Your Affiliate Program Has a Limited Potential Syndrome

Doesn’t the title of this post sound like a diagnosis? That’s only because it is one — one that I have frequently made upon analyzing the reasons for growth stagnation in affiliate programs across different verticals.

A syndrome is defined as a combination of symptoms that helps one make a conclusion about the clinical case. Limited Potential Syndrome (LPS) is a name I have coined to describe the essence of a complex problem that many affiliate programs face. They grow up to a certain level, but then the growth either freezes, or is no longer developing as fast as the merchant/advertiser would’ve liked it to continue.

I believe there are at least seven reasons for the LPS to take root. You may read about them all in the newest article I did for the Website Magazine, which is entitled “Limited Potential Syndrome and 7 Deadly Sins of Affiliate Marketing.”

7 thoughts on “Your Affiliate Program Has a Limited Potential Syndrome”

  1. Geno,

    Nicely written article! On #6 Overlooking Trademark Bidding — it’s something I think most merchant wouldn’t want. After all, it’s almost like cheating. But how does one prevent that from happening? You could have verbage in your TOC but there will always be rouge affiliates that will not abide.

  2. Justin,

    Glad you liked the article, and thank you for your questions.

    1) Re Anti-TM-Bidding T’s & C’s Clause: Here’s the verbiage I use: “Affiliates that among other keywords or exclusively bid in their Pay-Per-Click campaigns on keywords such as, merchant, www merchant, www merchant com, and/or any misspellings or similar alterations of these ““ be it separately or in combination with other keywords ““ and do not direct the traffic from such campaigns to their own website prior to re-directing it to ours, will be considered trademark violators, and will be banned from Merchant’s Affiliate Program. We will do everything possible to contact the affiliate prior to the ban. However, we reserve the right to expel any trademark violator from our affiliate program without prior notice, and on the first occurrence of such PPC bidding behavior.” Feel free to take it and use it too. Just modify it a bit not to look like you took if from here.

    2) Re How to Prevent TM-Bidding: You want to actively police such behavior, and there are several good tools that can help you do this effectively. There’s PoachMark by BrandVerity; and you can also use solutions by,,,,, and similar services.

  3. Excellent article, short enough to be readable but it covers some of everything. If all merchants would just follow most of those guidelines it would be easy to find programs to work with.
    I just finished spending an hour browsing through new merchant’s programs and none of them have any real terms in place at all, There is a whole subset of affiliates that look for those naive merchants to take advantage of all the openings. Of course that keeps other affiliates away from the program: affiliates who are looking for new and different products and services to offer for long term goals.
    I think the networks are dropping the ball on this. They should at least offer a minimal “getting started” primer for merchants new to affiliate marketing. New merchants seem to think that the network is supposed to send them qualified affiliates and they just go on about their day to day business. It’s worse than auto-pilot because they never get off the ground before they begin to fail.

  4. You’re right on the money, Nancy! These “naive merchants” that launch their affiliate programs without (a) any Terms of Service in place, and (b) anyone policing compliance with the ToS are an easy prey for “a whole subset” of unethical affiliates. Maybe we should coin a term — merchant naïvete — by analogy with the ecological naïvete.

    And I love the idea of a “minimal ‘getting started’ primer” for merchants that are new to affiliate marketing!

  5. Very good article and agree with the previous comments. 🙂 I suppose for new merchants, I’ll say the same thing that I tell some that I’ve corresponded with at times. Will sound a bit goofy but a merchant may be very good at his or her particular business. That does not mean they’ll know anything at all about having an affiliate program. Reason being is that you can’t be expected to know something that you just aren’t aware of at all.

    Many new merchants have no idea whatsoever about what an affiliate program is about. They go into it expecting that the affiliate networks are going to recruit affiliates for them, take care of making a terms of service aggrement, enforce it and just basically run the program for them. They believe when they sign up at a network that is what they’re paying for and don’t realize that’s not what they are getting in return.

    As mentioned in your article, many have never heard the term “leaks”. They’ve tried to optimize their sites by building reciprocal links so don’t understand why affiliates consider that to be bad. (at least if prominently listed on the site)They just don’t realize what they’ve considered to be good things done to their site isn’t viewed the same from their affiliates.

    I could go on and on. You have outlined all of this and more. Very thoughtful explanations have been given explaining the importance of those mentioned in the article. Very informative reading for anybody interested in affiliate marketing.

  6. Hi Geno,

    I find your article very relevant and I like the part of the title «7 Deadly Sins of Affiliate Marketing.» Every merchant and affiliate manager should understand these 7 points well.

    I’m going to try to add a comment to each one:

    #1: I’ve come a cross an interesting article on Shawn Collins’s blog about How RevTrax is trying to help merchants to track offline or in-store Affiliate Marketing and it was about coupons, here is the link to the article

    The point is we ought to reduce the leaks to be fair with affiliates but instead we should find ways to track them. I know isn’t that easy but we can’t deny the fact that we are in a multichannel economy and we are in front multichannel customers.

    Also, every program has it’s own goal, the important thing is to define the most effective ways to track this goal and this need to figure out scenarios and draw the right conversion funnel to get to this goal and measure performance.

    #2 : Even if a network has its own terms and conditions, merchants should always bring the missing pieces because each program is unique.

    #3: An affiliate program never runs itself !!! The more you care about it the more you get good results and reach performance. And this also means to care about your affiliates and show them some love, which lead us to #4.

    #4: Treat affiliates like partners and the super ones as your dear friends. I’ve always believed that affiliates are independent people, the “œquit your day job kind”, so you should understand that they are the last persons on earth that want to be treated as employees. They are independent and creative especially super-affiliates, so listen to them, you are into a win-win relationship.

    I love this quote from Maya Angelou: “œI’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And it perfectly applies to marketing in general and especially in affiliate marketing in a way that your affiliates will never forget how you made them feel.

    #5: Outdated materials can cause affiliates abandon the program and even customer dissatisfaction since what you promise don’t fit with what you offer.

    Communication between affiliates and merchants is always the key for a successful affiliate program and no one knows and understands their customers more than the affiliates themselves, so ask them what materials they need and diversify the materials, it’s important.

    #6: Trademark bidding must be considered in an affiliate program. Like you illustrated, it can cause double commission. But, it can also mislead your customer who wants less clicks to get to what she wants.

    #7: As you mentioned “œIt’s said, but true”. Besides, isn’t the concern of the customer to know if the right affiliate has the commission. Merchants and networks should take drastic measures to stop affiliate marketing scams.

    That’s all Geno I know it’s a long comment but I’ve enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

  7. Astrous,

    Glad you’ve found the article of relevance. That’s the most important thing. When the knowledge is immediately applicable, it makes learning a fun process.

    Thank you for your comments, and I also love that Angelou’s quote.

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