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  1. #1
    Newbie Rich Mann's Avatar
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    Merchant Support?
    Maybe I am just naive, but when I sign up as an affiliate with merchant partners is it unreasonable to expect a level of support from them to give their new affiliate all the tools, images, and tech support to ensure that their new partner has what they need to give the merchant products the best possible chance to perform well?

    I have signed up with merchants from CJ and LinkShare and have emailed each of the companies for the past two weeks with no response. I built a site around these products and all the links that were provided expired 12/31/07 forcing me to remove them from my site. There are no updated links and no images available from them. Anyone have any suggestions?

    I would like to post the URL to my site so you veterans can critique my site but I'm not sure if this violates the board rules.

  2. #2
    Visual Artist & ABW Ambassador lostdeviant's Avatar
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    Switch to merchants that have similar products. If a manage refuses to reply to requests for help in two weeks that is a good sign that the program is being poorly run.

    The affiliate manager could have at least sent a quick reply stating that they're looking into the problem.

    Links of course expire, but there should be new ones that you could use.

    Try to use more dynamic systems like Popshops (javascript or PHP) or the RSS/Javascript version of Avantlink's Product tool.

  3. #3
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    You can post your site in the site review forum, but be prepared for incisive, biting, but helpful, critiques.

    As to merchant support, expect very little until you have achieved some level of sales. Generally, the more successful you are with a merchant, the more interested they will be in helping you improve. Make sure that you direct your correspondence to the affiliate manager, and not just to the merchant. Also, don't rely on CJ's internal email system - many affiliate managers pay little attention to that. Send your inquires by both the network systems and regular email.

    They should certainly make some response regarding the expired link situation. Having available only expired links is totally unacceptable, and as lostdeviant said, you would be wise to look for other merchants.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  4. #4
    Newbie Rich Mann's Avatar
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    Unfortunately lostdeviant, this is a very small niche and I have a very limited merchant base. I am not familiar with Popshops or Avantlink. I am really new to all this. I am here to learn from all you Pro's.

    Is it acceptable to post my site URL here for analysis and critique?

  5. #5
    Newbie Rich Mann's Avatar
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    Thanks AffiliateHound, I can take the heat. I'm here to learn. I hope the integrity factor here is A++. This is a very small niche with a lot of competition. I'm just wanting to get a piece of the action without adding to the competition base.

  6. #6
    Visual Artist & ABW Ambassador lostdeviant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Mann
    Unfortunately lostdeviant, this is a very small niche and I have a very limited merchant base. I am not familiar with Popshops or Avantlink. I am really new to all this. I am here to learn from all you Pro's.

    Is it acceptable to post my site URL here for analysis and critique?
    You can post your site in the Site-Review Forum.

    You can do a SEARCH for popshops or go to their forum here at ABW.
    You can also do a SEARCH for Avantlink or go to their forum. Avantlink is a network. They don't use Popshops, but they have a way to add dynamic links.

    Now as far as niches go, you want to be focused enough so that you are unique, but not so focused that you will be stuck without merchants to promote. It is a tricky balance.
    Try brainstorming your sites and try to find related areas that do have merchant programs.

    Are you really sure that other affiliate programs don't exist for your niche? Check Avantlink and Shareasale, both are great affiliate networks. (both have forums here at ABW!)

  7. #7
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Avantlink is another network, as are Shareasale, Performics, and many smaller ones. For such a small niche, look for additional merchants in as many different networks as you can, and you can also search for merchants directly in SEs and check their individual sites for affiliate program info.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
    "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" -John Wooden;
    "Raj, there’s no place for truth on the internet." -Howard Wolowitz[/SIZE]

  8. #8
    Newbie Rich Mann's Avatar
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    I'll go check these out immediately. You guys are awesome. Thanks

    BTW. After looking at the review site, I don't think I'm ready to put my feeble site up for review yet as it is still in the concept stage.

