Why Your Affiliate Program isn’t Working for Your Business (Part 2)
This article is written by marketing Xpert, Melissa Cocks.
This is the second post in a two-part series on Why Your Affiliate Program isn’t Working for your Business. To read the first post and fully improve your affiliate program, click here.
11. Affiliates Don’t Understand Your Product
If an affiliate doesn’t understand the value of your product or service, it’s likely they haven’t had first-hand experience with it. Either that, or it’s simply not relevant to them.
Find ways to facilitate affiliates trying your product before they promote it. Their endorsement will be much more passionate and genuine. Not only that, it makes it easier for them to create unique visual content with your product in-hand.
Selling a digital product? That’s even more reason to give your affiliates a taste of what you’re selling.
With digital products, in most cases there is no reason not to give it to your affiliates for free.
After all, the affiliates you’re inviting to your program are highly relevant influencers, right?
If you deem an affiliate worthy enough to join your program, you should also believe they’re worthy enough to have a sample of your product or at least be given a major discount on their first purchase.
Remember, this could also mean your affiliate becomes a new loyal customer.
12. You’re Not Recruiting New (and Quality) Affiliates
This really should have been closer to the top of this list of reasons why your affiliate program isn’t working, as this applies to many affiliate programs.
If you’re not actively recruiting new affiliates into your program on a regular basis, your program won’t grow.
Recruitment is one of the most difficult parts of running an affiliate program. It’s time-intensive, and it’s difficult (even for someone who is full-time).
The research that goes into finding new affiliates can be extremely tedious, and it’s even more of a letdown if they don’t take action–whether this means they don’t respond to your emails, apply to your program or even become activated.
To alleviate some of the headache down the road, choose quality over quantity. The key here is to get picky with whom reach out to. Don’t email everyone and their mother to join your program, and avoid generalized pitches. Customize them to each affiliate.
Scout out affiliates who have loyal audiences, great engagement on their platform(s) of choice, and who utilize blog posts and newsletters. They don’t necessary need gigantic followings.
Many of these “big-time” influencers likely won’t respond to your emails, because they have bigger deals that involve guaranteed paychecks (corporate sponsorships or TV shows) on their plates.
So don’t turn your nose up at someone who has a newsletter list of 5,000 highly-engaged subscribers. This could be a great opportunity to experience sales growth alongside their own growth.
13. Your Affiliates Have Little to No Traffic
If your affiliates don’t have regular traffic, you’re not going to see sales. No further explanation needed.
14. Your Affiliates are Primarily Social Media Influencers
If many of your affiliates are primarily social media influencers, this is another potential reason why your affiliate program isn’t working.
What’s a social media influencer? It’s someone who uses social media platforms as their only (or primary) channel for broadcasting content. Have you ever seen a clickable link in an Instagram caption?
And don’t forget about Facebook’s quest to push affiliate updates out of their followers’ newsfeeds. You see where I’m going with this.
15. Coupon Sites are Snagging the Last Click
Do you have RetailMeNot or other coupon affiliates (or cash-back/loyalty sites) in your program? Do they seem to be driving most of your sales?
If you’re not actively monitoring these affiliates, this is another reason why your affiliate program isn’t working.
Coupon sites are notorious for snagging the last-click attribution. This means that a hard-working blogger will send a paying customer to your site and right before they check out, the customer searches Google for your brand name + “coupon code” or “promo code.”
Then, when the customer visit the coupon affiliate’s website for the code, they require your customer to click to reveal a code. Get what’s behind that click? An affiliate link.
This qualifies them for the commission, pushing your hard-working affiliate out of the equation (unless you implement commission-splitting). If you’re reading this article in the first place, you should just remove coupon affiliates from your program. They require active monitoring and you need to establish a clear understanding with them and what they cannot do within your program.
Coupon affiliates can deplete your margins and also snag attribution from other marketing channels. In one way or another, this will become a problem for your business. And then it will fall into your lap and become your problem.
16. Sub-Affiliate Networks are in Your Program
A sub-affiliate network will join your affiliate program under a single name (for example, “Skimlinks”). Sub-affiliate networks essentially provide technology to bloggers and other publishers that automatically skims the blogger’s text and apply affiliate links to it.
