Medvedev, Russia's Investment Climate and Affiliate Marketing

Over the past few years, the investment attractiveness of Russia and its markets have improved, but there’s still a lot of room to grow. Yesterday (on March 30, 2011), the President of the country proposed a 10-step plan on how to improve Russia’s investment climate [tweeting about it as well], preceding it with some solid reasoning, including this:

Until we make our country attractive for business and private innovative initiatives, we will not achieve our main goal of improving the quality of life for our people.

As I was reading through Mr. Medvedev’s speech/plan this morning, I couldn’t help but make parallels between the proposed initiatives, the reasons behind them, and the problems e-businesses often face when looking at launching or growing their affiliate marketing programs (and, as a rule, the bigger the business, the more difficult it is to overcome some of the obstacles). So, here are some of the Russian context problems President Medvedev pointed to (underlining mine), and my parallels with the affiliate program management context:

#3 — “Entrepreneurs and investors constantly repeat that the authorities make it hard to do stable business because state agencies take unpredictable decisions and action.”

Unpredictability of decisions is a sad reality when it comes to affiliate program management as well. However, I am yet to see one affiliate manager complain in public about it. On obvious reasons they can’t and don’t do this. It isn’t unusual for a business owner to make a decision (e.g.: terminate all inactive affiliates, void commissions of one group/type of affiliates, change landing page or product URLs, etc) which affects its affiliates, and not let the manager know about it. The manager is then the first person the affiliates blame. I see this happen both with in-house and OPM managers. It’s tough when it happens, and I hope both merchants (who frequently cause such situations) and affiliates become more understanding here.

#5 — “There are … things we need to do to stop state companies from exerting too great an influence on the investment climate.”

There are two extremes that I often see in affiliate marketing: (1) companies who launch affiliate programs, and let them fly on auto-pilots (not controlling enough), and (2) companies who dictate what to do (overly controlling), and do so based on their previous experience of what works and what doesn’t. One such example is a company that would tell its affiliate program manager: “Before we can offer this affiliate a private commission, they must let us have (a) a detailed plan on how they will market us, and (b) projections on the order volume we should expect.” Now, don’t get me wrong: a general plan on how an affiliate will market a business is fine, but a detailed one is not something you are paying them for. Neither are you paying them for forecasting and sticking to the forecast. You, as a merchant, are only paying your affiliates when a desired transaction (order, subscription, lead, call, etc) takes place. Anything that’s being done before that are affiliate’s risks. Excessive control never works with affiliates.

#9 — “We must drastically improve the quality of the most common services consumed by the investment community”

It is exactly the same way with affiliate programs — unless your competitive commissions and conversions are married with high quality affiliate support, state-of-the-art tools, and proactive (i.e. “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes” [source]) affiliate program management, you can just forget about succeeding.

A few other parallels came to mind as I was reading that speech, but the above 3 are probably the most important ones from what I would like to share with you today.

I know, Medvedev’s speech isn’t exactly down the online marketing alley, but should you decide to read it in its entirety, it may be found here.

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