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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager MikeVillar's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Recruitment Strategies for In-house Affiliate Programs
    Just wanted to pick your wonderful brains here guys: Now, I've had experience launching affiliate programs on the major affiliate networks and, as far as recruitment would go, those were walks in the park: Your program gets listed in the network's "new affiliate programs" sections, you have an account manager working with you to recruit affiliates and of course there are those publishers who casually apply to your program after finding it in the merchant list.

    Now here's my question: I partnered recently with Direct Track for an Affiliate Program I work with (Management's decision) and I was wondering, aside from placing the signup link on your site's affiliate page and personally getting in touch with affiliates, how do you go about recruiting publishers for your new in-house program?

    Thanks guys!

  2. #2
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Affiliate recruiting is like throwing a party --- you set out the snacks (commissions and cookie durations) and goodies (tools like feeds, keywords etc), drinks, and entertainment and just wait for them to come. BUTthey will only come after you've properly made them aware of the party.

    The failure of the many managers is that they don't properly bang the drum to get the party going and long term wise many stop banging the drum to keep the party growing and going and you get stagnation. When that happens they think the answer is to open multiple tacking platforms, which yes will work if it's announced correctly, but once again many fall into the stopping of the drum banging again.

    Bottom Line - If your offer is good, they'll find you - that is -- if they know it's there, do that well and your program will do well.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  3. #3
    Affiliate Manager David S.'s Avatar
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    I've had experience w both and it's definitely much easier when your program is in an affiliate network.

    One in-house recruitment tip I can give you is to check out who is promoting your competitors successfully. An easy way to do this is type in link: yourcompetitor.com into a search engine and look through the results. You should be able to find some good prospects and maybe even a couple ideas for other verticals to recruit in that you haven't thought of.

    I know this can be rather time consuming and kinda sucks. You might also want to list your program at some affiliate program directories like affiliatefirst.com. Hope this helps, good luck!

  4. #4
    Affiliate Manager MikeVillar's Avatar
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    @haiko Do I sense some sort of aversion towards merchants who have programs on different networks/platforms?

    @David, problem is the program I launched in house is the same exact one I succesfully launched on CJ, LS, LC, GAN, and SaS. The intention was to 'broaden' our program's distribution channel but, then again, what are the chances of an affiliate whom I am going to target for recruitment, 'manually', if I may not already being in the aforementioned networks?

  5. #5
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Mike,

    Absolutely! There is no need to have multiple cross network programs - to me it screams volumes to me. Ideally I'd suggest one network and an inhouse (only for higher payouts and tracking issues). Once you go beyond that it you can't control the network quality, nor can any affiliate really trust your tracking because of it. Toolbar on network A overwriting your inhouse link or non parasitic network link or a multiple cookied TY page that doesn't show the right cookie or worse multiple one so you dedup the wrong aff ... there are a multitude of issues.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  6. #6
    Affiliate Manager MikeVillar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haiko de Poel, Jr.
    Mike,

    Absolutely! There is no need to have multiple cross network programs - to me it screams volumes to me. Ideally I'd suggest one network and an inhouse (only for higher payouts and tracking issues). Once you go beyond that it you can't control the network quality, nor can any affiliate really trust your tracking because of it. Toolbar on network A overwriting your inhouse link or non parasitic network link or a multiple cookied TY page that doesn't show the right cookie or worse multiple one so you dedup the wrong aff ... there are a multitude of issues.
    Interesting. Thanks for the feedback. I've actually engineered the tracking pixel-firing in such a way that it's "conditional" meaning our confirmation page only fires the appropriate tracking pixel for the network who referred the traffic. I do this by forcing unique variables to the URL strings post redirection from affiliate networks. So I guess overwrites, etc. Isn't really an issue.

    Im curious though, what do you think of merchants promoting different "brands" via programs on multiple networks? Say for instance: An auto parts merchant who promotes a site called "XBY Auto Parts" on CJ and "CBB Auto Parts" on LS. Note: It's the same merchant, just using a different site/brand for new programs.

    Is this better? More acceptable?