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador Greg Rice's Avatar
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    I agree with the others, it is not unreasonable to expect suppport from the affiliate manager. If you contact them and they don't bother to reply, you can pretty much expect the same when you have an issue. Do you really want to work with them? You shouldn't have to be a big affiliate to get an answer, you should be treated as a partner regardless of how many sales you get with them.
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  10. #10
    Visual Artist & ABW Ambassador lostdeviant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Rice
    You shouldn't have to be a big affiliate to get an answer, you should be treated as a partner regardless of how many sales you get with them.
    It is often that help from merchants and OPMs that help us go from small affiliates to important affiliates. I've found that answers for AMs and OPMs and their willingness to give me the tools I need (like working organized datafeeds in Popshops and categorical text links) make the difference between monthly sales and being on my things-to-do-eventually list.

  11. #11
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Rice
    ...you should be treated as a partner regardless of how many sales you get with them.
    Exactly!

    I've just had a discussion on this in class with a fellow doctorate student. The class is on advanced academic study and writing, and we were discussing the criteria one should use for the inclusion (and/or exclusion) of literature in their research. While speaking of affiliate marketing, it is hard to discuss immediately related literature (as it is quite scarce). So I will probably have to look at literature written on types of marketing relationships similar to that of merchant/affiliate manager - affiliate (e.g.: car manufacturer - dealer). So, finding similar marketing paradigms for the purpose of learning from the research conducted in analogous relationships will be one of my criteria.

    Now, the fellow doctorate student I've mentioned above suggested that affliate marketing seems to share the affiliate business structure, and maybe literature written on affiliate business should be considered too.

    You're wondering where I am going with this, I know... You'll know in a second. Bear with me.

    I replied that the fact they mention "affiliate" in general business terms reflects a general misconception about affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is, in fact, very different from the traditional "affiliate business". The connotation of the "affiliate business" is almost always such of "two companies affiliated when one owns less than a majority of the voting stock of the other, or when both are subsidiaries of a third company. A subsidiary is a company of which more than 50% of the voting shares are owned by another corporation, termed the parent company. A subsidiary is always, by definition, an affiliate, but subsidiary is the preferred term when majority control exists." [source] In case with affiliate marketing, there is neither an immediate connection, nor a parent-affiliate control between the affiliate and the company the affiliate represents. In affiliate marketing, an affiliate is neither employee, nor an inferior in any way. In affiliate marketing we have a case of marketing dealings between two absolutely independent parties: a merchant (also sometimes called an 'advertiser') and an affiliate (sometimes called a 'publisher'). Affiliates can (and, in fact do!) change merchants they promote without giving the latter any prior notice. Merchants, on the other hand, can terminate their relationship with affiliates without prior notifications as well.

    It is a very interesting relationship, which in good cases lasts a lifetime (and brings literally millions of dollars in revenue to both parties), while in bad ones -- doesn't last a week... Use your freedom, Rich. When declined once, try e-mailing, explaining your promotion ideas for them (it often works). If approved, but being ignored time and again (especially after building a website for a merchant, which I would not do in the first place until you know your communication with them is a "two way street") and/or not "treated as a partner" (cf: Greg Rice above), don't even bother! Send the traffic to their competitor.

    Geno

  12. #12
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Funny you should comment on this Geno, as I as reading this post I immediately thought of 2 AMs that I contacted last week, You were one of them and responded within hours of my e-mail and also had a representative from the merchant contact me. The other AM has yet to respond on a much simpler issue. Guess who's pages are up already and who's have dropped to the bottom of the WIP list.

    Thanks for the quick response.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  13. #13
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    What use is there to preach something you don't practice?

    You're most welcome.

    Back on topic.

  14. #14
    Outsourced Program Manager Rick - Bitcom's Avatar
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    Do the research up front...
    Rich, as Geno and Greg have said there really is no excuse for this kind of unresponsiveness. It's a clue to things to come.

    Start looking around for REAL partners...

    As part of your initial niche research you probably should have analyzed your monetization potential. But it's never too late. Learn the hot keywords for your niche using the Google Keywords tool. Put those keywords into Google and see who is strong both organically and in the paid ads.

