Try a Little Tenderness With Your Affiliates


ADOTAS – The relationship between an affiliate and an affiliate manager can be very rewarding over the lifetime of an affiliate program. However, there are times when as an affiliate manager you may experience the wrath of an angry affiliate.

Affiliates can feel hurt about a company’s decision to lower a commission, or eliminate a popular method of promotion. What’s more, a simple misunderstanding via email can turn into personal attacks on you, the affiliate manager, in forums or through unsavory email messages to your boss.

Below are just a few scenarios that you might face, and suggestions for addressing them. These are not absolute cures; however, consider them as tools for repairing your relationship with your affiliates.

Scenario 1: You lower the payout of your affiliate program, because your budget is not big enough.

Solution: If it’s absolutely necessary to lower your payout due to a small budget, then do so. But remember that reducing all the affiliates in your program to a lower threshold is not the best alternative.

Not all affiliates are the same. Top performers that send through a high-quality volume of traffic and sales shouldn’t be equated with someone who just learned about affiliate marketing yesterday and needs more time to optimize their campaigns. Try offering a tiered commission, so that your partners are compensated based on their performance.

If tiered commissions aren’t possible then at least segment a handful of top performers into a higher commission group. Give them a friendly phone call to notify them of this benefit. Also explore rewarding lower-tiered affiliates with a bonus if they have achieved a high threshold.

Scenario 2: You abruptly kick out affiliates from your program because they don’t make any money.

Solution: Ask yourself whether or not you clearly communicated your performance requirements to your affiliates. Did you send them an email threatening to remove them from your program? Affiliates can’t all be super performers from the start. Take a step back and evaluate your relationships with the partners in your program.

Forums and popular blogs are filled with negative comments about “break-up tactics.” If they’re talking about you, make a public statement and admit your error. There’s nothing more humbling to an affiliate when they see an affiliate manager or program representative admit their mistakes.

Offer the chance to those affiliates who felt they were wrongly removed to contact you personally to discuss the problem. Also, a peace offering isn’t a bad idea; what better way to show your willingness to work together again than offering a promotion.

Scenario 3: A new affiliate uses your forbidden keywords in their PPC campaign and didn’t realize it. You decide to blacklist him or her from all your affiliate programs.

Solution: I have seen merchants get extremely irate when they discover that an affiliate has used forbidden keywords in a paid search campaign. However, I have also seen newbie affiliates genuinely forget to scrub their keyword list upon, say, switching their campaigns from Yahoo to Google. Sometimes merchants also forget to make forbidden practices explicit.

Unless the rules are blatantly communicated, it’s best to halt blacklisting affiliates. Make sure to communicate the rules clearly rather than have them simply listed in your terms and conditions.

Explain the details through your welcome email to new affiliates, on your sponsored forums, in your affiliate program description and anywhere else affiliates are likely to read about you. Let’s be honest, terms and conditions aren’t always a guaranteed way to prevent prohibited activity.

As you can see it helps to establish a communication strategy for attracting and maintaining quality relationships. Make it part of your affiliate program’s objectives to start sending out clear and transparent messages in your affiliate program.

If your internal objectives are only about earning as much money as possible in your affiliate program during the next three months, then you need to rethink those objectives. The message you convey publically has to convey the same message in-house.

If you are seeking conversions of 8% or more from affiliates with a relevant website with organic traffic, it’s important to communicate this in the beginning. An explicit description of the type of partners you want will attract more niche affiliates.

In addition, if you’ve decided to message your affiliates about changes to your program, make sure it’s across multiple platforms. Assuming that affiliates will check their email or your terms and conditions is a misjudgement. Have a lateral flow of communication across your program and Facebook pages, and on Twitter.

There is no magic method for handling difficult scenarios with affiliates, but as an affiliate manager try to re-evaluate the way you treat your affiliates. Remember it’s easier to attract bees with honey than with vinegar.


Maranda Moses is a communications strategist for Share Results and contributes some of their widely read blogs and articles on affiliate strategies, industry news, and trends. Over the years she’s honed her skills in the online marketing space as a senior account manager in the education, family, apparel and maternity insurance verticals.


Learn more about Affiliate Management from Hydra GM in “Affiliates Need Facetime”

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