  7. #7
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    If you are on more that one network I would not consider working with your program. Why? For the reasons Haiko listed. There is enough "crap" going on in the tracking of multiple networks that I would steer clear. There are plenty of more trustworthy competitors out there.
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  8. #8
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Mike actually the redirects only protect against dups, they in NO way protect against toolbars, unscrupulous affiliates that one network allows, nor instills any affiliate confidence because as I said there is NO way to ensure nor much less maintain any level of network Quality.

    As for the ME2 offerings -- what's the purpose of that? Affs know what it is as do the SEs also. Plus I can't understand why you'd want to dilute down to smaller brands on multiple networks instead of just one powerhouse. Makes ZERO sense.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager David S.'s Avatar
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    @David, problem is the program I launched in house is the same exact one I succesfully launched on CJ, LS, LC, GAN, and SaS. The intention was to 'broaden' our program's distribution channel but, then again, what are the chances of an affiliate whom I am going to target for recruitment, 'manually', if I may not already being in the aforementioned networks?
    Oh, I see. Yeah, it's probably much easier when you already have a base of affiliates, I was starting completely from scratch.

  10. #10
    Affiliate Manager MikeVillar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haiko de Poel, Jr.
    Mike actually the redirects only protect against dups, they in NO way protect against toolbars, unscrupulous affiliates that one network allows, nor instills any affiliate confidence because as I said there is NO way to ensure nor much less maintain any level of network Quality.

    As for the ME2 offerings -- what's the purpose of that? Affs know what it is as do the SEs also. Plus I can't understand why you'd want to dilute down to smaller brands on multiple networks instead of just one powerhouse. Makes ZERO sense.
    Got your first point.

    The reason why I think different sites/brands on different networks makes sense is that I get to tap into the publishers in network 2 who aren't in network 1.

  11. #11
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Applesauce!

    All real affiliates are in all networks and if they aren't they will join if your program is a winner. There is no incremental recruiting that is done by having a cross network multiple name program, that's just Duplicity and network pork.

    Your wasting network fees and effort, build one brand, on one network that affs trust and then if you have to open inhouse to offer higher coms and make everyone knwo that your program is there and why it's the best. That's textbook on how to recruit many high quality producing affiliates, lean and effective wise - no smoke, no fluff and no question of impetus nor integrity or quality.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  12. #12
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    Haiko wrote (in part): > "All real affiliates are in all networks and if they aren't they will join if your program is a winner." <

    Applesauce, indeed! I'm afraid that Haiko is wrong.

    There are some very respectable merchants who have chosen to use LinkShare, Kowabunga, or PepperJam. While most of the most active and most successful affiliates work with those networks (some holding their noses while doing so), many do not.

    I won't work with LinkShare, Kowabunga, or PepperJam.

    I dropped my most profitable affiliate relationship when the merchant switched to a network I didn't work with. Although that merchant now offers programs through three different networks (one of which I like), I haven't yet tried to rebuild my relationship with them.

    Affiliate attitudes change over time, of course. A few years ago, I reluctantly worked with CJ, but then decided to stop. A couple of years ago, I tried to work with Performics but found the experience unpleasant and I quickly terminated that relationship. Last year, I decided to rejoin those two networks and include some of their merchants in my current project (though my project is still "in process," and thus I have generated only nominal sales through CJ, and none through Performics/GAN).

    Despite the fact that some affiliates do refuse to work with some networks, I absolutely agree that working with multiple networks is a huge problem for many (probably most) merchants who do so, and it adds at least one extra layer of complication along with many opportnities for disputes.

    There may actually be more affiliates who refuse to work with "multi-network" merchants than who refuse to work with a particular network! If so, you might actually lose more business than you gain by joining the second network! (Of course, the best option is to seek out and use the best, most ethical network -- but that won't be one of the "top three" networks owned by publicly-traded companies.)

    In general, if a merchant finds it necessary to offer more than one option, the better choice is a single network plus an in-house program. I strongly recommend AGAINST using multiple networks, unless there are compelling reasons. For merchants who do choose to work with multiple networks, it is often wise to offer only one as a "public" affiliate program, and offer a private program through a second network for the handful of affiliates who won't work with the first network you've chosen.

