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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.

Patricio Robles

Published 21 February, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2401 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Kier

No mention of conversion optimisation? That's the single most important thing you can do to ensure your programme is well supported. The best tools and communication in the world is all for naught if you don't convert traffic as well, or better, than your competitors.

over 5 years ago

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Jesta

Agreed. I've had a few AW merchant reject me without explication, when I asked for clarity they said they'd let me know and never did.

I agree with Kier too, they need to help us convert at their end, I can't do much about it besides send relevant traffic, which I'm already doing.

over 5 years ago

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Chris

I believe out of all the major networks only Linkshare allows you to customize the rejection email that goes out to affiliates. I would love to be able to tell an affiliate why they were rejected so they could make the appropriate changes and reapply.

over 5 years ago

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Geno Prussakov

@Chris: ShareASale also allows you to customize rejection emails.

over 5 years ago

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John Sadeghipoor

@Chris, I'm pretty sure Awin, Webgains and TD allow custom rejection emails also...

over 5 years ago

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