    If you see good merchants go to their sites and see if they have an affiliate program. Sign-up to their links directly. If you see good merchants that don't have programs contact them and tell them to start one. Tell them to get in touch with Geno or Greg or any of the other great OPMs here to help.

    It's great to have CJ, AvantLink, Share A Sale, and the other networks to help you but this is your business. Take it seriously and go out and find those great partners yourself. If they know how to make money online you should easily find them in the SEs. If you can't find them there then they probably aren't successful anyways.

    Before you "build a site around these products" you sure want to make sure the merchant has the promotional tools, support, and especially conversion you'll need to be successful. Don't waste your time!

    One quick way to know if a merchant is good is to see who is supporting them with PPC. If you see lots of good ads around the merchants tradename and other prime keywords you can bet they have a strong program with good ROI. If you see the same ads day after day in relatively the same position you'll know this is a merchant who is worth supporting.

    Contact them and let them know you are serious about being one of their top affiliates. The good programs will be glad to help you be successful.

    In fact, before you build a site around any merchant again find out what programs the great OPMs here are managing. That's practically a guarantee that you will get what you need and will be successful. That's how to work smart.

  15. #15
    web dev with whiskers tn-morgen's Avatar
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    I would like to contribute and share my experience. I am a "publisher" of a content site. I promote many products from many merchants - what ever fits the page. My site is more about process than product.

    So, my experience is that there are many varieties of involvement with AMs for the programs I enrolled in. Some of the AMs are really involved, some never talk to me. Some send me a monthly newsletter to bump promotions, others actually cooperate and add to my understanding of their philosophy. Some even send me articles I can put on the site! (I like those!). So - all are different.

    When I have trouble, I find out quick if the AM is on my side or blowing me off. If the AM is blowing me off, the program is replaced. I had one program I promoted heavily - had some sales and had a problem. They pulled a product I'd built several pages around (the pages were not about the actual product but it was the item that ended up getting promoted) and didn't let me know they were going to do this. I was selling it pretty well, too. So, I called & got the run around at the merchant's office. I got put on hold forever, no calls were returned, and so on. At the time, I didn't have long distance service so it was expensive to call. I got very frustrated. I pulled the item links and looked for a replacement, which I found. I didn't pull the entire program. I probably should have, but hindsight is 20/20.

    Next, they hired a new AM and that person changed the website around. The links I'd been using (many links, over 1,000) were going to change on a certain day. They did not give the new links and would not until the new webpages would go up. It was so much work for me that I dropped the program. I still don't have all the pages re-built and it's been months.

    It was an expensive lesson. I can tell you also that the programs that stepped in to pick up the slack are much better. The AMs are responsive, co-operative and helpful. I won't ever put that much on one program again, though.

    I code each page myself. I don't use the "make a page" stuff except to pull items and code. Why? Because I'm a total control freak!

    So, that's my story. Learn from it if you can.

  16. #16
    Newbie Rich Mann's Avatar
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    All of you are of course right! Fortunately I have designed the site around keywords and not a specific manufacturer or name brand product. I have already partnered with three other vendors as of this morning.

    I do have a question about putting competing products on the same site. Does this tend to weaken the relationship with the suppliers if they go to the site and see other competitors products on the same site?

  17. #17
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Mann
    I do have a question about putting competing products on the same site. Does this tend to weaken the relationship with the suppliers if they go to the site and see other competitors products on the same site?
    No. I think it reminds them that we do have alternatives.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  18. #18
    web dev with whiskers tn-morgen's Avatar
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    competing products question
    I think that as long as you dont' offer the same product from different suppliers on the same page, there is no conflict.

    If you offer "alternative sourcing" thru email, that is not quite so bad, and might help deflect unpleasantness with your visitor. You are actually servicing your customer with that. But email is not open to the world, either (or not supposed to be, anyway).

    However, to put competing offers for the same product on the same page, that's just plain cutting your own throat.