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    only a teeny affiliate but will definitely agree with Haiko and Bill Seems many merchants do work with more than one network (and reason being am starting to think or realize is so they can have the bad characters in one and not in the other network ) and some of us affiliates even belong to more than one network for a particular program. (one might offer free of 4th click at GoldenCan, easier way to make product links at the other, etc.)

    but......definitely trust a program waaaaaaay more if they're only in one network and definitely prefer it to be a parasites, toolbar and the rest of that stuff free network. And......definitely think those affiliates who the parasites, etc. stuff is an important issue for em will be much more eager to promote and work harder at those affiliate programs that do that. As I said tho, just a teeny affiliate so can't speak for any of the big fellas.

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador Greg Rice's Avatar
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    I currently have 3 programs that run on 2 networks (SAS and CJ) and I can say there is an advantage. Sure too many networks is overkilll but not everyone is on all networks. There are affiliates who won't touch CJ and there are affiliates who won't touch SAS.

    You can't control network quality but if you're doing your job the low-lifes and thieves won't get in or stay in long. If the AM is on the ball and doing their job properly, they could run on 5 networks and still be clean. You can be on one network and have every piece of crap toolbar pusher in your program. With over 36,000 affiliates in our programs I can't guarantee the bad players aren't in there somewhere but, if they are, they aren't getting clicks or getting sales. The exception is MagsForLess, which we just took on, but housecleaning is on the to-do list. Those networks with lower standards are more work but who gets into the affiliate program is up to the AM and not the network.
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  15. #15
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    hmm, ok shoulda added a note or somethin with my post. Who is managing a program definitely makes a huge difference. Least to me it does. Agree, if for whatever reason ya have a good affiliate manager it won't matter how many networks is on, will still trust that program.

    For most part tho.....unfortunately am gettin to the point where are a bunch of affiliate managers I don't necessarily trust any longer and they have programs on multiple networks. So, generally speaking, prefer a program on just one network.

  16. #16
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    I won't work with LinkShare, Kowabunga, or PepperJam.
    I didn't say that all affiliates work with all the networks, I said all real affiliates are (or in your case "were") members of all the major networks.

    Additionally, he isn't asking which network or why certain affs work with X network or Y he's asking why doesn't the be on 18 networks with the same stuff diff name mentality work. I'm glad you did see that not so subtle difference when you agreed that ...
    "the better choice is a single network plus an in-house program."
    ... as was the message I was conveying as well.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  17. #17
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    Recruiting for In-House Affiliate Program
    As far as the original question Haiko is right on the money. In fact, I took some notes. The only thing I'd add is to ramp up conversion early, even before you start promoting.

    While you won't have network stats (or you might because you said you I think you are saying you cross multiple networks) -- but even for an in-house program, strong conversion rates get affiliates talking.

    You could throw that party once a month. Hunting out affiliates already with offers around your program, inviting them to attend a call or workshop works too.

    I've received invitations in the mail to join programs, I at least checked them out, joined a few. For my program I send emails and postcards to businesses in my field who already reach my target buyer, I introduce affiliate marketing and invite them on board.

    Sincerely,

    Justin
    Always interested in great B2B affiliate programs that serve Sales and Marketing professionals. Private message if you have something.

  18. #18
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    So far I've joined quite a few in-house programs merchants offer, a few that have done great and a few that quite frankly were terrible. If you want to pull affiliates in house, here's my thinking on how to go about it:

    First, look for the top performers. Who is generating the highest quality sales/leads for you. Make a short list of affiliates you want to approach directly about your in-house program (even if it is a different offer than what you have on the networks).

    Second, figure out what you have to offer them that is better than the network. Is it the ability to place their own pixel? Real-time tracking over the networks delayed tracking? Better payouts? More advanced links or lead forms? Make a list of why they should work direct.

    Third, approach the affiliates you've identified. Some will be interested and some won't. Show them what you have to offer in a direct relationship as opposed to a network based one and then let them decide. Don't hard sell them - if they want to go direct, they'll tell you.

    Fourth, deliver on the promises. This kind of goes without saying but it seriously can be a problem. I left my second largest merchant and went back to CJ because after all was said and done, the time and headache was not worth a 40% boost in commission.

    Hope this helps and good luck!

