As I was working on a presentation for one of my upcoming speaking engagements, I had to outline a few short, solid and sobering reasons why every advertiser who has an affiliate program should actively police affiliate activity, or require their affiliate program managers to do so (reporting on it regularly).
Here are the four that I’ve come up with:
Reason #1: Potential brand damage
You are entrusting affiliates with your most valuable asset — your brand. Wouldn’t you want to ensure that it is being represented appropriately?
Reason #2: Potential channel cannibalization
Some types of affiliate activity (for instance, affiliate adware) will cannibalize your other marketing efforts (e.g.: paid search, organic traffic, and even direct type-ins of your URL into the browser’s address bar), causing you to pay commission on sales that weren’t primarily driven by affiliates.
Reason #3: “Last click wins” model
Since most present-day affiliate programs rely on the “last click wins” rule, even one violator in your affiliate program jeopardizes your whole program. One bad apple directly affects the whole bunch! If/when they set their cookie due to a violation — other affiliates suffer. And affiliates are smart. The more savvy of them (hence, potentially valuable to you!) will uncover the violators in your program even before applying into it. And if they do, chances of them investing their time, money and effort into marketing you are going to be nil.
Reason #4: TOS won’t protect you
Your affiliate program’s Terms of Service agreement (or any affiliate policies you may have in place, however well-thought-out they may be) does not guarantee any affiliate’s compliance with it. It gives you grounds to enforce the compliance, but does not safeguard you unless you police this compliance. Additionally, affiliates will not always read your TOS, anyway.
Are you actively policing yet?