As you may or may not know today, Dec. 23rd is Festivus and that means it is time for the airing of grievances. There were a lot of things that happened in the affiliate marketing industry this year that rubbed me (and others) the wrong way and now you’re gonna hear about it!
1. Link Connector: When we saw that a program we took over was running on your network we started looking into who was driving sales. One of the biggest was Shop At Home and when we told you we don’t want toolbars in the program you said “I didn’t know they were a toolbar”. What the heck??? They are one of the biggest toolbars around! If you are supposedly a reputable network how can you even feign ignorance on that?
2. Term violating affiliates: Don’t try to sneak anything past us. We will catch you. And when we do catch you don’t claim ignorance. Your feedback in the network shows many repeated violations from many merchants. You knew what you were doing. It brought me great joy to terminate you, send in a paid search violation (STRIKE!), and reverse your sales.
3. Merchants who set commissions to 0 during the holiday season – Yeah BestBuy.com, RedEnvelope.com, Tommy Hilfiger, Cache.com, and any others that terminated their affiliate program or set commissions to 0 during November/December: YOU SUCK! If you want to make major changes to your programs do that in January or February, not during the 2 busiest months of the year. And setting commissions to 0? That is basically just stealing sales.
4. The networks that allow the above to happen: So these big brands screw the affiliates and you just stand by and let it happen? Just so you can keep a big retailers logo on your site as a partner? Shameful. For once do the right thing.
5. Big coupon/deal affiliates that keep sending traffic to the above merchants: Yeah, you suck too. Why are you sending these clowns free traffic and getting nothing in return for it? Shut them off, remove them from your site, and promote their competitors who actually value the affiliate channel.
6. Google/Facebook: OK, I understand they can do whatever they want with their services but it still sucks when they make major changes in how they display stuff. Most of your changes are horrible and they just make your services harder to use.
7. Affiliates who think too highly of themselves: Know your place! If you can drive 5 sales a month that is awesome and I would love to have you as an affiliate. I will help you as much as I can. But that doesn’t warrant $500 worth of free products to review, a commission bump, money up front for you to write a post, and private deals just for you.
8. Affiliate Managers who don’t take the time: If you are an affiliate manager and you don’t take the time to answer your affiliates, offer them advice, help them sell your products, show them which network tools can help them, work on some creative offers for them, and in general help them sell more of your crap than I got a problem with you. Without the affiliates you wouldn’t have a job. Take a few precious minutes out of your day and respond to a freakin email now and then.
9. Affiliate “Managers” who only work with the big guys: Yeah, RetailMeNot.com, Ebates.com, BradsDeals.com, etc. account for a huge portion of sales but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones you should work with. Those ones are easy money and all in all require very little effort on your part. Your merchants are paying you (or at least they should be) to grow your programs, recruit affiliates, drive incremental sales, expand into other markets, etc. Do your jobs and actually earn your paycheck for once.
10: Multi-network affiliate programs: Why do you need your affiliate program on 5 different networks? Pick one or maybe 2 and focus on those. Find the network that has the tools you want your affiliates to use, has a general “philosophy” that is in line with what you want to accomplish, and go with that. Here are 5 reasons running on multiple networks sucks.
11: Merchants who don’t work closely with their affiliate managers: In order to effectively manage an affiliate program an OPM needs to get information from the merchants. They need to know what promotions you are running, they need to know if you are going to surprise them and reverse 40% of the sales, they need to know if you open up a program on additional networks without telling them, and they need to know what you expect from them. Also, the more data you can share about the sales the affiliate channel is generating the better. It will let them see if the sales are incremental, if they are just hijacking other marketing channels, and what needs to be done to more effectively drive sales. If you don’t share information with your affiliate manager or OPM you suck.
12. Merchants who don’t value the affiliate channel: OK, if you have a poorly managed affiliate channel I can see why you might have issues. But if you hire someone experienced in the industry and someone who knows that they are doing the affiliate channel can bring great value to your business. They will be able to effectively recruit affiliates who can drive incremental sales. They know how to work with the coupon and deal sites to generate value for you. They know where to allocate resources to best benefit your bottom line. If managed properly the affiliate channel can be a great boost to any merchant’s bottom line.
13: Merchants who have idiots running their affiliate program: Idiots might be a strong word but a merchant shouldn’t just pass the affiliate program on to whoever is in the marketing or web design department. Of course traditional marketing principles come into play but experience is extremely valuable in this industry. Hire someone who knows what they are doing and don’t let an intern run your program into the ground.
14: Network managed programs: So you want to charge an exorbitant monthly fee for “management” and also tack on a percentage of the sales? Yeah, of course you wouldn’t try to work with toolbars, spammy coupon sites, browser plugins, etc. that do NOTHING other than steal sales that should be credited elsewhere. Of course you wouldn’t inflate the sales numbers like that to make a bigger commission. Of course that doesn’t create a huge conflict of interest. Jerks
15. Toolbars: Just go away and stop stealing. You say your service adds value for your users? OK, stop stealing commissions from merchants and charge your users a monthly fee to use your service. Is it really valuable to your users? If so they will pay. But they won’t. You would just die on the vine and the industry would be a better place for it.
And now a couple submissions from some other people in the industry:
Wade Tonkin: To a certain large affiliate network – you slack for YEARS and don’t improve your product until AvantLink and ShareASale are taking your lunch in terms of technology. Every time you release an “update” you screw up features that weren’t optimized in the first place in comparison to the tools we work with in other networks. Then, when we get tired of your crappy tools and overpriced support and give notice, you’re suddenly concerned with what you can do to improve the situation and want us to provide that valuable consulting for free? How about UAT testing with your “in house affiliate managers” before you dump this crap on others? Don’t miss em.
Greg Hoffman: No, I will not approve your cookie cutter coupon website, no matter how nice you ask in broken English.
Greg Hoffman: Are there any humans left at CJ?
Greg Hoffman: If you want to grow your management business, do it over there. My clients don’t need your scare tactics and bulls***.
Greg Hoffman: Your paid search violation was not an accident. Buh bye.
Stephanie Robbins: “If you are asking me to send you banners via postal, you are probably not ready for affiliate marketing” and Yelling at me with all caps via email will not change my mind to approve you into my program
Daniel M. Clark: CJ, your API is a JOKE.
More to come…
And don’t worry, there were plenty of awesome things that happened in the industry this year too. I will try to do a more upbeat post in the next week or so.
What grievances do you have in the industry this year? Leave a comment and let me know.