  19. #19
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    Advertising your inhouse affilaite program
    Quote Originally Posted by Haiko de Poel, Jr.
    Affiliate recruiting is like throwing a party --- you set out the snacks (commissions and cookie durations) and goodies (tools like feeds, keywords etc), drinks, and entertainment and just wait for them to come. BUTthey will only come after you've properly made them aware of the party.

    The failure of the many managers is that they don't properly bang the drum to get the party going and long term wise many stop banging the drum to keep the party growing and going and you get stagnation. When that happens they think the answer is to open multiple tacking platforms, which yes will work if it's announced correctly, but once again many fall into the stopping of the drum banging again.

    Bottom Line - If your offer is good, they'll find you - that is -- if they know it's there, do that well and your program will do well.

    Hi, please could you enlist
    - some websites where advertising for your inhouse program is a sure thing
    - affiliate directories, wherein listing is a must.

    Also, some other ways to promote your inhouse program.

  20. #20
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    As an affiliate, I've never looked in an affiliate directory.

    I can only think of SEVEN places I've ever learned about affiliate programs, roughly in order of most significant.

    1) Browsing or searching the list of merchants on my favorite networks.
    2) Seeing a merchant listed on another affiliate's web site and checking to see what network they are on (or if they have an indie program).
    3) Finding them here on ABW, often because they're managed by one of my favorite OPMs.
    4) Meeting the affiliate manager at Affiliate Summit or one of the network-specific conventions.
    5) From visiting the merchant site, thinking they would be a good match for my site, and looking to see if they have an affiliate program (often they will have an "Affiliates" link in the footer of their home page).
    6) From Revenue magazine.
    7) From an email that the affiliate manager sent to me. (It usually has to be pretty targeted - I get hundreds of these every week.)

    Maybe some other affiliates or affiliate managers might have other things to add.
    Michael Coley
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  21. #21
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    Here's your problem: It's YOU versus the world in a era when there are NO SURE THINGS. [political comment removed]

    Most affiliate programs are a of WASTE money and more importantly TIME. As an affiliate I prefer some networks over others, but it depends pretty much on just one thing: DOES The Landing page convert.

    What I WANT to promote your program, not just join it, is a landing page that is proven to convert. That means you have tested it yourself and if I send some traffic to it, I see a sale or two or three like right now - and there are NO BS leaks.

    I personally like the Direct Track program but it is also expensive to run since Digital River is not in the charity businesss ... and althrough they use it themselves DT is one of their cash cows. The downside is that once you start with it, it is hard to change.
    You can network hop easier.

    But the key to any affiliate program is the relationship you make with the affiliates. With an INDY program you have to 'bang the drum' alot. DT gives you the tools. It's called CPM ... You can buy banner impressions for cheap all over the net. Advertise your AF program on a CPM basis or slotting fee by buying some.

    If I were using DT, I would have a CPM affiliate program ... it would be used for promoting my affiliate program. In this way you get BRANDING for your business and exposure to your affiliate program.

    You also might build a two tier program ... one to get affiliates ... one to sell. CJ used to have a second tier program where you got something like 5% of the revenue of any affiliate you helped to recruit. It was profitable more or less, since it was an easy sale. You helped sign up 10 affiliates, you usually got about a $1 a day in second tier money and if you referred 100, you could make some good money.

    As for network reach ... it's all BS ... there is only Google and 85% of all traffic comes from there, one way or the other. It's not that there are no other traffic sources but that they are a WASTE of time.

    In real terms, most affiliate programs do not sell much of anything in terms of numbers of sales ... yet some do 1,000 plus orders per day. Depends of what you have to sell and if people want it. In most cases, the merchant would make more money just buying PPC traffic from Google instead of paying network fees and wages to some affiliate manager.

    It's hard to compete with Amazon for any merchant ... Amazon has history on their side. And sure you can make a few bucks doing it differently. But if you are not making a $20,000 PROFIT per month, you won't be around long enough to grow.

    It's ain't easy being GREEN is the wild west of the internet.
    Last edited by Merchant Consultant Team; November 25th, 2009 at 08:58 AM.

