Stop Managing Like A Merchant, and Manage Like an Affiliate

by Daniel on May 9, 2012

Imitation of a confused affiliate manager

How can I, Why are they, What do I?

These days its all too common to hear the following words come out of the mouth of an affiliate manager, or from a merchant: “How come my affiliates are not responding to emails/phone calls etc., I want to build a relationship with them?! How come my activation is so low? How can I attract more affiliates?”. It goes on, and on, and on.

Generally questions that begin with “how” are greeted with a response along the lines of – do the following list of things, and all will be well. In this specific case, when it comes to dealing with affiliates I am going to reject that format for just a second, and suggest a general idea that may help explain why you are having so much trouble.

Could it be that you are managing your program solely from your point of view, and not from the affiliates point of view?

In any affiliate program, as a manager what we look for are valuable affiliates who will drive good, clean, converting to traffic to our merchant’s site.

I am going to share a secret with you:
Affiliates want the same thing from affiliate managers that we want from them: Value

When you make a decision to do anything as an affiliate manger, be it a promotion etc. are you taking into account how the affiliate will view the offer? Is it valuable to them, or does it just seem like a really cool idea to you?

Lets take a look at some practical applications in everyday affiliate management scenarios:

1) Affiliate Approvals and Auto Approve:

Personally, I believe that leaving a program on auto approve is a very very bad idea. Even though you think you are growing your program by the dozens your growth in numbers can also mean your decline in valuable affiliates. You have no idea who or what you are letting in to your program.

Affiliates know this as well.

In the eyes of some affiliates, auto approval is the equivalent of saying this is a place where all kinds of affiliates are welcome. That may even include some who may even do unethical things, and steal commissions, and can reflect poorly on the program management.

If you would like some more reasons on why auto approval is a bad idea I highly recommend checking out Auto-Approving Affiliates The End of an Era by Vinny O’Hare.

2) Promotional Tools:

If you are trying to attract affiliates, or a certain type of affiliate, you should ask yourself the following: If I was in their shoes what would I want? Am I offering my affiliates the promotional tools they need so that they can properly promote my product(s)?

Fact: It is much more difficult to attract data feed affiliates if you do not have a data feed.

Does you program offer the basic creatives? Text links, an assortment of banners, data feed etc. There are plenty of affiliates who will look through the creatives a merchant offers before joining a program, and it could mean the difference between joining your program, or your competitors.

3) Affiliate Newsletters

When you send out a newsletter are you sending out something that you are excited to share with your affiliates or something that your affiliates will be excited about receiving?

Affiliates are usually members of numerous programs, and get tons of emails all the time, what is different about your email content that would pique their interest?

Are you offering them something of value by opening it up, and looking inside?

The key is the following: don’t send a newsletter just for the sake of doing so, but ask yourself does this newsletter contain information my affiliates will view as valuable?

4) Reaching out to affiliates
Affiliates are people. Just like every person is different, so too every affiliate is different.
Some like to be contacted by email. Some like to talk by phone. Some like to talk via instant messenger, and some don’t like to talk at all.

As a manager you may be tempted to send countless emails, and dial numerous phone numbers. Stop. Don’t.


1) Ask yourself: Why are you trying to reach out to this affiliate?

Generally, it’s because you would like your affiliate(s) to be more productive, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to build a relationship with your affiliates, but are you going about it in the right way?

2) Understand: Affiliates are extremely busy and time is extremely valuable. Where is the benefit in the affiliate picking up your phone call, or answering your email? What are you offering them by reaching out that will make this relationship valuable?

Relationships are not a one way street. If you approach affiliates the same way you approach sales, an affiliate will respond like a customer. Affiliates are your partners, and an email template sent to all affiliates does not demonstrate any value. If you want to build a relationship with an affiliate, or strengthen it, be prepared to offer them something of value.

Final Thoughts

Obviously there is a lot more that goes in to affiliate management than the four examples I mentioned above. Regardless, if you are an affiliate manager struggling to find the right promotions, the right attraction methods, the relationships etc. maybe its time to stop asking what can I do to make my program better, and ask yourself: if I was an affiliate, what would I want? Stop managing like a merchant, and manage like an affiliate!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah Carney May 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Daniel, you are expressing exactly what I try to get merchants to understand. Unfortunately a lot of merchants and new managers don’t have the past experience of being an affiliate and have a hard time seeing that side of the coin. If you get manager or merchant to actually go through the process of setting up an affiliate site, all of a sudden the light bulb goes off. Other merchants will keep the corporate mindset and ultimately their programs will flounder and fail.


James Martell May 10, 2012 at 2:50 am

Daniel, I so agree. As for auto-approving affiliates, I miss it, only because it was so convenient and allowed me to get started right away on promoting the program. Good affiliate managers are quick to approve, however *most* are not. Yes the bad ones do get in, but so do the good ones. The best scenario is to turn-off auto-approve, and to stay on top of the application in a daily manner. And Deorah, keep beating your drum. As usual you are right on as well.


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