I get leads every day for affiliate program management but I still only take on one or two clients per quarter. After almost ten years as an affiliate manager, I know what works and what my team can do. Others might be able to do it differently, but I'm not going to waste the merchant's money or the affiliates' time.
Today was a classic example. A merchant from China wanted to hire us to run their affiliate programs. They have a dedicated affiliate page on their site. It has logos for ShareASale, Commission Junction, and ClixGalore, but none of the logos link to actual programs. When talking to the marketing rep via Skype, she said the website is under construction and they do not have any sales yet. But she wanted to hire us. I tried to explain that affiliates will not promote them unless they have proven conversion but I don't think the translation was understood. I got “??” for a response.
This company, and it is not alone, is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to launch multi-network campaigns with no proven conversion. I can't be part of that. It's one thing to help a brand launch on ShareASale and do what you can to boost sales overall. I have a couple of those but at least I don't feel guilty about milking them for high retainers. What these merchants need to do is concentrate on core channels such as SEO, paid search, comparison shopping engines, media buys and good old brand building Public Relations. After six months or a year, then they can start thinking about affiliate marketing. The flawed thinking here is that affiliate marketing will start their sales. It doesn't work that way.
Successful programs launch when managers tell affiliates they should expect X% conversion and when the affiliate sends 100 clicks, they get X sales (they also launch if it's a big brand or a high demand product.) If the affiliates don't see conversion, why promote further? That space on their site could be yielding much higher revenue from a competitor in any category. For niche products, especially B2B, it could take more than a year to find the right type of affiliate that converts. The problem is, some merchants do not have the patience or the budgets to continually pay for recruiting and activation. Affiliates join and promote on their schedules, not ours. This frustrates merchants and they give up. They tell their friends they hate affiliate marketing and it doesn't work. You can't just throw shit on the wall and see if it sticks. You have to educate yourself or hire a trained professional. But, make sure that outsourced professional is telling you the truth and not just collecting easy money.
We need more merchants loving affiliate marketing and its endless possibilities.