Example of Oxymoronic Approach to Affiliate Relationship Management

Earlier this morning affiliates of a program — which positions itself as one lead by a “full-time affiliate manager” — received an interesting email. Here is an excerpt from it (with sensitive information removed):

In attempts to make our group of affiliates stronger and to provide a better experience to our customers we are going to be making some changes to our program.  The first change we are making is one that will create stronger relationships between [Merchant’s Name here] and our affiliates.  In order to do this we are going clear out all of our inactive affiliates that have grown to a large number through the years.  This should make it so that we can keep a better eye on who is performing and be able to provide certain promotions and incentives to the ones that will benefit most.  Please respond to ensure that you are kept along with the active affiliates during these changes.

"Terminated" StampIn order to “create stronger relationships” with affiliates or make things more manageable for the affiliate manager? Somehow, it feels like more of the latter (than anything else). After all, “clearing out” affiliates from a program isn’t the best way to strengthen relationships.

The “please respond to ensure that you are kept along with the active” ones part is also a bit confusing. It seems that going through the purge, they are saying: if you reply to our email, we’ll give you a second chance.

Overall, the above illustrated way is one of the worst approaches an affiliate manager could take. Last month, when discussing the question of “retaining” affiliates, I pointed out that when it comes to affiliate programs — where in the vast majority of cases only between 5% and 10% of affiliates are active — we should be focusing on activating the stagnant ones at least as much as we’re focusing on recruiting new affiliates. Experience shows that when activation is taken seriously, an affiliate manager may bump that 5%-10% number to 20%-25%. So, if “inactive affiliates have grown to a large number through the years,” treat it as an opportunity! You didn’t make them join your program in the first place. It was their decision, and they likely had a plan for you. Revive the relationship by offering them reasons to activate. Don’t just kick them out!

Looking at the age of the affiliate program whose manager sent out the above-quoted affiliate notification, I believe that they have around 3,000 affiliates aboard. If 10% of them (300 publishers) are active now, and smartly-crafted activation campaigns can increase this number at least two-fold, we’re talking about adding 300-450 more active affiliates tapping into your existing database of already-signed-up affiliates. What an opportunity, isn’t it?! I hope they will see post, and reconsider their approach.

Furthermore, if they don’t know how to do it, I am willing to do it for them free of charge. In fact, if you’re reading this, and you are in a similar situation, contact me today. If such numbers of your affiliates are inactive, I believe that the opportunity is so obvious that I will work with you on performance basis only.

5 thoughts on “Example of Oxymoronic Approach to Affiliate Relationship Management”

  1. Oh I much prefer Wordtracker policy of handling affiliates that aren’t driving enough volume “Publisher thelostagency has been deleted from the network.”

    So glad their affiliates are worth a single line in a bulk email, they did respond a few weeks later when asked about it…

    “Thanks for getting back to us and apologies for the blunt notification email. We have made some changes recently to the way our Affiliate network is run which has resulted in your account being deleted. So that our Affiliate Network better meets the needs of our business we have implemented new criteria which involves focussing on the top performing affiliates.
    I hope this information helps to clarify. If you have any other queries please do let us know. ”

    So Geno your thoughts on that initial email and half-arsed response would be (a) great (b) perfect (c) classy (d) all of the above?

    I admit I wasn’t driving a massive amount of traffic but it was all quality and relevant traffic sent via my blog/site so I’m not sure that would class me as an inactive affiliate??

    1. David, you bring up another classic example of the same type of (dead-end) approach. While some may argue that since affiliates can also terminate their relationships with merchants in a unilateral manner, merchants should be able to do so as well, I say: we’re talking very different up-front risks here. Affiliates invest (their time, money, effort) in advance in hopes of making money once conversions happen. Merchants don’t.

      No, neither “great”, nor any of the other adjectives, Dave. Destructive and counter-productive are the words to characterize these affiliate manager emails and terminations.

      1. Ah yes but the thing that annoys me about it is these affiliates are still promoting their brand and if they are not converting it’s free advertising. Some affiliate companies also just shut down your tracking if you fail to login for a period of time which makes me even more angry as they fail to notify affiliates.

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