Five Common Mistakes that Affiliate Managers Make

by Missy Ward in Affiliate Marketing   &  ,   12 Comments

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Affiliate management professionals are constantly testing out new theories and strategies to improve current recruitment practices and achieve greater efficiency in their efforts. Unfortunately, many affiliate managers may be doing more bad than good with these efforts, while others might simply be adhering to standards of recruitment that are counterproductive to their goals.

Affiliate Management MistakesWith that in mind, here are five common mistakes that affiliate managers make.  By recognizing the potential for your own management practices to fall into one of these ruts, you can take a proactive approach toward steering your management in the right direction — and getting more economy out of your recruiting efforts.

Affiliate Management Mistake No. 1: More is Always Better

Maybe you’re approaching affiliate recruitment like fishing: the more hooks in the water, the more likely you will be to snag a big one, or to snag many small ones. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works, and the main reason it doesn’t work is that affiliate accumulation has rarely proven itself to be the most lucrative approach.

Affiliate management has long been governed by the 80/20 rule, which stipulates that 80 percent of your revenues will come from 20 percent of your affiliates. Obviously, there can be variances from this rule in some cases, but when looking at affiliate management with an industry-wide lens, this long-held rule continues to hold true.

There’s always a temptation to seek out new affiliates in hopes of increasing revenues. And, of course, recruitment shouldn’t be marginalized at the hands of this rule — it’s important to actively pursue new affiliates that can add to your bottom-line. But when you’re working with fixed resources, it’s unwise to spread yourself thin and hope that you can still snag some worthwhile accounts.

Quality always outweighs quantity, even if it’s sometimes difficult to keep that maxim in focus.

Affiliate Management Mistake No. 2: Recruitment Isn’t That Important

The flip side to shamelessly recruiting and hitting on as many leads as possible is the risk of undervaluing the recruitment process altogether. Recruiting takes time, and it’s common to question whether the time investment is providing a solid return. But even if you think your current affiliate situation is good enough to be content with it, you’re treading into dangerous waters.

If you aren’t growing, you’re shrinking. That’s a business rule applicable to any industry, including affiliate management. But there are a lot of factors that can play into the recruitment process and the best ways for organizations to approach this process. Larger organizations may have more flexibility in allocating higher numbers of man-hours every week to recruitment, while for smaller organizations the margin for error can be quite small.

For mid- and large-sized organizations, devoting one to two hours daily to recruitment may be an effective strategy. For smaller organizations, one to two hours every week may be more realistic. Recruitment practices should be scalable to fit your resources, but whatever you do, make sure you aren’t ignoring the task altogether.

Affiliate Management Mistake No. 3: The Affiliate Program Information Page Sucks

It may sound a bit blunt, but many affiliate information pages are lacking in information and professionalism, and they can be damaging recruitment practices as a result. The information page is vital to your success in obtaining new affiliates, and it needs to be in the best shape possible.

All too often these pages fail to be properly advertised on the company’s website, and they rely on hype rather than facts and results to impress affiliates. Many affiliate managers also fail to use these pages to host promotions that can generate new business.

The efficacy of the information page can be determined by the page’s performance stats. What are the conversion rates for referrals and leads generated through the page? If they are low, it’s probably because the page itself is poor quality. Once you get it in shape, take time to publicize the information page via the organization’s various social media outlets and other marketing materials, such as company newsletters.

Affiliate Management Mistake No. 4: It’s OK To Be Shy

Affiliate managers are more effective when they make their face synonymous with the program they are managing. This can be tough for some personality types to accept, but it’s important to get out there and get familiar with other professionals.

There are a number of ways these connections can be established. Meetups and other networking events can be very valuable. When you’re in these settings, it’s key to have an elevator pitch prepared to quickly get prospects engaged and interested in your organization and its offerings. If you’re not a strong face-to-face person, there are other strategies that can be effective, many of them based online. You can build your reputation by writing guest blog posts, contributing to podcasts, interacting in industry forums (such as the Affiliate Summit Forum or Women Online Marketers United) and — of course — being active on social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Affiliate Management Mistake No. 5: Employing Outdated and Ineffective Strategies

The best illustration of these strategies is the used car salesman pitch, which is rife with jargon, overstatements, and generic and misleading content. People can see right through these strategies and they just won’t work in the long run.

Similarly, mass solicitations are ineffective because they take the quantity over quality approach, and their impersonal nature is a turnoff to many targets. A personal approach toward carefully selected targets will be much more effective, even if they require more of your time.

Finally, make sure you find ways to stand out from the rest of the competition , whether that’s through exclusive deals, special commissions, contests or other incentives. You also want to employ a diversified approach to recruitment. Whether that’s through social media announcements, affiliate directories, advertising, cooperative marketing or through your existing customers, make sure your organization is employing a multi-channel approach.

If you are aware of these common pitfalls and make efforts to avoid replicating the same errors, you’ll find yourself ahead of the majority of your competition. And by resisting the use of cheap recruitment tactics, you’ll enjoy a better standing with prospects and stand a much better chance of recruiting those quality affiliates you seek.

Comment & Add Your Voice

1 Ron Tracy September 28, 2012 at 7:20 am

Geno’s got the diamond in the rough here – personalization. Nothing kills a relationship (personal or business) faster, or prevents it from growing, like a canned response based upon what you think someone has said. What husband hasn’t been bitten by this nasty bug…

Communicate personally and with empathy and everything else will fall into line.