    EXAMPLES:
    (1) I have 2 programs that are on both SAS & CJ. I compared the products on both programs to the alternative in the other network. In both cases the price to the customer was lower on one network but the commission was higher. I'd make the same either way. I gave my customer the lower pricing.

    (2) I have several suppliers for the same product. I compared the pricing, commission, return days, shipping costs (yes, that is important online) and delivery timeframe for the product across all suppliers carrying the same product (except for cases where the supplier cannot be trusted - in which case they were excluded from the study anyway). I gave my customer the best of all possible worlds for the product. I hold alternatives in reserve in case of delivery problems, stock outages and other unexpected problems.

    My feeling is that the customer needs the best deal.

  19. #19
    Outsourced Program Manager Rick - Bitcom's Avatar
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    Rich I think it depends how you do it...

    If it's a review page and your reviews are honest, a page with multiple merchants can actually create more credibility for you. We have a very successful affiliate who does just that. Merchants love a good "head-to-head" battle. Especially if they think their product is better.

  20. #20
    Newbie Rich Mann's Avatar
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    I am not offering the same products from different merchants. Before I put the product out, I compare price, quality, customer service, commissions and support. I want my customers to get the best buying experience possible.

    Return customers and good PR from them are my bread and butter. Now if I could just drive traffic through I'd be set. I'm working on that.

  21. #21
    web dev with whiskers tn-morgen's Avatar
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    content, keywords and cross-links (internal and external) are what drive traffic. If you can write a good, informative article on your topic and link back to your site, you will get more traffic.

    I found 2 articles I wrote - one "off the cuff" and another with a lot of thought, drive most of my traffic. I publish a newsletter, and I have one of those "bookmark this site" boxes. I also do RSS, so all these things will drive traffic. Getting un-paid links in always helps..

    I got a link from a newspaper in Seattle in an article that had little to do with my topic, but the traffic is pretty good. About half as much as one-day uniques but nothing to sneeze at. From a single source, that's pretty good.

    I ran adwords for about 18 months, very limited, and I'm not seeing any drop in traffic since I put a hold on it last month. Content is king!

  22. #22
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rich Mann
    I do have a question about putting competing products on the same site. Does this tend to weaken the relationship with the suppliers if they go to the site and see other competitors products on the same site?
    No. I think it reminds them that we do have alternatives. -Rematt
    Exactly. Promote what and who you want as an affiliate. If a merchant (i.e. me) wants exclusivity down the road, make them pay for it with increased commission levels, etc.

    When you are signed up for the base level of an affiliate program, you owe that vendor nothing.
    Kevin Webster
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  23. #23
    web dev with whiskers tn-morgen's Avatar
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    I Like your thinking!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Mann
    I am not offering the same products from different merchants. Before I put the product out, I compare price, quality, customer service, commissions and support. I want my customers to get the best buying experience possible.
    I agree totally, why not brand your own site by giving a benefit to your users.

  25. #25
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    I haven't read the whole thread yet, but this caught my eye:
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Mann
    Thanks AffiliateHound, I can take the heat. I'm here to learn. I hope the integrity factor here is A++. This is a very small niche with a lot of competition. I'm just wanting to get a piece of the action without adding to the competition base.
    The integrity of our regular posters is, from what can be discerned, fine.

    But remember that there are over 40 THOUSAND people registered here, most of whom are *not* well known in the community--and, this forum is open to viewing by unregistered people, too. In other words, this is a virtual city.

    So like in any city, keep your doors locked on anything you'd mind being used. And a Hot Niche...keep it to yourself for sure. This isn't like a question of *site* theft--copying sites is always unacceptable (but still has happened on occasion). A niche is more or less just "there" rather than being a product of an individual's creativity and/or skill.

    So it's quite debatable whether it'd be unethical to jump on a niche after it's been willfully posted onto an open forum. That'd be kind of like playing a catchy tune over the radio and expecting nobody else to sing along
    Last edited by Leader; January 22nd, 2008 at 11:13 PM.

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