In this article I will show affiliate managers the mistakes they should avoid if they want to build a successful affiliate program.
I felt compelled to write this article after seeing the same mistakes made by most of the hundreds of affiliate programs I have joined since I started promoting them in 1997. I have made a nice living from affiliate programs over the years, so I know a thing or two about them. I would dearly love to make more money with affiliate programs, but affiliate managers don’t make it easy for us affiliates. So hopefully this article will do a bit for the cause.
Here are my top five biggest affiliate program mistakes that I find today:
Competing With Your Affiliates
This is by far the worst mistake made by companies that offer affiliate programs. I often see companies for products I am trying to promote compete with me in the search engine rankings and pay per click advertising programs.
Why companies invest money and resources in competing with their affiliates is beyond me. By competing with me, you’re trying to put me out of business. Have marketing directors ever thought of it in that way? Because if you succeed, you will no longer have an affiliate network to speak of.
The money would be better spent on supporting your affiliate network by creating a better product, providing more referral statistics, higher commission payouts, faster support, and more, fresh promotional creatives.
So if you’re an affiliate manager reading this article, tell your affiliate director at your next meeting to STOP competing with your affiliates, and support them instead!
Not Providing Your Affiliates With Useful, Real-Time Statistics
All marketers rely on statistics to measure the effectiveness of any marketing campaign. Yet most affiliate programs only provide their affiliates with basic statistics such as number of visitors sent, number of sales, and commission earned. These statistics aren’t much help to affiliates who want to measure the effectiveness of a particular pay per click campaign.
Affiliate managers – please consider providing these useful statistics so that I can market your products effectively:
- Archive of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly statistics and by date range.
- Commission earned, broken down by product or service, and how the customer was referred to the site.
- Daily email update of all affiliate statistics.
- Instant email notification of a new affiliate.
- Instant email notification of a new free trial sign up.
- Instant email notification of a new sale and all relevant statistics. I love getting new sales notification emails!
- Number of free trial downloads or subscriptions.
- Number of returns and all relevant statistics.
- Affiliate links with trackable IDs, so that affiliates can tell exactly which site, or ad campaign is sending the referrals and sales.
- Unique clicks – which refers to the unique number of visitors referred – in addition to raw clicks – which refers to the total number of click throughs.
- A list of top performing affiliate statistics, so that affiliates can compare how they’re doing and which areas they can improve on.
- Include the most important statistics at the top of the email and subject line. There’s nothing worse than having to scroll down to see what the referral purchased or how much commission I have made.
The following only apply if the affiliate program offers more than one level of commissions.
- Commission earned as a result of referrals sent by 2nd-tier affiliates.
- Commission earned, broken down by commission level.
- Number of 2nd-tier affiliates referred.
I’ve been promoting products and services via affiliate programs since 1997 and I have yet to come across an affiliate program that provides anything close to these statistics.
Not Compensating Your Affiliates Fairly For Their Hard Work
The #1 incentive for any affiliate is cold hard cash. Money sells! So tell your marketing director to fire the search engine optimization firm and advertising department, and redirect the resources to paying your affiliates a higher commission rate.
Another thing I hate is seeing my commissions go down the drain because someone I had referred signs up to the affiliate program and purchases the product via their affiliate link. It almost feels like I’m being robbed blind! I highly recommend affiliate managers deter this practice by making it harder for affiliates to pocket the commission from their own purchases, at least the initial one.
Not Providing Enough Fresh Promotional Creatives
Most affiliate managers seem to give their promotional creatives little thought. All they offer is a handful of 468×60 banners, buttons and text links. What happens is that affiliates end up using the same ads on hundreds, even thousands of web sites.
Affiliate managers – what about these promotional creatives?
- Articles and tips with embedded affiliate links
- Classified ads
- Customer testimonials
- Direct email ads
- Email signatures
- Newsletter ads
- Pay per click ads
- Pop-up/under ads
- Product photographs
- Product reviews
- Product screenshots
- Rich-media ads
- Staff interviews
Listen up! Different ads perform better on different sites. And ads generally have a life span of a carton of milk. So offer your affiliates a greater variety of ads, more often.
Not Providing Fast, Quality Support For Your Affiliates
This is the 21st century. Don’t make your affiliates wait longer for an email reply than it takes to send a letter by snail-mail post.
Don’t outsource your affiliate support work. If you have to, then at least train your support staff so that they understand the ins and outs of your products and affiliate program. I’m often dumbfounded by affiliate support staff who can’t give me answers to simple questions.
Well there you have it – my five biggest complaints about affiliate programs today. I hope affiliate managers take note and take strides to better support their affiliates, because if you don’t affiliates will find other avenues of income, such as the new Google AdSense program.
Affiliate marketers – if you agree with what I’ve said, send this article to your affiliate program managers!
About the author
Michael Wong is a respected internet marketing and SEO expert. He is the author of a leading search engine optimization guide, numerous marketing tips, and reviews of marketing tools and ecommerce software.