When Affiliate Management Goes Awry

When Affiliate Management Goes Awry

2 · 08 · 11

An affiliate program is only as good as its manager at the time.

Affiliate Managers and OPMs come and go in programs every month, quarter or year. The best relationships are more than one year old and show the maturity of the merchant and the experience of the manager. When affiliates aren’t aware of the change in management or lack thereof, it becomes a problem. I don’t have the solution but I’ll tell you what I plan on doing.

This issue has come up several times for me in the last month as affiliates have chosen to get active in programs I recruited them to a year ago and they found out I’m no longer there. In each instance, it’s a case where there is no current manager or anyone with a clue left in charge. The programs are simply on auto-pilot for one reason or the other. A recent debate on ABestWeb show’s both sides. Affiliates want to know when a manager leaves and they want to know who the new contact is for the merchant. This almost never happens for several reasons: Managers want to inform their best affiliates about the change but many times they can’t because the password has been changed or the break up wasn’t necessarily friendly so they just walk away quietly. Merchants are happy with the new active affiliates and they don’t want to lose them just because of a change in management, so they again, walk away quietly. Or finally, the merchants just doesn’t care about the affiliates because they are focused on the bigger picture of their business. If a new manager steps in, problem solved: they send a welcome email with full contact information. But that doesn’t always happen, does it?

Affiliates already struggle with so many programs that are unmanaged or handled anonymously by the “affiliate team.” They yearn for that personal attention and a speedy reply to their humble requests. It’s no wonder they get upset after they join a program because a trusted manager recruits them and then when they finally take notice of the program, the support emails go unanswered if the manager is gone. Managers collect affiliate relationships and are always happy to share their new project with affiliates that have proven successful for them in the past. We build these relationships through mutual trust. We trust they will be a good performer and they trust that we won’t let the merchant screw them.

The most common reasons for the managers and OPMs to stop working with merchants include:

  1. Services are too expensive
  2. Personality Differences
  3. Ethical Questions
  4. Non payment
  5. Unrealistic Expectations

Let’s examine each one.

  1. Affiliate management isn’t cheap. Good OPMs charge a flat fee retainer or a hybrid of retainers mixed with performance incentives. If the ROI isn’t there after 6 months, then make a deal or let it go.
  2. I’ve been happy to recommend a client to another OPM after it clearly wasn’t working for either of us. Most merchants just try to do it themselves if they have a bad experience, which sometimes makes it worse.
  3. I’ve fired several merchants for questionable behavior and not listening to my demands for change on behalf of affiliates. But I haven’t bad mouthed them and I won’t, publicly.
  4. I’ve been burned by several merchants that just up and quit and didn’t honor their contractual commitments. Karma is always waiting for them. No reason to complain to affiliates about this.
  5. Unfortunately, many merchants think they can start their sales with affiliate marketing or expect to double or triple sales with affiliates. I tell all my new merchants, expect about a 20% increase in the next 6 months. Sometimes they just don’t listen.

My solution and my pledge to my affiliates, if I am no longer working with a merchant, I will post a final entry in my OPM forum letting them know that the contract has ended. I will also reach out to those affiliates that I have connected with or personally know and inform them that I’m no longer on the project. They don’t need to know the details, they just need to know that they need to be pro-active in finding out what comes next for the program. I did this recently when the CaseCrown contract ended. That merchant was not seeing good conversions overall so they are moving in a different direction with their entire site, therefore they fall under category number 1, bad ROI. I sent messages to the affiliates that I corresponded with and now the program is on auto-pilot until they come up with a new plan.

What are your thoughts on this?

When Affiliate Management Goes Awry
This article predates the transition to Apogee and may contain outdated references or links. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
When Affiliate Management Goes Awry

About the Author

Greg Hoffman
Greg Hoffman is the CMO of Apogee, a digital advertising agency. Greg was named the Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year by Affiliate Summit in 2016. In 2014, Apogee, as Greg Hoffman Consulting, was the recipient of the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Best OPM/Agency. Greg is a photographer, vinyl record lover, a tropical fish keeper and a comic book collector. He writes with a fancy pencil to annoy his digital-minded colleagues.

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