How Much Should You Pay Your Media Buyers?

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

One good media buyer could be your ticket to early retirement.
One bad affiliate marketer / media buyer could bankrupt you.
The difference comes down to paying them right, so you get the most bang for your buck and making sure they don’t steal your campaigns.
There’s never been a better time for the quote:
“You get what you pay for”.
If a media buyer is good at their job, they know how much they’re worth – they see the stats, they know how much they are making you. They can be a key player that helps launch a winning campaign, and they know it.
If you’re making $80k per year salary as a media buyer, but you’re bringing in $1.2 million profit for the company owner… You’re not going to stick around for long.
Q: “How should you pay media buyers so they actually make me money, and don’t leave me with my pants down?”
A: Different people respond to different incentives.
I’ve been paying media buyers salary, salary/commission, and a ton of different compensation schemes. I’ve found that some work better than others. It’s all about hitting the right balance of salary, commission and team incentives.
A media buyer is one player you want on your marketing dream team, so you wanna keep ‘em on for the long term.
Here’s an overview of the models I’ve used.

Keep in mind that the numbers themselves will differ depending on what part of the world you’re in, the person’s background / experience, how much you’re making, etc.

#1. Straight “Affiliate Marketing Salary” Only

Salary-only (‘flat salary’) is when you pay your media buyers a set amount. No commissions, just a set rate, same as you’d pay a virtual assistant.
Flat salary is almost never a good model for media buyers. You can start with a flat salary while they’re learning the ropes.

But once they’re competent enough to run their own campaigns then they’re going to want a piece of the pie.

Offering salary to performance-based employees is a classic newbie mistake. Pay your bookkeeper a salary sure. Even your programmers and designers. But not media buyers.
I’ve had friends and colleagues try it, and I always recommend they switch to a model with at least some commission. Every single time, they see better results.
Why are flat salaries so bad?
It comes down to two things: up-front costs, and incentives.

#1 Up-Front Costs

GOOD media buyers have options. A LOT of options. And that means they can probably get more than you can pay up front.
The goal with media buyers is to hire and keep the best, so compensation is not a time to penny pinch.
The only solution is to pony up – most of the time will have to come from commissions.
Imagine you’re hiring someone who’s worked as a media buyer for 5 years, they’ve run thousands of campaigns, some of them have been 5-figure /day profit campaigns.
I can just see their face when you offer them a 50k salary with health insurance as an affiliate marketing salary…

#2 Incentives

Media buyers are sales EXPERTS and they aren’t doing it for charity.
When you pay for performance, people are more likely perform. Guy’s gonna stay late at night to get his commissions so he can buy his baby girl whatever she wants… But not for a 50k salary.
When you pay a flat salary, people are likely to do the least amount of work possible to not get fired. It’s the reason basically all high-ticket sales jobs pay commission.
Salary only means you get incentives working against you, not for you. And that’s not a fun situation to be in.

One Major Exception

Junior Media Buyers.
Junior media buyers are new to the game and still unproven. It can work out well hiring a college grad who’s good with creating landing pages or using different traffic sources, and paying them peanuts to learn. A junior media buyer salary can be a lot lower, but you still wanna get quality applications working for you.
You can put junior media buyers on flat salary at first because they don’t have the options that senior buyers have. But once they start making money, bring some commission into the equation ASAP.

#2. Commission Only

affiliate marketing commission
Your media buyers are like salesmen in a way, and most salesmen get compensated through commissions only.
The more they bring in, the more they make.

But I’ve found this to be a bad model in practice. Why? Because people can have bad months.
It doesn’t matter if someone made $30k one month, $40k the next month, and then $0 the month after that.
That $0 takes an emotional drain.
Can you imagine the conversation with him and his wife at the dinner table when he brings home $0 for the month?
She’s gonna lose her shit and tell him to quit.
Nobody wants to work a job where there’s a possibility of making $0. Definitely not talented people with tons of options–the kind of people you want as media buyers.
So I don’t recommend  ‘pure commission’ models. It leaves your team without the security that makes them stick around.
Think about how much commission you’re offering as well.
You think: “I’m the one who taught them everything and I’m funding everything. I should be getting most of the commission.”
They think: “I’m the one doing all the bitch work. I should be getting most of the commission”
All I can say is…offer more than what you think is fair.
How much commission is best? It depends on you. I recommend a minimum of 20%, but I’ve seen people offering more and some offering less.
You can also do a structure where the more money they make each month, the higher the commission. Here’s an example:

  • $0-50k = $15% commission
  • $50k-$100k = 20% commission

$100k+ = 30% commission

#3. Salary + Commission

Instead of salary or commission only, offer a mix of both. I’ve found that this model is great for building employee loyalty–which is even more valuable in the affiliate world than most.
You can do something like a $2k salary + 20% commission. Play around with the numbers to see what’s fair for you guys.
I call this the “waiter model.” They get a horrible base pay, but most of the money will be coming in from their own work (tips).

Your Biggest Incentive: Pay for Performance!

People respond to incentives – it’s economics 101.
If you find a newbie who really wants to learn affiliate marketing and he becomes a mini Ngo, you’re gonna have to pay him a ton of money.
But at the same time, you need to limit your losses.
Keeping both in balance is the key to building a company that runs without you.
So, I recommend always using salary + commission for your media buyers. Any of the models I mentioned could work for you. The trick is to look at your specific business needs and set your payouts based on your goals and financial picture.
Do it right and it could be the source of major 80/20 Pareto effects that amplify your profits.

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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