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2 daveM September 27, 2012 at 3:50 am

As a new person to the world of affiliates, and not as a manager, I comment that the assortments of help available to affiliates is not always beneficial, and by that I am saying a thousand banners will generate nothing if there is no content and some people may have a little trouble generating proper content other than copying ver batim. Many affiliate help sites are actually void of anything worthwhile to someone who needs help. One would think that a company wanting to recruit people to move their product would make a huge effort to ensure the recruit had the tools…. few do.!! To take for granted that a new recruit ‘should know how to do it’ is only a wee bit shortsighted and is perhaps a major reason as to why the 85 per cent fail. If an affiliate manager wants his program to succeed, he should perhaps think that his campaign may be worth a significant effort aimed towards getting people started… instead of thinking that a few banners and text links will be sufficient. Managers have to do a little more than review their numbers each morning, they have to contribute, as they say, ‘CONTENT’.

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3 Erin Walsh September 24, 2013 at 8:17 am

Hi Dave,

I think that you are right about providing the correct tools and providing them often. We have been trying to do that ourselves. Basically, we provide everything for the affiliate, but they have to sign in to see all of it. (Terms and Conditions must be agreed on before using this material.)

I’ve been trying to find a way to more effectively communicate that the affiliates really don’t need to do anything as far as building out pages, media, etc., they don’t even have to have a website, but we have found that not getting them past that first page doesn’t really speak to them as much until they are in there looking around.

What kind of things would you want to see that are provided for you on the landing page in order to explore the offerings?

Erin Walsh

4 Robert Glazer September 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Hi Missy,

These are great points, and a good reminder to affiliate managers to focus energy on activities that drive real business results. Program oversight and management are critical to success, but often overlooked or ignored because the numbers look good. Unfortunately, we find that most of the time the numbers can lie…that is to say, if sales numbers are “too good to be true,” they probably are.

Far too often, affiliate programs are measured on revenue that is duplicated from other channels because the majority of affiliates in the program are targeting existing customers. When companies say they have a $5m program, it’s often that they have a $500k program of incremental revenue and a $4.5m of revenue that is being double counted with another channel – resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary commission payments. We like to say that many companies have a very expensive retention program masquerading as an affiliate program.

Good program managers need to look into the sales numbers and ask the tough questions to ensure a well-run program. And to your point #5, your incentive program has to be aligned with your program goals – there is no “one size fits all” approach to incentives and many volume-based incentives in today’s programs encourage the wrong behavior. We gear the majority of our incentives to new customer creation and affiliates who introduce new customers to the brand, not those who find a way to drop a cookie to someone who is already in the cart.

Robert Glazer
Founder & Managing Partner at Acceleration Partners

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5 peter September 25, 2012 at 11:43 am

Thanks for nice article on Managers common Mistakes

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6 Ashley K. Edwards September 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

Great additional points, Geno. All things to consider, I think, when it comes to a program.

Missy: Say you have resource issues and are only capable of focusing on two-to-three of these, which ones would you suggest? Just curious.

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7 Missy Ward September 25, 2012 at 11:36 am

Ash – without knowing what you’re currently doing now to grow your program, the first thing I would do would immediately evaluate my existing base to make determinations on where my existing sales are coming from to forecast growth potential. Don’t forget to analyze both your top producers and rising stars.

Once you have an idea of what your “perfect affiliate” looks like, I’d concentrate on strategic recruitment of those folks.

8 Ashley K. Edwards September 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Good feedback! Thanks!

9 Vinny O'Hare September 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Great points Missy

#3 When it comes to the affiliate recruitment page. Affiliate managers need to make sure they put a link to the actual merchant website on it. Affiliates can see tons of stats but if you don’t have a link on a recruiting page.

I am talking about the ones on the network and not on the merchants affiliate recruiting page that is actually on the merchants url.

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10 Missy Ward September 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

Vinny — yeah, one would would think that would be obvious but sometimes the obvious is overlooked :)

11 Geno Prussakov September 24, 2012 at 10:11 am

How could I not chime in?

First of all, excellent points, Missy!

Re #1: You’re right — there are variances from the rule. In fact, I’ve been seeing more of an 85/15 situation across the programs that are actively managed, and 90/10 (or even 95/5) in loosely managed or unmanaged affiliate programs.

I’d also add these 3:

6. Not Calling to Activation — A recruited affiliate doesn’t immediately translate into an active affiliate; and too many affiliate managers don’t call to activation explicitly and aggressively (in a good way) enough.

7. Failing to Police & Enforce Compliance — Having a program agreement (or paid search rules) in place isn’t going to immediately safeguard you from fraud and violations of the Ts and Cs. You want to actively police.

8. Failing to Personalize — I’ve talked about it on a recent Affiliate Summit East 2012 panel. We as marketers have a tendency to de-personalize our audiences (talking about UVs, eyeballs, etc… and extending this on to affiliates, breaking them into “couponers”, “datafeeders”, “rebate websites”, etc). Now, while it’s extremely useful to segment affiliates, this shouldn’t affect our communication with individual affiliates, leaving room for the personalized approach. Some of the most productive manager-affiliate relationships that I’ve had were based on the one-on-one approach.

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12 Missy Ward September 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

Awesome Geno — thanks for adding those great times.

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