An Email From an Affiliate: Innocent?

I have recently received an e-mail from an affiliate who joined one of the programs I manage on ShareASale. His e-mail read:

I am a successful affiliate that has worked with other networks and just recently started working with ShareASale merchants. I am hoping you can provide me with some information that will be helpful as I seek to promote your program effectively.

Although you are a new merchant, I have noticed that you are already receiving a high volume of sales through ShareASale and a high EPC. Do you have data on where the majority of your sales are coming from? Is it PPC, SEO traffic, traffic from related content sites, etc.? Any information you can provide will be helpful as I seek to craft a strategy for promoting your website successfully.

You can contact me at [his e-mail address]

He refers to an affiliate program that was started a bit over two months ago, but we are already seeing some impressive growth in it. Not so much in the volume of sales (even though it isn’t bad at all), as in the conversion ratio. The brand is well-known, and it works beautifully for affiliates. I am purposefully not mentioning the brand, because the focus of this post has to be on something different.

Is the above e-mail as innocent as it may seem to new affiliate managers, or merchants that do not know much about affiliate marketing? I believe the answer depends on how detailed I am in my response to this affiliate.

Every once in a while a client of mine asks me if we could analyze what works well for our top affiliates, and “share the knowledge with others, so that other affiliates in our program could replicate” the methods and techniques that prove to be successful for those better performing affiliates.

Is it ethical of me, as an a person who has access to such sensitive information, to go out and share it with other affiliates in the program? Yes, it may increase the performance of some affiliates (and of our affiliate program overall), but is it ethical at its core? Every affiliate program manager (and merchant) must remember that affiliates within one program are actually competing against one another. Disclosing the exact methods, lists of keywords and techniques used is just not appropriate.

The above email may not be explicitly seeking such sensitive information. But if you get one, be careful as to how detailed you are in your response. The one most important asset of your affiliate program is the trust level (between you and your affiliates). Be careful not to jeopardize it! As someone put it, “trust is like a vase… once it’s broken, though you can fix it the vase will never be same again.”

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