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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager
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    Merchant Trying to Decide between: Pepperjam, Avantlink, Buy.at, ShareaSale
    Okay, thanks for replying to my intro thread and giving some pointers for companies to look into, and I have, and here are my thoughts on them... I am still unsure, and still leaning towards Pepperjam... as I talk about more below our critical requirement really is help and management of our program...


    Shareasale.com 5/10 – Looks simple to setup, but again, limited management of program from them.
    - x 20% transaction fees! Seems High!?(Pay shareasale 20% of everything we pay to affiliates)
    - x Looks to be limited options for them managing the program for you – possibly a lot of admin for us to do with this program, as well as getting all creatives made elsewhere.
    - Can pay a % (can we do this with any system?)
    - Simple system for joining, and getting started quickly – same day.


    Avantlink: 3/10 – looks professional but we just dont currently have the ability to manage the affilaite program full time ourselves and would need some help.

    - Advanced product level campaigns as standard (do other networks have this commonly?)
    - Very simple, direct and professional approach
    - They like / want webstores in niches which is what we are.
    - x Affiliates have to do full program management – One of their requirements is that merchants have someone who is “dedicated as an affiliate program manager” and at the minute we don't have the time or resources to do this as a full time job, we would need some management help from somewhere else
    - x Have to make all the creatives ourselves.

    Buy.at 4/10 – focussed on UK market and UK companies, and again no mention of program management,
    - x Seem to be focussed for UK companies (?) and we deal internationally, and mainly in America.
    - x No mention of full account management
    - Down to earth style

    After looking at a few of the above they generally seem fine, professional, and I do, just like everyone else – buy on recommendation, but after reading around this forum for the last few days I think the main, and critical feature we need is support and actual management of the program as currently we do not have the time and resources to fully manage the program ourselves as a full time job...

    … which is why I have come back to the Pepperjam network... their site seems really focussed around the issue of strong program management, actively growing your program for you, promoting you within their site, writing newsletters and dealing with queries from affiliates and potential affiliates...


    Pepperjam 7?/10 – purely for their claimed program management
    - Sound like they have the affiliate program management we are looking for.
    - Affiliate recruitment sounds good, although is this just fluff? We will obviously recruit affiliates ourselves too.
    - Good creative design service for banners etc
    - Store builder to build dynamic pages for affiliates sounds interesting
    - Growing company
    - ? Lack of quality affiliates? - People on this forum seem to not want to work with them...
    - X The mystery of why people don't like them:

    ...I have been trying to find some “dirt” on Pepperjam from the archives and searching the forum, but all I can really find are suggestions that there are “unethical” affiliates on Pepperjam.. in greater numbers than you get on others (?). I would love it if anyone can enlighten me or point me to the autoratitive post on here about why Pepperjam is so bad.. But if all it is really is that the affiliates trade on your brand name this isn't something we would even really mind, but if there is more risk of fraud then this is obviously a different matter...

    We are still interested in Market Leverage and Neverblue Ads, but Pepperjams program management just seems better...

    Thanks for all your time and help so far, I am learning a lot - Oh, I hope this is posted in the right area... I couldn't see a forum especially for questions from Merchants..

  2. #2
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    Hire an aff. manager (or an OPM) and sign up with Avantlink, Shareasale or Buy.at

    Do not sign up with Pepperjam. Lots of threads on here as to why

  3. #3
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Have you actually "talked" with any of your possibilities? For example, buy.at may seem to be UK focused (that' where they started), but now have real offices in the US and are building a great US presence. Talk to them.

    ShareASale used to offer Affiliate Management services. Don't know if they still do, but am sure they can help get you started.

    AvantLink has some awesome aff tools that will help get your product datafeed online. May also offer other help. Ask them.

    Talk to PJ and you will hear how saintly they are. But keep in mind that if you go with them there are many members here who won't even look at your program. For (your) example - if there are unethical affs in the PJ program what does that say about the management? ('nuff said)

    Have you considered hiring an OPM (Outsourced Program Manager) to help you get rolling? There are many fine ones here at ABW.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    The purpose of networks is not to manage your affiliate program. No matter which network you go with, management of your program and your affiliates is up to you. Networks facilitate tracking, payment and program listings - the framework that carries your program. If your company does not have a program manager you can hire an OPM. Outsourced Program Managers are generally happy to provide you with free information, there are a large number of professional OPMs here at ABW, visit http://forum.abestweb.com/forumdisplay.php?f=236

    If you haven't read enough about PJ yet, go to http://forum.abestweb.com/forumdisplay.php?f=480 and see why they generate so much negativity.

    There is no auto-pilot network, but there are many programs that think the network is managing their programs. They fail at a far higher rate than professionally managed programs. Long term affiliates seek out well managed programs because they know that their efforts to promote these programs will be rewarded. The same way, most knowledgeable affiliates will avoid a poorly managed program because their best efforts will likely be met by a "Program Closing" email just about the time they expect ROI to move to the positive column.

    You can count on the most abusive types of affiliates finding these poorly managed programs, they are drawn like flies to carrion, to help speed the decomposition.
    Last edited by 2busy; May 5th, 2009 at 08:36 AM. Reason: Added OPM Forum link

  5. #5
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    I'd certainly contact all four firms in person to review what they offer and also as a test of the customer service, why work with a firm that doesn't reply to you.

    In terms of fees you'll find all of them have nearly the same fee structure of 20 to 30% of affiliate pay out, which comes down to a fraction of what you pay your affiliate partners.

    Cheers

    Chris
    Affiliate Marketing by AMWSO. Skype - chrissanderson ::: TEL 1-720-336-1784 ::: www.amwso.net
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  6. #6
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    Have you considered hiring an OPM (Outsourced Program Manager) to help you get rolling? There are many fine ones here at ABW.
    I second what Bill and others said. Why go into a strange jungle without a guide? If you feel like you don't need the OPM a year later then you can change, but get a good start.