This becomes problematic when a blogger or publisher is already an affiliate using your program’s affiliate links, and then a sub-affiliate applies their own affiliate links to the blogger’s site. There is the potential that you’re paying two separate affiliates for the same transaction in a way that will deplete your margins.
The other possibility here is that
If you’re unsure of how to manage these sub-affiliates, don’t allow them in your program.
Fraudulent affiliates (see #19) might also join a sub-affiliate network as a way of getting into your program if previously declined or removed.
17. Your Program Manager is a Bottleneck to Success
If you have a program manager (either in-house or outsourced) who is making it difficult for affiliates to access the tools they need to promote your brand, this is a problem.
Laziness and/or grouchiness will turn your affiliates away. Since many of your affiliates might be customers themselves, you not only might lose affiliates, but also customers. Make sure whomever is communicating with your affiliates remains approachable, responsive, friendly and helpful.
18. Your Links Are Always Breaking or Tracking is Faulty
Are your links always breaking, or is your tracking down often? This will flaw your reporting and payouts, and it will also cause your affiliates to lose trust in your program–and therefore become less active or leave.
You should be checking your affiliate platform each day to make sure there is normal activity. You should be doing this anyway, because, for instance, if there is a large spike you want to find out what awesome affiliate activity caused this, or, if the tracking is flawed (or your links are broken).
If this is an internal problem, address it with the appropriate people and put a plan in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Internal communication across departments is vital to keeping your tracking working, because that tracking pixel is living on your web pages.
So, for instance, if your engineering team makes a change to a web page and the pixel query string gets mistakenly deleted or changed, this is a problem. Similarly, if a page is deleted and not redirected, a links can break.
You should always test a few affiliate links each day just to be sure nothing has gone awry.
19. Fraudulent Affiliates Exist in Your Program
If you have your program on autopilot, or if your affiliate manager isn’t paying careful attention to your program, you run the risk of allowing fraudulent affiliates into your program.
Fraudulent affiliates will find ways to generate false transactions through their own affiliate links. Some of the ways affiliates can commit fraud through their own links are the following:
- Using stolen credit card information to place orders
- Filling out a lead form over and over again with different email addresses (a concern for affiliate programs that pay per lead or new customer)
- Ordering through their links with made-up email addresses and then returning the orders for a refund
Smart fraudsters will often test the waters with your program first by slowly making a few fraudulent transactions, and then they will ramp these up over time.
You should be reversing commissions for returned orders each month, as well as looking for abnormal levels of affiliate transactions that aren’t congruent with affiliate activity.
To combat fraudulent lead activity, you want to check the IP addresses on transactions from specific affiliates driving a ton of leads. If these IP addresses are very similar or if they’re all the same, there’s something fishy going on.
To further pinpoint fraud, look up the location of the IP addresses. If they’re coming from places that your customers definitely wouldn’t be located (and locations that are known for nefarious activity), you want to look into this.
In order to combat affiliate fraud, be picky about who you allow into your program in the first place.
A website that has little to no activity happening on their site, or one that doesn’t match what they put on their affiliate application, is suspicious. There are sometimes legitimate reasons for this, but I caution you to reach out to the affiliate before you accept them into your program.
Make sure the legalese in your affiliate program Terms & Conditions contains language about what activity is considered fraudulent or impermissible, and the rights you reserve to when an affiliate has been suspected of fraudulent activity. Ask a lawyer about this.
20. Your Product is the Problem
If you’ve genuinely tried everything on this list, you either haven’t been trying for long enough, or there’s a chance your product isn’t that great.
Either that, or there just isn’t enough demand for it (or the price isn’t right).
If your product falls within a niche that just doesn’t have that many affiliates associated with it, this also might be part of your problem. In this case, perhaps a traditional affiliate program isn’t right for you.
You can always try an ambassador program where your customers are rewarded for referring friends.
Okay, I Know Why My Affiliate Program isn’t Working. Now What?
Now that you’ve pinpointed why your affiliate program isn’t working for your business, you can go in two different directions.
- You fix your program.
- You decide to can it altogether.
This is a big decision, and you want to make sure you make the right one.
If you need help making the decision or need more information on how to approach a solution specifically for your affiliate program and business, I’m here.
Contact me via Zeqr for affiliate marketing advice specific to your business.
You will get advice about the best approach for you to take, from someone who has managed and overhauled an entire affiliate program.
This article is written by marketing Xpert, Melissa Cocks.