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  1. #1
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    Working in a vacuum
    Years ago I used to sell in a "show" format, where there were hundreds of vendors. You could easily look around at any given time and see how many customers were in the room, and whether or not they were buying. As any vendor knows, what you look for is not just quantity, but more importantly, how many people are carrying shopping bags.

    I've been selling on the web since '96 and if there's one problem I see, it's that we're working in a vacuum. That is, we can't "look around" to see how many customers are buying from other booths. Back in the old days, if I was selling and I saw my neighbors selling, then I knew that the "buying fever" had swept the room. And if I was not doing anything and I saw everyone else twiddling their thumbs, then I knew that the crowd was not yet ready (sometimes they NEVER got ready!). In those cases, I knew it wasn't just me.

    But on the web, we really don't know much about our "neighbors". Sure, some of us can pick up the phone and ask a friend if anything is happening, but in general, we don't know. If sales drop off, we wonder -- Have we lost position in Google? Is our site not loading correctly? Or is the economic meltdown making the public more cautious? (so it has nothing to do with us). We can check out sites to confirm the way they look; we can check our keyword placement in Google; we can check our visitor stats -- but if they're all ok, then what's going on? Is it the worst economic environment in decades? Or is it something else?

    Here's what I'd love to see SAS offer it's affiliates (and on a separate page, it's merchants)...

    A way for us to log into our control panel and go to a "poll" where we would click a single radio button. This poll would only be open for about the last 4 or 5 days of every month, and the questions would be:

    [1] Are your sales considerably above average for this month?
    [2] Are they slightly above average?
    [3] Are they about where you expected?
    [4] Are they slightly below where you expected?
    [5] Are they considerably below what you expected?

    The poll would register your IP and would put a cookie on your machine, so you'd only be able to answer once during that week, and the results would be anonymous in that no one's username would ever be indicated to the rest of the people viewing the poll -- only the tallied results would show.

    So using my 5 question example above, if a thousand people logged in with their feedback and the results showed that 25 people were [1]; 75 people were [2]; 200 people were [3]; 300 people were [4]; and 400 people were [5], then that would give you a good sense of where you stood in the overall sales trend for that time period (ok, it's the economy!).

    Yes, I know it's not perfect and clearly a more scientific survey could be designed, but it would be quick & easy, and with a single glance we could put our own sales (or lack thereof) in perspective.

    Just an idea, but one I hope that the SAS staff will consider, as it would be immensely helpful in these difficult economic times, and I'm sure these kind of polling programs exist pretty much off the self to make it happen.

    .

  2. #2
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aphiliac
    if a thousand people logged in with their feedback
    If the polls taken here at ABW are indicative then I doubt that you would get a good sample size. You could create an ABW poll for a test of your idea.


  3. #3
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    To be honest with you John I'm not that familiar with previous SAS polls, so don't know the success/failure history. What I'd love to see is an ongoing poll -- from month to month and year to year -- for all affiliates who are seriously pursuing this kind of online activity. Expanding it to the other networks would make it even better, so if the folks at SAS are unable to add this feature, perhaps our ABW friends would give it some consideration. The sales poll feedback would be tremendously illuminating to everyone who is wondering about the impact of the worst economy in at least 30 years, and how it is directly affecting this aspect of internet marketing.

    .

  4. #4
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    I think you can do that just comparing overall online sales, like this year vs. last year. Some real numbers. Brian posted a little something in another thread - http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=113603

    Also, I don't think polls will get you the information you're looking for. There are just so many factors, besides the economy, that will affect an affiliates income.

  5. #5
    Full Member TerriFalcone's Avatar
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    I think this is an excellent idea and as the AM of a Shareasale merchant I would love to see it implemented.
    <a href="http://www.buzzymultimedia.com/afpr.html"><font color="#FF0000">Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Affiliate Program</font></a>--<a href="http://www.shareasale.com/shareasale.cfm?merchantID=13023"><font color="#FF0000">SAS Sign-Up</font></a>
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  6. #6
    http and a telephoto
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    There are too many variables. I think it would not produce the desired results and would actually be misleading.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    There are too many variables. I think it would not produce the desired results and would actually be misleading.
    Yep. And how would you entice anyone to return month after month to post to a poll?



