While I have learned a great deal about SEO on the job, my entree into using SEO as an entrepreneurial pursuit began as an active affiliate marketer.
When I was "between" full- time positions, I signed up for hundreds of affiliate programs, created a tremendous amount of affiliate-related content, and supported my family on what I earned. So, I have gained quite a bit of insight into the do’s and don’ts of successful affiliate program management.
Many affiliate programs treat their affiliates as a “necessary evil” (or worse) instead of a partner with the goal of sales acceleration. Good affiliates who feel mistreated in any fashion will, without the slightest hesitation cease promoting the offending merchant which directly affects the merchant’s bottom line.
So, here’s my list of what Affiliate Marketers are looking for in a relationship with an Affiliate Program.
Be paid. Obviously.
Be paid on time. If there is a problem with paying on time, please give as much advance notice as possible that there is a problem.
Don’t work with “parasites”. Many affiliate programs “unwittingly or not” work with outfits that steal affiliate commissions by overwriting affiliate cookies and installing popups / spyware that poach sales from the affiliate that should have earned them. Knowledgeable affiliates won’t promote products that are affiliated with “parasites”.
Sometimes, affiliates will inadvertently do something that the merchant might not agree with. As a newbie affiliate, I happened to innocently mention a competitor company while promoting an affiliate product. I unknowingly broke a program rule…and the first e-mail from the affiliate manager not only terminated my participation with the program but threatened me with legal action. Perhaps, he could have just asked me to nicely change the content on the page? Appropriate and effective communication is critical to being a successful affiliate manager and to inspire affiliates to sell on your company’s behalf.
If the affiliate is performing well, be proactive with him / her. Raise the commission without asking. Send a gift. Don’t wait for the affiliate to come to you asking for an increased payout. Motivate the affiliate to go the extra mile for you for he /she is making sales on your company’s behalf that you wouldn’t otherwise make.
The personal touch is nice...and I mean a phone call, not an e-mail. Of all the programs I’ve worked with, only one program contacts me via telephone on a regular basis. The call is placed not by the “affiliate manger”, but the president of the company. And, I get calls every few months no matter my current level of production on their behalf. I guarantee that I make an extra effort on behalf of this program just because of how well they treat me.
I can count the number of affiliate managers that have phoned me for a “non-problem” on one hand. And there is a program that I promote heavily (because it pays and converts well) where the ONLY communication that I’ve ever received from the program is the monthly check. No other communications of any sort. Even when they have new products, they don’t tell me…I need to explore the affiliate backend to find out about them.
Shawn Collins of Affiliatetip.com, who was one of the best affiliate managers I’ve ever worked with, said this in a recent article, “Some people are saying that affiliate marketing is experiencing a Renaissance, but that suggests that there was a time when affiliate programs were not working. From where I sit, the affiliate landscape has been in a crescendo for 10 years.”
The affiliate marketing model works well because there are people out there who are able to generate targeted web traffic and funnel that traffic to merchants in exchange for a percentage of the sale. Seasoned, experienced affiliate marketers will generate revenue for whichever programs they are promoting. If they are treated well by a merchant, they will exert more effort on that partner’s behalf, increasing their bottom line sales. An affiliate manager’s ability to develop, maintain, and enhance relationships with these top performers can have a tremendous impact on company revenue.
Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.
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