When Your Affiliate Program Doesn’t Take Off…

bridge-out.gifShawn Collins has posted an interesting piece on AffiliateTip based on a question he received regarding the appropriate time to fold your affiliate program if it’s not working.

Here’s the question…

Ask Shawn Collins: Time to Close the Affiliate Program

After three months, my company’s CEO is getting ancy regarding our affiliate campaign. We’re a somewhat niched market and we’ve had an account with Commission Junction that has so far yielded very little activity and even fewer sales. At what point should we simply pull the plug on our affiliate campaign?

Shawn writes that 3-6 months time should be sufficient to determine if a new affiliate program will gain momentum, if it is proactively managed. That proactively managed part is the key. If you don’t have someone competent, dedicated and even zealous about getting your program off the ground, then chances are your program is going to need far longer than 3-6 months to take off (if it ever does).

Then Shawn throws out three (in my opinion) great points:

  • I would recommend running your affiliate program with three ongoing directives: recruit, activate, and retain affiliates.
  • It’s essential that you recruit affiliates into your affiliate program, have a process in place to activate them, and then work to retain them.
  • Affiliate marketing isn’t like other marketing channels. Money alone cannot power it – you need to focus on the relationships of your affiliates, too.

Networks and merchants do a horrible job at retaining affiliates. For the most part, I think most networks and merchants have figured out the activation part since that part of the paradigm relies mostly on affiliate action. However, retaining affiliates requires skill, finese and tenacity not often seen in networks or merchant programs.

The most important point is that affiliate marketing performance is not based on how much money you throw at your program. That’s why this is an often frustrating and slippery business. As Jeff Doak cited in the last Weekly Insight podcast with Jeff Molander, Cingular spent around $1 BILLION on brand advertising last year. Even if they threw 1/100 of that at affiliate marketing, it wouldn’t suggest a successful program. You can’t quantify relationship and that’s something big brands are just realizing with the emergence of social media.

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