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  8. #8
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    And how would you entice anyone to return month after month to post to a poll?
    When I was in my former sales life -- selling in a room full of other people -- we participated in these sort of written polls at every event. The vendors were eager to do so because we all need the information, in order to put our own sales levels into perspective. About one week after the event closed, we'd get a printout in the mail showing the total number of respondents and the total percentages for each answer (good sales, poor sales, etc).

    Ideally the link to the poll would be in the SAS control panel, which I'm assuming people check on a regular basis (certainly several times a week), and thus it would be easy to respond -- there's no need to go outside the existing browser window.

    Regarding the variables, yes they exist but in a way the inclusion of a wider horizon of affiliates is actually a benefit, as it shows the impact of the economy on affiliate marketing across the boards. In othe words, breaking it down by type -- for example, "clothing", "sports equipment", "camping", etc -- is where the possibility of abuse comes in, because people may mis-report their own category in order to throw off the results.

    For example, a clothing affiliate who is doing well would not want more competition, so they might be tempted to report "much lower than expected" for their clothing category, rather than accurately saying that they are doing great (their thought being that if people saw that clothing sales were high, there would be a lot more affiliates adding those merchants, thus more competition).

    By keeping it all anonymous and by putting ALL categories into the same poll, there is no reason to mislead -- it's obviously to everyone's advantage to be honest.

    In terms of reading the poll, it is of course a matter of perspective -- if you're doing great but 66% of the rest of the people are doing poorly, then there's no need for you to tweak anything. Likewise, if you're doing terrible and so is almost everyone else, again it's not you so sit tight until the broader economic crisis starts to correct itself.

    Information empowers us to improve our positions -- lack of information keeps us in the dark. That's why every successful company in every major industry in this country participates in these sort of surveys -- they need to know.

    If information can make them more successful, it can do the same for us.

    .

  9. #9
    http and a telephoto
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    Ideally the link to the poll would be in the SAS control panel, which I'm assuming people check on a regular basis (certainly several times a week), and thus it would be easy to respond -- there's no need to go outside the existing browser window.
    Nope. The majority of affiliates don't check in on a regular basis, only when they need something. And a link in there would most likely get lost. People can't even find the Make A Page or Custom Links links without being shown.

    While this may be a good idea for offline or events, I don't think it even comes close to being valuable in the online world. There are just too many variables.

    I understand the idea, but I think there is a basic difference in how affiliates work vs how offline sales people work that makes this not usable online. But certainly Shareasale may think differently
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    If this is something that SAS would sanction (if policy allows), there would be no need for a poll. It would be just a matter of displaying statistics.



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  11. #11
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    This business is not like the other business you might have been in.

    "In terms of reading the poll, it is of course a matter of perspective -- if you're doing great but 66% of the rest of the people are doing poorly, then there's no need for you to tweak anything. Likewise, if you're doing terrible and so is almost everyone else, again it's not you so sit tight until the broader economic crisis starts to correct itself."

    If you're doing great, great. If you're doing terrible, sitting tight is the last thing I would do even if other people are doing terrible as well. It doesn't really matter how other people are doing, because it's your own business that you should be focused on. You don't need to do a poll to realize our economy is not in good shape right now and overall people aren't spending as much. There are already no shortage of stats on that.

    And this part again:
    "Likewise, if you're doing terrible and so is almost everyone else, again it's not you so sit tight until the broader economic crisis starts to correct itself."

    And you might still be doing terrible after this economic crisis because the reason you might be doing terrible might have nothing to do with the economy. The economy and people's spending habits during a bad economy is one factor out of endless factors that can affect your business.

    Your questions:

    [1] Are your sales considerably above average for this month?
    [2] Are they slightly above average?
    [3] Are they about where you expected?
    [4] Are they slightly below where you expected?
    [5] Are they considerably below what you expected?

