5 Things to Avoid When Building Affiliate Relationships

I thought I would write something about some of the pet hates I have, but also things that are likely to alienate your affiliates. This site is build towards people who want to get more from their affiliate programme. Sometimes you learn just as much from the ‘what not to do’ lists!

So sit back and enjoy some things I would do if I wanted to stunt my affiliate programme’s growth…

1.       Being Impersonal

This can’t be stressed enough. If you want to get good results, be personal. Sending me an email with the wrong name suggests to me you have just emailed every affiliate on the programme the same email and forgot to paste my name over. Do you want to build a two way relationship with this person, where dialogue flows freely between you? Where you get feedback on your promotion, or the best ways to push your brand on their site? Or do you prefer to just shout information to your affiliates?

Another favourite of mine is referring to a different affiliate’s site in the email to me. I wonder how the company would feel if I did the same on our site.

Learning point: Find out the name of the contact at the affiliate site. Then call them by their name. Create a relationship where affiliates feel you are asking them directly for their feedback because you value their opinion. You will get more out of your relationship this way.

2.       Not understanding the affiliate’s business

TopCashBack offer 100% cashback to our members (101% in the UK). That means that all the commission we earn goes to our members. Our company ethos is on getting the best cashback offers for our users. I still often get approached by clients who try to persuade me to promote non-exclusive offers as ‘we will make lots of money from it’. They may well, but we won’t. We would rather be pushing somebody who will give our members a great cashback rate that can’t be found elsewhere.

If you want to get results from your affiliate programme you need to understand how your affiliate’s business model works. I always say to people, if you are sending recruitment emails you don’t need to just think about what the affiliate can do for you. Why should the affiliate promote you? Have you looked at their site and thought about what you can offer them? In the example above, the merchant gets some more sales, but what does the affiliate get from it?

Learning point: Take the time to look at the affiliate site. Look at where you can add value to them rather than what they can do for you. Can you offer creative in the size they need? Can you supply an offer that would interest their audience?

3.       Not keeping promises

Another pet hate is when people confirm something and then don’t keep their word. The classic for me is guaranteeing that an offer is exclusive. Then you see it promoted on a competitor’s site at the same rate or, even worse, higher elsewhere. I have never seen anyone striving to have an exclusively worse offer than their competition!

Trust is an important area of affiliate marketing though. Speak to anyone who is successful in the industry and they will tell you that affiliate marketing is a relationship industry. People who are trusted and keep their word, people enjoy working with. People who make promises and don’t keep them may discover that affiliates become reluctant to work with them.

Learning point: If you make a promise, ensure that you stick to it. If the situation has changed then contact the affiliate to explain, rather than letting them find out themselves.

4.       Unrealistic time constraints

Everyone has deadlines and from time to time you will have to ask people for things with short notice. It might be that you have had a short deadline given to you or that you need feedback or a proposal quickly. It might be that your marketing team have decided to have a 1 day sale and you need to get as much affiliate coverage as possible in the shortest time you can. It happens.

What isn’t good is when you get emails asking for competitor analysis or forecasting the next 3 months from Affiliate Managers at 5pm for a meeting they have tomorrow morning.  To me this shows a lack of respect for your affiliate’s time. Working for one of the largest affiliate sites in the UK I spend a lot of my time in meetings with clients. A 2hr deadline is always going to be hard to meet, particularly if the request is time consuming. Messages like that basically say to me, ‘we don’t value your time and you should drop everything if we ask for something’.

Learning point: If you know you need the information, ask for it with plenty of time to allow for the fact the affiliate might have their own deadlines to meet. I think people sometimes forget that affiliate marketing is a business, and that the people who work for or own an affiliate site will have their own objectives that are important to them.

5.       Being unresponsive

Within my team all of our members have ‘Partnerships’ in their job title. The reason? That’s what a successful merchant/affiliate relationship should be. There should be open dialogue between the two that allows for creative ideas, solutions to problems and development of performance. If one side isn’t engaged in the relationship you won’t get the results you could.

It can be very hard for this to happen if you don’t respond to your affiliates. I have some great meetings with clients, they are excited about opportunities, suggesting ideas they would like to try and talking about ways they want to work together. I then follow up and sometimes don’t get a reply for a month. So what has changed? Not much, their day to day job has got in the way. But it makes it hard to get any momentum.

Learning point: Try to set a target to respond to all affiliate queries within a day. Quicker if possible, but being responsive means that they might come to you if they have space at the last minute. If you struggle to be responsive why not set up a meeting/call once a month to discuss and confirm everything with the affiliate to avoid missing out on opportunities.


That ends my rant of pet hates in affiliate marketing. The list applies to affiliates as much as merchants as I am sure we all get frustrated when people break promises. I would love to hear your biggest pet hates or things that frustrate you.

2 thoughts on “5 Things to Avoid When Building Affiliate Relationships”

  1. Nice post Graham; these five items get under everybody’s skin and they’re more common than they should be, or need to be. I think we need a little more “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” attitude in the world today.

  2. Hi Ron,

    Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed it. I think the worst is when the above are followed up with a ‘you are a valued affiliate’ type email a few months later. It does make you wonder how they treat the affiliates they don’t value!

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