I'm an affiliate. I've been one for years. I get really frustrated when I get emails from merchants, or worse; their affiliate agency, that are useless. It happens too often and all these mistakes are so easy to avoid.

Example one:

"Dear affiliates,

We've introduced 10 new banners. You'll find them in the banner section.

Affiliate manager John Doe."

The two huge mistakes here are not telling the affiliate which merchant you are. The email may have come from the affiliate network's own communication system so your actual program name may be nowhere in sight. Sometimes it's down in the T&Cs footer of the email but that's nearly invisible.

Tip one: Say who you are.

There's a lot else wrong in this email too – and it was an email like this, sent to me today, which inspired this post – as it doesn't tell me why I should change banners, if the old banners are still there or take advantage of the fact you  have my attention. This email would have been an ideal chance to arm your affiliates with some up to date information.

Example two:

"Hello everyone,

We'd like to take the opportunity to remind everyone of our PPC policy. Affiliates are not allowed to big on Brand X or sub-Brand Y."

This email, of course, lets the affiliate know who the merchant is. It's an important email as well as brand bidding is hugely important to get right. What this email gets wrong is the lack of communication. This merchant would be well off explaining why they don't want brand bidding but even better off by also taking the opportunity to suggest some alternatives to affiliates.

Tip two: Always take the chance to impart some tips, tricks and positive suggestions.

I find in-house teams make this mistake far less often than digital agencies. Agencies tend to specialise or have a specialist running the affiliate program and therefore may not always have cross-digital tips at the front of mind.

Example three:

"To all our affiliates,

We're increasing commission from 2% to 3% for February. We hope you take advantage of this great offer."


"To all our affiliates,

We're running a competition in February. The affiliate which drives the most sales this month will be rewarded with a brand new iPod Touch."

The problem with these examples is two-fold and perhaps more evident in the second example email. Everyone who wants an iPod Touch, pretty much, has one already. It's not an incentive.  Is a commission increase from 2% to 3% an incentive? For some people, yes, but not for many others – a more thoughtful incentive may well produce better results.

My real problem with emails like this is that they don't tell me why February is important to the merchant.

It is possible that the month isn't important to the merchant at all; perhaps it's the digital agency trying to keep hold of the account or perhaps it's a new digital agency increasing the commission in order to smooth over any grumbles during the handover. This latter idea isn't a bad tactic but it doesn't hurt to be transparent with the affiliate's idea.

A worse scenario is that February is a key month for the merchant, perhaps this is the month where they get most of their sales in relation to one event (Valentine's Day, for example).   In this case this email alert fails to do the one thing that could have improved performance the most – it fails to remind the affiliates of the opportunity in February.

Tip three: Let affiliates know about seasonality and, if appropriate, the reasons behind a special offer.

Andrew Girdwood

Published 2 February, 2010 by Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood is Head of Media Technologies at Signal and a guest blogger for Econsultancy. He can be found on Twitter here.

41 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (3)

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Andrew,

Having managed affiliate programs directly and helped others do the same, you're right that communication is one of the most important success factors. A successful merchant-affiliate relationship is one built on partnership, where both parties work together to achieve a common commercial goal.

Unfortunately, many merchants are sold the dream by eager sales teams but when the program is live they have no strategy or structure to build an affiliate program. The end result is poor communication and frustration; the merchant is frustrated because the affiliates aren't performing/responding; the affiliates are frustrated because the merchant is not giving them the tools they need to generate leads/sales.

My recommendation is to treat affiliates like customers but make sure they know the boundaries so the relationship is commercially sustainable. However, you need to be sensible as time is finite; identify top affiliates and build proactive relationships with them. Segment the smaller players into a group and keep them ticking along with a basic communication program. Define accession paths so that affiliates can move up/down a tier depending on performance.



over 8 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Tiffany and co stop spamming please - all you've done is copy & paste my comment above. For those of us wanting genuine discussion and debate you are wasting our time. 

If this is to get links to your site, please take your lazy marketing elsewhere

ps links on blogs are 'no follow'.....

over 8 years ago


Paul Germana

Anyone should be able to bring traffic to their website, blog or affiliate page simply by getting out and visiting other blogs, commenting on those blogs and leaving their link as they go. This creates more & more back links as they progress on.Unfortunately, just hopping from blog to blog defies relevancy when you come across other blogs that are not related to your niche, (affiliate marketing, cooking, auto repair, etc.) Therefore keyword research is absolutely necessary in order to pinpoint numerous blogs where you can identify and create interactive link popularity. I am happy to share this with anyone, anytime.

over 8 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.