnerships becoming such an effective and safe marketing tactic, the growth of your affiliate program is where you should allocate some serious time and analysis. One of the first steps is to do as much reconnaissance as you can and start signing up to programs as an affiliate because the most effective affiliate program managers are effective affiliates themselves.