Some of you may be confused at first by the connection of the following points with affiliate marketing. However, affiliate marketing is (or should be) constructed and confined within a relationship. That relationship can exist between you and one other person, or between your company and thousands (or millions) of people.
However, the base foundation for what we do in this business is the factor of relationship. In particular, if you are an affiliate manager, how well do you know your community?
One of my personal heroes (I’m sure she hates that title… oh well) is Tara Hunt. Summing up Tara’s career is close to blasphemy since she’s been involved and instrumental in so many things, but to be succinct, she is formerly with Riya, currently with Citizen Agency and instrumental in such post-Cluetrain movements as Pinko Marketing (of which I’ve been tagged as a member according to Shawn, Wayne, Lisa, Jim, Carsten, Linda Buquet and numerous others at the Summit).
Tara is contributing to the The Future of Communities Blog, which is a companion community blog (similar to ReveNews) to the upcoming Community 2.0 Conference to be held March 11-14 in Las Vegas this year. She raises a few incredibly interesting points in her first post, which I feel are particularly signficant for affiliate marketing (especially for affiliate managers)…
Personally, I think Community has turned into a garish buzzword, leading hungry marketers by the snoot down a new path of public/commercial boundaries being crossed. The outlandish ad budgets of yesteryear aren’t producing the same back-patting kudos and are looking more like cultural pollution than future award winning art direction. Word of mouth, itself, turns out the same reactions as those clever viral campaigns: an eyeroll at best. Marketers, desperate to keep their Madison Avenue jobs and yearly jaunts to Sundance, are finally ready to “take the precious time needed” to build a community behind their brands.
But we aren’t. We are marketers. Would we give a flying snake about Shari’s kitty photos if we didn’t want to sell her a new car? Would we hang around MMORPG’s all day long waiting for a customer to walk into our lame store ’cause we enjoy it? No. And no…I don’t know the majority of the people on this list, and I’m sure you are all well-meaning wonderful people, but I do know that we are all marketers. We are paid to help our clients sell stuff. And the more we tiptoe around that fact, the more dishonest this industry becomes.
Agree? I do. Affiliate marketing, in particular stands at the crossroads of having to decide whether it will continue to be a community/relationship based model of marketing and advertising or whether it will follow the path of lead generation and pure performance automation. It is a difficult choice depending which lens you (or your employer) chooses to look through. The key is that you do have a choice, and the immediate ROI lens may not always be the best choice for your program.
Tara goes on to write something that every affiliate manager needs to read, memorize and hold close to their heart…
I know that somewhere inside our desires to prove the ROI on community to our eager clients, we know the answer. It’s pretty simple. It’s where we as humans start and customers / consumers / users / community-members / call-us-what-you-will end. We can and will reach deep inside of that part of ourselves (which we are first and foremost) and empathize with the fact that entering someone else’s personal experiences and trying to sell them something is uncool. We have to be willing to lose ourselves to the community. We need to become community advocates. We need to reverse the line of communication and bring word back to our bosses and our clients that their products are hurting the environment, exploiting labor, not acceptable to be tested on animals, falling apart, causing addiction, causing health issues, hurting our children, driving us further apart, etc. We need to protectively bring the soul of the community back INTO the organization and change things…not collectively go out, infiltrate and sell things.
Yes, there is a changing role for marketers. I believe in the future, we don’t work for brands and companies, we work for customers.
Imagine an affiliate program with an affiliate manager that took that seriously. There are a few that do, and I imagine in just a few years there will be dozens more.
What are you doing for your community today?
Leave a comment here or over at Tara’s blog and share your point of view…