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Affiliate marketing isn't new, and many companies operating in the affiliate channel have significant experience operating affiliate programs. But this doesn't mean that plenty of affiliate program operators don't drop the ball. They do, and oftentimes, the mistakes they make are easily avoided.
Here are five worst practices that affiliate program operators can easily avoid.
Take forever to review applications.
If you're going to run an affiliate program, those who are interested in participating shouldn't be forced to wait around for weeks on end to find out whether you're going to let them. Yet far too many affiliate program operators do exactly that.
Not only does this reflect poorly on your company, it can hurt your business. After all, in most markets, affiliates have plenty of options, and an affiliate left hanging may very well end up in a long-term relationship with a competitor.
Reject affiliates without explanation.
Very few 'serious' affiliate programs automatically accept new affiliates into the ranks. And for good reason: some prospective affiliates simply aren't up to snuff.
Yet when rejecting a prospective affiliates' application, it's important to explain why. Not only is this courteous, it gives otherwise good affiliates who would be productive members of your base the opportunity to address whatever issues you may have had with their applications.
In many cases, by doing so, you will find that you had nearly passed up a quality new affiliate.
Make small affiliates feel like pond scum.
Your largest affiliates deserve a lot of your love, but that doesn't mean that small ones deserve none.
Savvy program operators know: your smallest affiliates have the potential to grow into your largest, so no opportunity to build a strong relationship with an affiliate should ever be underestimated.
Additionally, many affiliates like to test different programs before putting their eggs in one or two large baskets, so it's worth recognizing that an affiliate that appears small might actually have the potential to drive a significant amount of business if you play your cards right.
Fall behind the technology curve.
If you're going to invest in setting up a channel, you should be prepared to make ongoing investments in it.
In this channel, affiliates increasingly expect access to modern tools. These often include, amongst other things, data feeds and APIs, all of which, when implemented thoughtfully, help your affiliates help you.
Yet, surprisingly, many program operators fail to innovate with their offerings, making it tempting for affiliates to leave for greener pastures.
Bottom line: operators offering yesterday's tools aren't investing for tomorrow's success.
Treat the affiliate channel as an afterthought.
Affiliate marketing isn't for every company, but there are lots and lots of companies that can testify that it can be extremely powerful.
Unfortunately, far too many companies treat the affiliate channel like a stray dog. In other words, they might feed it a bone every once in a while, but it's never really welcome inside the house. What this means: affiliates feel neglected, the channel underperforms and everyone loses.
Obviously, not all channels are equal, and a company's investments will reflect this. But if you're going to operate an affiliate program, you simply can't pretend that it's a bolt-on addition to your business that you can simply set up and forget about.