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.