Common Mistakes of New Affiliate Program Managers

Today I would like to talk about the most common mistakes that new affiliate program manages make. I came up with a list of 7 such mistakes:

Mistake #1: Believing their job is to manage affiliates.

This mistake is by far the most frequently repeated one by new affiliate program managers. The term “affiliate manager” contributes greatly to it. The reality is that there is no such a thing as affiliate management. You can manage an affiliate program, but not affiliates (who are, by definition, free online marketers).

Mistake #2: Thinking they are smarter than affiliates.

Some situations may indeed call for a coaching style of leadership (especially when an affiliate needs guidance and education). However, in many cases, affiliate program managers have to work with experts in their fields (be it paid search, social media marketing, SEO, shopping comparison, or anything else). Be open to learn from your affiliates, and coach only those that really need it (or ask for it).

Mistake #3: Assuming that all affiliates are prone to fraud.

Such misconception about those who can be an extremely powerful sales force can be deadly to the affiliate program you are called to manage. Yes, there are affiliates that look for naive merchants to take advantage of (be it by bidding on trademarks, or keying in fake leads, or anything else). But before you make generalizations, remember that to assume often equals making an “ass” of “u” and “me”.

Mistake #4: Treating affiliates as employees.

This mistake is partially related to the above-quoted mistake #1, but also to the way the corporate world works. Such approach results in attempts to motivate by threat, or even terminating affiliates, which creates a bad image for an affiliate program, and inevitably results in its developmental stagnation.

Mistake #5: Believing that money is the best incentive.

Yes, affiliates are in this business to make money. However, money is neither the only, nor the best motivator for affiliates. Read what I wrote about responsible affiliate marketing as well as about fostering an intrinsic motivation in affiliates.

Mistake #6: Loosing their personality.

They may think that becoming a nameless “Affiliate Support Team” [example here] adds solidity and stability; whereas, in reality, it does exactly the opposite. You want to be real with your affiliates.

Mistake #7: Failing to admit mistakes.

No, it is not easy to admit a mistake. But it is important to understand that it does not equate to admitting your inability to be a good affiliate program manager. In fact, failure to admit the mistake is what portrays you as a bad affiliate manager. Being able to say “sorry” and make up for the failure is important. It implies accountability, and builds trust [more here].

If I have missed some mistakes that you’ve come across (especially as an affiliate), feel free to post your observations below.

5 thoughts on “Common Mistakes of New Affiliate Program Managers”

  1. Great information.

    As an affiliate manager, I often keep a running list of checks and balances on myself to make sure that I am doing the best possible job I can, while at the same time staying very “human” and realistic in my approach.

    We should never be beyond reproach, nor should we treat others in a way that we would not expect to be treated.

    I am always open to what the affiliates I work with have to say and do, and certainly try to learn something from them every day.

    Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

  2. Great article. As an affiliate manager for a CPA network, I have made a few of the above mistakes. I actually encountered mistake #7 just yesterday. I made a mistake and then owned up to my mistake but then wondered if admitting the mistake made me look uncredible. So, I still haven’t heard from the affiliate today. Hopefully he’s still interested in working with me. I really do believe what you say about learning from your affiliates. Do affiliates see this the same way?

  3. Ron and M,

    Thank you for your comments, and glad you liked the article.

    M, I’m not sure I get the question. Are you asking if affiliates are open to learning from affiliate managers? If so, those that have a need to learn – normally do. But not all do; so you want to respect this too (everything depends on the maturity level of the affiliate).

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