    Would do what for me? We all have our own stats and we all know how our own businesses are doing. I look at those questions and think regardless of the outcome, what are you supposed to get out of that?

  12. #12
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    It doesn't really matter how other people are doing, because it's your own business that you should be focused on...

    ...I look at those questions and think regardless of the outcome, what are you supposed to get out of that?
    You point is well taken about the danger of being complacent -- I did not word my statement very clearly. Obviously we should always be working to improve and upgrade the presentation of our sites, no matter what the economic climate. Thanks for the clarification.

    However, the fact is, it's possible to tweak yourself to death, especially given Google's penalty structure, which could come down negatively on a siteowner who keeps adjusting their pages, in an attempt for example to get better position. Why would a siteowner over-adjust? Because they see their sales drop. Why are their sales dropping? That's the point -- WHY??

    If a person has been in this business for some time -- years, not months -- and they regularly receive a fairly steady income range, then after awhile they can assume that they've gotten their websites off the ground and thus they are more or less "established" in the SERPs and with the visitor base. Again, that's not to say that we shouldn't improve, but that person is at least achieved some steady level of $$. That's good.

    But then if for no apparent reason on anyone's part, the commissions start dropping off. Why is that? To me and perhaps to others, it would be useful to know if this is a widespread experience. If so, it tells me something important -- there are likely serious external factors that are coming into play. It may not tell you personally anything and that's fine -- we all evaluate our own information in our own ways.

    In my own case, I'm regularly checking stats -- unique visitor counts, page views, SERPs, SAS daily activity, etc -- but none of that puts my websites in perspective vis-a-vis the greater affiliate marketing community. It only tells me about me -- that's a logical place to start, but if there was a way to expand that perspective a bit, I for one would welcome it. Admittedly this particular poll suggestion is very general, but it's at least a start and that's something, given that right now absolutely nothing about the overall state-of-affairs is available for our review.

    .

  13. #13
    Visual Artist & ABW Ambassador lostdeviant's Avatar
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    Instead of a poll, I'd find a per-category comparison of sales in each merchant category (at a network level) compared to the same month of the previous year to be useful. I don't think I'd bother to log in to a poll. As Loxly said, most don't log in unless they need something. If I need something then I look for that not a poll. Then I get back to work.

    The problem of course with any report is finding anything useful. What should be compared? total sales, sales/impression, CTR, conversions? I have the same issue regarding polls. Questions and the available options really can skew results. Political parties do that frequently too.

    In the end, we must strive to improve our websites and marketing regardless of whether times are good or times are bad.

  14. #14
    http and a telephoto
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    Plus you can "statistic" yourself to death. And optimize yourself to death.

    At the end of the day, your site needs to give *visitors* what they want, and then they send other visitors, then the Search Engines find you. Being in the SERP's helps of course, however, referred traffic from your own marketing efforts will help more. And no poll is going to show you how to accomplish that.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  15. #15
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    Instead of a poll, I'd find a per-category comparison of sales in each merchant category (at a network level) compared to the same month of the previous year to be useful.
    Good suggestion -- a network level mechanism for data feedback would be a perfectly satisfactory alternative to an affiliate generated poll.

    But again, the downside to specific category reporting is it will push more people into a category that is doing well, to the detriment of those affiliates already working with those merchants.

    So speaking for myself, I'd be happy with a total trend analysis, where sales & commissions paid in ALL categories were lumped together and compared on a month by month basis, and available for viewing numerically for each month and in chart form over the course of a year.

    To be most meaningful, we'd need to know the number of affiliates & the number of merchants that were included in the calculations, which would allow the all important average $$ figure. That is to say, 10 million dollars in sales with one million in commissions spread out over 1,000 affiliates is significantly different than the same money paid out to 100. If we saw the average going down several months in a row, that would tell us that the trend is industry wide (and thus probably related to an economic downturn), and not specific to ourselves.

    .

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