commit: 6b2ca8a - #414 (2014-03-05 12:54:44 -0500)
At my last gig I was an in-house marketing director, and during that time I helped start an affiliate program for the brand. In terms of the business our affiliate network brought us, it was successful, especially once we hired a manager to oversee the program. The worst part was the way many affiliates misrepresented the brand and communicated information about the brand that was inaccurate or misleading. It got to the point where I wanted to shut it down because of the potential damage to the brand. So, wanted to get some thoughts from the community about affiliates in the context of business and branding. And if you have any experiences to share, please do. Thanks.
Shut down the affiliates, not the program. If sales are on the rise then focusing on those top earners is better than worrying about a few bad apples, I'd think.
Thanks for the reply, Corey. I had thought about that approach, but then I got concerned about the 'shut down' affiliates spreading negative things about the brand, essentially causing the same kind of bad PR because they got upset for being shut down. We paid the affiliates well. I guess I could have been more creative in the way to communicate that they could no longer be an affiliate. Good thoughts, thanks.
This can definitely happen. Look at the ebay partner network. This http://www.abestweb.com/forums/ebay-partner-network-492/ is page one for 'ebay partner network' - not exactly loaded with good things to say.
Treating your affiliates poorly will definitely come back to bite you. Sadly, booting scammers will also come back to bite you as they'll immediately claim they did nothing wrong. It's an added expense you'd need to carry by dedicating some time to responding to attacks when you have to shut someone down for TOS violations and they hit the boards complaining.
It's definitely risky. You've got to keep a super close eye on what people are doing with your name. Kraft, as an example, got sued over its affiliates blasting out email spam for Gevalia's CPA program. ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7602542/ns/technology_and_science-security/t/kraft-sued-over-alleged-gevalia-spam/#.UO136W_Ae6M )
My suggestion is typically to do an affiliate program, but have it invite only and vet the hell out of people before reaching out to them. Granted, this means you *have* to have a dedicated manager for the program, but it can pay off in spades.
Very smart idea. I never thought of doing the by-invite-only method and properly vetting. Our affiliate program got to the point where 20% to 30% of our quarterly revenue was being generated by our affiliates, which was great for us so we pretty much let anybody in. And thanks for the Kraft story, great example.
I would imagine that the PR risk is lessened by people who knowingly abuse the program. They know that they're running the risk of being removed, or suspended. I would say (knowing the company in your original example) that if someone was suspended first, and their access to the revenue paused until they correct the behavior, that they then have the chance of changing the negative behavior and getting access to that revenue for themselves again.Money is a powerful motivator, so pausing their access to those funds, and giving them a path to restore access to those funds, would ultimately be the best way to limit any potential PR damage.I don't ever let fear of bad PR stop me from doing the right thing. I'd imagine that the positive value of a successful affiliate program is more valuable even at the end of potential bad PR, than not doing the affiliate program. Just need to give folks a little less rope to hang themselves with, and hold them accountable the first time.
Dave Ramsey was talking yesterday about chastising your children. If you say "Now Billy you have to behave!" and then the next time they act up you say "Now Billy you have to behave!" that isn't a behavioral problem, that's an integrity problem. There was no followthrough on the threat, so if it sounds like I'm saying treat the affiliates like Children, then that's probably exactly what you need to do. You're giving them access to your revenue, even if it's only in part, so if they want that PRIVILEGE, they better be willing to work within the rules to get that.They likely need the money more than you need the affiliate.
When I wrote that blog for Chris Locurto's site, one of the Nashville Christian Publishers contacted us and we did some consulting for them. What we determined they needed wasn't actually SEO, but an affiliate program very similar to what you are describing. By having this affiliate program that churches nationwide could become a part of, smaller churches that weren't large enough to have a full in-house book store could sell this publishers books on their website and these churches would get a cut of that income, thus allowing the church to raise money (which is always hard for them to do) while allowing the publisher to get access to this "crowd sourced" marketing team to sell their products.In the end, the potential value of the powerful affiliate program outweighs the off-chance that someone says bad things about your product, even when they bash you (which no one is likely to even see) you'll still probably at least get a link out of it!