Terms “affiliate marketing” and “performance marketing” are frequently used interchangeably, and justly so. Affiliate marketing programs, regardless of structures and compensation models involved, are all based on the principle of performance-based compensation, whereby affiliates refer traffic to advertisers but get paid only when qualifying performance is registered (e.g, lead form submitted, sale placed through, free trial started, download completed, etc). Advertisers predefine the desired performance (also known as a “qualifying action”) and affiliates know exactly what they are signing up for at the moment of submitting their application to join an affiliate program. Once approved, they then start marketing the advertiser, and that’s where, at times, things go wrong…
Not too long ago I was reviewing an affiliate program of an advertiser who firmly believed in her product. However, in her fairly young affiliate program, regardless of the fact that affiliates referred over 3,000 visitors, none of them converted into the “qualifying action.” I couldn’t help but recall my own situation when in 2014 I myself referred 2,427 very targeted clicks to an advertiser, and seeing zero conversions, ran a poll asking affiliates how many non-converting it takes for them to drop a merchant or replace her links with competitors’ links. The vast majority of replies (making up a total 70%) selected “100-300” (30%) or “301-500” clicks (40%). I concluded that “very few affiliates will patiently wait on merchants to straighten out their conversion rate issues” [more here]. It’s like the “Guinea pig” situation that my friend, Todd Farmer, described here — affiliate program isn’t a good testing ground. At all!! First know that your proposition sells (i.e. converts), and only then start an affiliate program.
Furthermore, this applies not only to conversion, but to everything that goes into your affiliate program and your online marketing, overall. When I audit affiliate programs that are concerned about their performance and spot lousy affiliate creatives, missing tools, uncompetitive payouts, less-than-attractive customer value proposition, inconvenient payment methods, unreachable customer support (the list could go on and on), I can’t help but wonder: how could they unilaterally blame affiliates for their program’s under-performance?
Affiliate program’s success is everyone‘s business!
- Affiliates are responsible for driving targeted traffic;
- Advertisers/merchants are supposed to provide an environment within which this targeted traffic, actually, converts into the qualifying actions;
- Affiliate managers are responsible for equipping the former and safeguarding the latter;
- Affiliate marketing solution providers (be it an affiliate network or a solution for an in-house-run affiliate program) are responsible for supporting accurate tracking and reporting
Affiliate program’s performance is always a mutual responsibility. Always!
Exactly a week ago, Shawn Collins made all of Affiliate Summit East 2013 videos available in free access on YouTube. My presentation at that Philadelphia conference was entirely devoted to the subject of my above post. So, for real-life examples and details of thing to do and not to do, see it in its entirety below: