I’ve been thinking a lot about one particular type of loyalty affiliates lately — the type that encourages their website visitors to fill out surveys, submit application forms, order samples, and get paid for it. This type of publishers is essentially as sub-type of incentive affiliates. These affiliates frequently sell the idea to their website visitors using such wording as: key to “financial freedom”, unique “work-at-home” idea, “fast and free” money (see image on the right), and other get-rich-quick type verbiage. It is also interesting to point out that many of these affiliates are actually earning good money on it.
So, (i) the affiliate is making money “selling” free stuff, (ii) his/her website visitors do all the work (of filling out forms, requesting free trials, and ordering samples) and get paid for it; but about (iii) the advertisers featured on such websites? Is this kind of traffic/audience (incentivized to do what they do by cash) even right for some of them?
Here’s a screenshot from a website of another such affiliate:
Let’s take the circled testimonial as an example. Russel from Ohio took his time signing up “for absolutely free offers” and this earned him not only the free samples/trials, but also $105 of cash on top of if! Wow. If he keeps at this speed, his house will be full of various samples, plus he’ll have close to $1,600 of extra cash in his bank account every month.
Not getting into the details that some of the “free offers” will hit your credit card past the free trial period unless you cancel your subscription, let’s briefly look at the value of such leads for the advertisers.
Type of business: health-related e-tailer
Qualifying action: order of free sample
Affiliate commission: $45 per sample
Incentivized visitor gets $30 to submit his/her name, contact and credit card info
Question: What are the chances that they are really interested in the product?
Type of business: auto insurance agent
Qualifying action: fill out name and contact info
Affiliate commission: $20 per lead
Incentivized visitor gets $15 to perform the action
Question: Are they really interested in the auto insurance, or in the 15 bucks?
“Customers”/”prospects” that are motivated to try your product or fill out a subscription/lead application by anything other than a genuine interest in your product or service are of no value to you! If someone is paying them cash to fill out an insurance quote form, or get a free trial of a software application, or a free sample of a product, that‘s their motivator — immediate cash (not your product/service)!
If you have an incentive affiliate aboard your program, ask yourself if they are really helping you. There are contexts when they are (e.g.: real purchases), and there are situations when they aren’t.
This post is written specifically with auto-piloted affiliate programs (and programs that auto-approve all affiliates) in mind.
The answer to the question posed in the title of the post is: “Both!” Incentivized traffic is both easy earnings for affiliates, and can be a real headache for advertisers. As for the incentivized end-users themselves, it can also be both for them — especially if they start getting credit card charges past those free trial periods.