Numbers of Affiliates Mean Nothing. Focus on Real Data.

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It is quality rather than quantity that matters.
— Seneca

“How many affiliates will you recruit for me?” is the question that many merchants believe to be one of the key ones to ask prospective affiliate program managers.

This is the wrong question to ask. And, as it is customary with wrong questions, you often get a wrong answer back (unless they tell you what I’m about to say). On networks like Commission Junction (CJ) and LinkShare, for example, you will be getting hundreds of affiliate applications without any involvement on the affiliate program manager’s part. Affiliates will be finding your program within the affiliate networks internal program directory, and applying to join. This is not to diminish the value of the affiliate program manager in screening these applications. Many of these affiliates will not be a good fit for you (one program that that was launched on CJ just four months ago has 2,000+ affiliates aboard, and 1,439 declined applications), and many of those who will be approved into the program will require additional education.

The right question to ask would be: What kind of sales volume should I expect from my affiliate program in the course of the first 12 months since its launch? Ask them for a projection. It shouldn’t be set in stone, and I always recommend re-evaluating the initial forecast 6 months into the program launch. But these are the real numbers that matter.

The number of recruited affiliate means nothing. I’ve seen affiliate programs with hundreds of affiliates on board, and zero affiliate-referred sales in the reporting. I’ve also seen one affiliate generating as much as 57% of all affiliate program’s sales volume (and we’re talking a program with six-digit numbers in the gross sales amount column each month). The old truth that quality always prevails over quantity applies here as well.

Focus on:

  1. Sales volume (gross amount)
  2. Relationships with quality affiliates

And forget about that headcount! It’s a poor metric.

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