August 11, 2020

Agency Wars: Affiliate-Only vs. Full Service – 3 Pros and Cons

But do you offer PPC management? No. Well, how about SEO? No. Web design? No. Banner creation? No. Development services? No. Air conditioning service? Let me check…um no.

Seems like options are limited if you select an affiliate only management agency, and you might be right.

As the amount of e-commerce brands increase at a rapid pace, so do the number of digital marketing channels: PPC, SEO, display, native, SMS, social, email, affiliate, PPV, incent, coreg, etc. Brands are doing their absolute best to keep up with new customer acquisition channels.

In the midst of their tireless efforts to research strategy, brands are now also beginning to hear  “sure, we offer that service too” from their current marketing company. As a brand, you begin to think “Is my current agency really a Specialist in affiliate, or just an Opportunist in the fastest-growing marketing channel? A jack of all trades, master of none?” When in doubt, follow the steps below to figure it out.

Here are a few tips and questions when hiring your next affiliate management agency.

Most Important Questions to Ask:

How long have you been working in this channel, how many customers have used your service for affiliate, and how many dedicated employees do you have assigned to affiliate?

A great question to ask that could pierce the veil in just a few moments. Agencies will tie management experience to aggregate marketing experience, so although “they’ve been in business since 2014” they have only been managing the affiliate channel since 2017 with three customers.  Not to mention, ritzy customer logos like Apple and RedBull are hung from the digital rafters, however in many cases, the service provided to them was in a different capacity.

Another common line from a sales rep is quoting employee count as a show of force in the space. Make sure you clearly delineate the count dedicated to affiliate…and of course LinkedIn is an easy resource to verify.

But why do the answers to the above questions matter? Who cares how long they’ve “been in the space” or how many employees are tied to that department!? Maybe you just like their business development rep and, who knows, they could be naturally gifted at affiliate marketing, right?

Simple reason is affiliate marketing is only as successful as the data behind it. As a purely quantitative channel, each campaign provides a tiny fraction of insight into consumer behavior tied through that affiliate and advertiser. The more data, the more learnings. The more learnings, the less risk for failure. And the less risk for failure, the more success.

Not to toot our own horn since this is intended to be a quasi-objective piece, but here is a bit of context behind the data we have harnessed since 2012 – March of 2020.

This data is the rudder for our agency to steer into the best decisions for our customers, and the reason we’re the lone affiliate-only agency on Inc. Magazine’s ‘Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the US’ the last three consecutive years. But I digress…we have a decent amount of good competitors and encourage you to explore them before selecting us.

Ok, back on track. Here are the 3 top pros and cons to hiring an affiliate only agency to manage your affiliate program.


  1. In most cases, an affiliate-only agency will not offer any other services to assist your marketing efforts. Eeeek sorry, no way to soften the edges on that one, but revisit the above to review the merit in it.
  2. We won’t be able to coach your son on how to improve the PPC campaigns he’s running for you on the weekends.
  3. We aren’t able to help update your free Wix website template from 2008.


  1. Expertise in affiliate data yields most optimal affiliate strategy
  2. No bait-and-switch: you will not be ’cross-sold’ other marketing services, which is a common tactic by agencies to increase their billing on your account.  Affiliate agencies have to perform in their channel or they risk losing you.
  3. Fees aren’t stacked with dubious claims that we optimized other strategies. You get what you pay for: affiliate management.

If you have any more questions about your brand, specifically, or ways we can work together, please reach out at [email protected]!

Are you getting started in affiliate marketing or looking to improve your current program?

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