Communication Failures in Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate managers don't careCommunication failures abound in affiliate marketing. Every day merchants are mistreating their affiliate partners but failing to keep them informed on what’s going on in their affiliate marketing programs. And here I’m not referring to keeping affiliates up-to-date on the customer-oriented promos and bestselling products, sales and discounts, new affiliate tools, etc, etc. I’m talking things even more critical than these!

Last week, as an affiliate of the below-mentioned affiliate program, I have received the following notification from  Google Affiliate Network (GAN):

Google Affiliate Network program closure

Thank you, GAN, and I am very surprised that neither the merchant themselves, nor their OPM cared to notify their affiliates of such an important thing as the closure of their affiliate program.

Another example (this time the notification came from another affiliate network, ShareASale, but not the merchant):

ShareASale affiliate program commission drop

While both of the above cases are exemplary of unacceptable affiliate program management mistakes, I am leaving the names of the merchants out of this post; and here’s why:  my goal is not to bring down any one merchant, or their program manager, but to draw everyone’s attention to the problem that’s much larger than just the above two affiliate programs. Affiliates know this, but many merchants seem to be either unaware, or uneducated, or unwilling (on one reason, or another).

I contacted the latter merchant about their sudden commission drop, explaining why it doesn’t look good when affiliates get an automatic (read “network-generated”) notification of payout decrease, and strongly advising them to get a proper email message out to all affiliates in the program explaining the decision and what they can do (if anything) to still be earning the $8/lead. Almost a week has passed, and nothing has changed.

I love it when affiliate networks (like GAN and ShareASale above) care about their affiliates enough to communicate the important merchant-specific information even when merchants themselves don’t. This is the way it should be, and I am glad to see this happening. What I believe to be absolutely unacceptable though is merchants ignoring affiliate interests so openly. It spells out one word, and the word is disrespect.

6 thoughts on “Communication Failures in Affiliate Marketing”

  1. Hi Geno!
    Great post, as always.
    But I do have a small word of defense for all of us managing a retail affiliate marketing program. 😉
    Unfortunately, affiliate platforms do not always make it easy to communicate with our affiliates. I currently do not have access to any phone numbers (unless the affiliate emails it to me), and only rarely do affiliates fill in the contact name field. Usually we are left with a generic [email protected]-type email address.

    However, I’m as guilty as the next manager. If, for example, an affiliate site is not a live site I will click the “deactivate” button rather than go through the steps to go to a different part of the interface and run the filter to find the sites’ email address. I’ll have to keep your comments in mind in the future when I’m going through this process.

    I do think in many cases the person managing the affiliate program may not have all of the necessary resources. Many of them are not just managing affiliate, they are also working on natural search or CSE or social, etc. I’m very lucky in that I get to work ONLY on affiliate. This gives me time to chat with my affiliates and answer their questions.

    Just my two cents. 🙂 I’ll be moving from the “retailer” perspective to the “affiliate” perspective this month, though, so my opinions may change.

  2. Samantha, thank you for your comments. I appreciate your honesty.

    Yes, there is a problem of limited access to affiliate contact info, but in most cases affiliates actually prefer it to be this way.

    In the above two instances the merchants (or the managers in charge of their affiliate programs: OPM in the first case, and an in-house program manager in the second) should have sent out a special newsletter to affiliates, explaining what is going on, why it is going on, and what affiliates can do from now on. The way it turned out in both of the above cases was just not good. Affiliate networks generated automatic notifications (they obviously care about their affiliates), whereas the merchants didn’t even bother sending out a “blast”. That’s a shame.

  3. Ahhh yes I see your point. 🙂 This is definitely a business of relationships, so it’s always a little shocking to me when people don’t seem to value that part of their job. I think it’s the most fun!

  4. I agree with Samantha that affiliate platforms don’t make it easy to communicate with affiliates. However things are getting better. One of the eCommerce platform (Avangate) has made some changes, lately. Now we are informed by email about every new partner who signed for the program. The email also contains the basic details about every new affiliate; personal email address, full name, country even phone and fax numbers if provided.
    The competition on affiliate platforms market is huge and I am sure that sooner or later most of the platforms will have to follow Avangate to keep the clients. And then , there will be no excuse for lazy merchants.

  5. The amount of affiliate contact information shared by the network with their merchants differs from network to network, but again, in cases like the two I’ve quoted in my post, there really is “no excuse for lazy merchants” as you have nailed it on the head, Piotr

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