When Managers (or Merchants) Impede Affiliate Performance

Yesterday evening, a hard-working affiliate, Joe Sousa, tweeted:

My immediate reaction was:

What better plea for sensible affiliate management could there be?!

Joe replied, and a few minutes later another well-known affiliate chimed in:

The problem, however paradoxical, in a nutshell, is as follows:

(a) affiliates want to market merchants (being compensated on post-pay basis!),
(b) merchant’s/advertiser’s actions are actually preventing it.

But I reached to both Joe and Tricia, and asked them if they’d like to add anything to the above-quoted tweets; and here are their replies:

Joe Sousa, owner of NFL-Football-Jerseys.com, elaborated:

Basically I am trying to get a new site set up in a niche I haven’t worked in before and I keep getting denied by merchants since the sites in my profile doesn’t match that niche.
I am getting responses like:
Thank you for emailing regarding your Affiliate application. Our policy for approval is that a website must contain content related to our product or our demographic. Currently your website does not have any content at all. If, after adding relevant content, you would still like to become an affiliate, please feel free to re-apply and we will reconsider your application at that time
Because you submitted for XXXXXX.com We are happy to approve website with valid content to our brand.
With both of these merchants I sent an explanation when applying for the program, got declined, sent an email asking why, and am now trying to explain that I can’t really build a site with any relevant content without being approved for their sites (datafeed based sites mostly). They want me to have a site before I get approved. I want to be approved before I build a site. Kind of a chicken or the egg type of situation.
I have the domains ready to go on these. But without access to the datafeeds I can’t really get started.

Tricia Meyer of Sunshine Rewards summarized:

Affiliate marketing is most successful when the affiliate and merchant work together in a way that is beneficial to both sides. When one side pulls too much, the other side then gets too little. Merchants have to understand that balance and work with us toward it.

Unfortunately, scenarios when merchants and/or affiliate program managers hinder the development of their own program aren’t that uncommon. Are you guilty of being an obstacle to your own affiliate marketing program?

8 thoughts on “When Managers (or Merchants) Impede Affiliate Performance”

  1. Geno, great job with this post.

    I’ve found that the most successful private affiliate partnerships I’ve worked with have been exactly that…partnerships rather than “affiliate/vendor” relationships.

    So long as everything is above-board…I don’t understand why some merchants make it so difficult for the affiliate to get down to business.

    1. The way I see it, the problem is always one (or a combination) of these three reasons: (i) lack of clear understanding how affiliate relationships/partnerships function, and what exactly is needed for them to yield good fruit, (ii) transferring traditional managerial approach(es) onto their management of affiliate program(s), and/or (iii) plain negligence.

  2. I have had similar problems as Joe. I have websites that I want to build but can not get approval from the merchants to get into their program. I have sent emails and tried to get an explanation on why I was not approved or to find out how to get approved but most of the time do not get any reply.

    I have also had cases where I was approved and declined by the same merchant in different affiliate networks. This one makes no sense to me since I am submitting the same information to both networks.

    1. Sad realities of affiliate work.

      And to the point that some of these things “make no sense”: they shouldn’t and can’t, because they are nonsensical.

  3. I’ve always wondered exactly how many affiliates are affected by this problem. I think networks and advertisers should be able to communicate this problem clearly enough that more advertisers are open to taking on affiliates that are trying to establish their sites rather than only focus on what’s already established.

    Affiliates that are successful in one niche often go to others because they’ve found what works and want to duplicate it in another area. They should be encouraged to do this instead of the way it often is now.

  4. Pingback: We Need More Properly Trained Affiliate Program Managers

  5. actually I disagree with most the posts here. I don’t for one second think that this should not be give and take, but there’s always a right way to go about that.

    If an affiliate was a large provider of traffic for a merchant and wanted a tenancy fee for placing an ad, you would understand his predicament and say “give and take” and “affiliate holds the power here”, and you would all be right.

    However in most cases, the affiliate is NOT bigger than the merchant, and each instance of an affiliate applying for a program is like the affiliate ‘getting himself a job’ in my view. The merchant from the point of accepting the affiliate would need to provide them with tools, support, and information – but the point of contention here is the application.

    In my opinion, if an affiliate has a site in a different niche and has NO SITE up on the domain he will be using for my program, I would ask that he populates the site first. Is there just one merchant in the niche? Would all your content be about this one merchant? I would presume you could build a site in a niche quite easily especially if there are merchants in the niche with affiliate programs.

    You are not owed acceptance in this case until you prove that you are providing value. It is not a chicken and egg case for me, it’s simply a case of putting your best foot forward here.

    The merchant doesn’t know what you are like as an individual or anything, for all he knows you will sign up to his program and use links alongside offensive content.

    You need to have at least a mock up of a site for the merchant to know what he’s taking on. You wouldn’t go to an interview dressed in jogging bottoms and flip flops and say “hire me and I’ll sort myself out later”. If you’re keen to work with a merchant at least show him you belong in the niche; this is unfair I must admit since if you are a well known brand of an affiliate you would sometimes get away on the back of it, but it should not be the case.

  6. Shaeeb, the decision is certainly up to the merchant, but (a) in some niches there really are 1-2 merchants with affiliate programs, (b) in this particular case they’ve really lost an affiliate that could’ve turned their affiliate program around, and (c) I, personally, believe that taking a look at affiliate’s other sites, and using a bit of imagination based on the domain he/she is listing (and the description of the promotional method(s) he/she is providing) it is pretty easy to make the call.

    Again, in the above-quoted situation it was actually the merchant that lost more than the affiliate (IMO).

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