  22. #22
    Member eSilverBullet's Avatar
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    Having read through this thread, I'm seeing some interesting tidbits that I'd like to summarize:

    1) The relationship between a single publisher and single advertiser is key and may be stronger than one's network preference, multiple network aversion or in-house program.
    2) Promoting a program successfully isn't easy, whether you run through a network or do it in-house.
    3) Either through a network or directly, publishers spend a lot of time trying to find the right offers (and convincing advertisers to work with them), and advertisers spend a lot of time trying to find the right publishers and convincing them to run the offers.

    The common thread I see running through these points is relationship management, both from a prospecting as well as customer-management standpoint. If managing these relationships is so critical, it seems to me that the successful advertisers and publishers have better tools to manage those relationships.

    That tells me that:

    1) the systems people are using don't work well for managing these relationships, or
    2) the systems have the tools, but people aren't using them, which is that is the case, begs the question why they aren't using them.

    Anybody have any thoughts on that? When I read that Michael gets hundreds of unsolicited offers a week and Greg has to wade through 36,000 affiliates, it seems a pretty daunting task to be efficient in this market.

  23. #23
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    Affiliate/Merchant Relationship Management
    Silver Bullet wrote (in part):
    The common thread I see running through these points is relationship management, both from a prospecting as well as customer-management standpoint. If managing these relationships is so critical, it seems to me that the successful advertisers and publishers have better tools to manage those relationships.

    That tells me that:

    1) the systems people are using don't work well for managing these relationships, or
    2) the systems have the tools, but people aren't using them, which is that is the case, begs the question why they aren't using them.

    Anybody have any thoughts on that? When I read that Michael gets hundreds of unsolicited offers a week and Greg has to wade through 36,000 affiliates, it seems a pretty daunting task to be efficient in this market.
    Spot on!

    Merchants need meaningful "publisher relationship management" tools (which we'd expect the networks to provide).

    But it's also critical for publishers (affiliates) to have meaningful "merchant relationship management" tools. (I've discussed this before, in this thread.)


    I estimate that their are about 50,000 merchants offering affiliate programs, including programs through affiliate networks as well as "in-house" programs (and including"private" or invitation-only programs).

    Depending on the niche, a typical "traditional web publisher" focused on a niche audience might consider creating advertising relationships with several dozen or several hundred merchants, and might have active relationships with a handful or a few dozen. ("Price comparison engines" might seek to have active relationships with several thousand merchants).

    What are some common "relationship tracking" problems, once a web publisher has chosen to create a relationship with a particular merchant?
    - Merchant's program goes "offline" or "deactivated," requiring disabling of ads and links that no longer work;
    - Merchant's program is discovered to not be tracking properly, requiring disabling of ads and links that no longer work;
    - Merchant's links may become misdirected or cease to work properly (e.g. 404 errors, or product links being redirected to home page);
    - Merchant changes program rules and policies (PPC rules, inclusion of keywords in headers and meta tags, use of trademarks, etc.);
    - Merchant maintains products in datafeed which are out-of-stock.
    - Merchant's conversion rate changes dramatically (often due to site-design changes).

    In my "datafeed project, merchant management was a critical component, but I never fully documented the functional requirements, which I now recognize was one of many critical mistakes I made.

    Acquiring and maintaining "data about merchants" is critical for publishers to decide which merchants to include or exclude in particular advertising placements. Some of that data (network or publisher EPC for the merchant, conversion rate, last transaction date, and of course datafeeds) can be automated. Some of the data is quite "personal" to each publisher (e.g. the publisher might decide that she wants to promote one group of products but not another from a specific merchant). And each publisher may have different criteria for including or excluding merchants (for example, I won't link to any merchant who doesn't have an "About Us," "Contact Us," and "Privacy Policy" links on all pages, and this is part of my initial merchant-review process -- but without an automated tool I can't know when my existing merchants remove those links).

    I'm not aware of any existing "affiliate tools" that even try to manage any aspects of these relationships, apart from removing merchants whose data proves to be grossly unreliable or who are defunct.

    Probably the most "basic" functionality I would like from any "affiliate tool" is the ability to detect whether I have an active relationship with a particular merchant, and not to display links if I don't have an active relationship with the merchant. Next in line would be the ability to automatically disable links to merchants who are "temporarily offline" or "de-activated" -- and to automatically re-enable those links when the merchant's status improves).

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