    Pick an OPM that likes AvantLink and SAS. Find one that posts and has a reputation on ABW and you will get some affiliates right away. PepperJam is one that I'm forming my own opinion on and without saying too much they are good at tooting there own horn. They won't take the place of a good in house affiliate manager or OPM. They have there interests an you have yours. Not always the same.


  7. #7
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    Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, okay, well I guess Pepperjam are out! I'm not really too interested in the specifics, but if that's how their managers behave on a forum and the higher management are okay with that then that isn't really a business I'd be keen to deal with.

    I will start looking into an OPM, it sounds like one could be useful, but to be honest I was hoping to start up the affiliate program without too much upfront cost initially, perhaps with a view to invest more in it once it starts being profitable and justifiable to bring a manager in or something, we have networked a lot within the personal development niche and have "apparantly" 100-200 people who have expressed an interest in promoting us.... but I guess it is unlikely that these people are experienced affiliate marketers or "super affiliates"..

    Back to the reading and research I guess, and of course I will be calling my final choice companies with a list of questions and information about our business to see who is really best for us

  8. #8
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Subliminal
    I will start looking into an OPM, it sounds like one could be useful, but to be honest I was hoping to start up the affiliate program without too much upfront cost initially, perhaps with a view to invest more in it once it starts being profitable and justifiable to bring a manager in or something, ...
    That is an absolutely backwards approach. You need the OPM at the beginning to get off to that good start. Screw it up yourself at the start and the harm will be irreparable and insurmountable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Subliminal
    Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, okay, well I guess Pepperjam are out! I'm not really too interested in the specifics, but if that's how their managers behave on a forum and the higher management are okay with that then that isn't really a business I'd be keen to deal with.
    Good decision, but you should be aware that those who posted include the "higher management".
    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]

  9. #9
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    I'll echo what everyone is saying here: if your concern is how your affiliate program will be managed, then start by searching for the best manager or management team for your affiliate program. Don't start by trying to decide which affiliate network or technology to use; that's "putting the cart before the horse."

    I strongly recommend against relying on your affiliate network's staff to manage your affiliate program. One clear reason is that the network's goal is to maximize its profits, not your profits, and they may make decisions that aren't in your best interest (for example, some networks actually invite parasitic toolbar affiliates, because network profits are increased by "poaching" non-referred transactions). Of course, some OPMs might do the same things.

    I used to do "affiliate program startup" consulting (from 1996 to 2007), and because I never sought long-term work for a single firm, I could provide relatively objective, unbiased advice to merchants. Today, you should consider hiring one (or more) of the "outsourced program managers" (OPMs) who participate in this forum, to provide some short-term consulting advice on planning your affiliate program.

    I have a strong bias in favor of "in-house" affiliate program management, but if it's clear that your company can not or will not adequately or competently staff that position, then an OPM is a far better alternative than using the network's staff to manage your program.

    When I decided to "de-emphasize" affiliate-program consulting in 2007, I simply posted much of my advice for merchants to read for free (see the "free affiliate advice for merchants" link in my signature, below).

    Whatever options you choose for affiliate program management and for your affiliate technology, insist on getting meaningful references: other merchants whose businesses are "complementary, but not competitive" with yours -- and call the references, and ask intelligent questions (and don't just talk to the CEO or VP Marketing, but talk to the person who actually administers the affiliate program, who may have a very different perception). And try to hunt down some "complementary, but not competitive" merchants who formerly used this OPM or network, and ask them why they stopped.

    > "I will start looking into an OPM, it sounds like one could be useful, but to be honest I was hoping to start up the affiliate program without too much upfront cost initially, perhaps with a view to invest more in it once it starts being profitable and justifiable to bring a manager in or something." <

    Oops, this is a mistake. An affiliate program will not succeed without active management. (Read my free advice for a list of activities that your affiliate manager should consider to recruit and activate affiliates.) If you launch your program and let it run on auto-pilot, it is almost guaranteed to fail.
    Last edited by markwelch; May 5th, 2009 at 02:34 PM.

  10. #10
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    Thanks Affiliate Hound and Mark,

    I am actually on your Merchants affiliate guide at the minute, it's quite a good peice of information with a lot of questions answered in one place, so thanks for making that and putting it out there.

    I have spent the last hour looking at a few of the OPMs, Andy Rodriguez, Affiliate Crew, and Mad Hatter look quite professional and seem to provide a lot of information on first look, but obviously I need to read around about them and then contact them too I guess.

    Sorry for being such a newbie, and thanks for all the help.

    Oh, Andy Rodriguez is the only one who gives a guideline of price - he quotes $5000-10000 + a cut of sales as agreed, and the $5000 has to be paid upfront. $5k is a lot to us right now, is this a normal sort of price? And this is an impossible question, and one we would probably have to talk to the OPM about but would we expect to make that back within the first month or two and be profitable soon after on top of the OPM fees?

  11. #11
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    Subliminal wrote (in part) that one OPM requires $5,000 upfront, and that "$5k is a lot to us right now, (1) is this a normal sort of price? And this is an impossible question . . . but (2) would we expect to make that back within the first month or two and be profitable soon after on top of the OPM fees?" <

    (1) I can't speak for others, but when I did this kind of work (initial evaluation and planning of an affiliate program -- not including the final design and implementation of the program), I required up-front fees, with a minimum of $2,500 and more often $5,000 to $10,000. You're paying for several distinct services: not just "boilerplate" advice, but many hours spent interviewing the client's staff and doing industry research; plus specific advice that incorporates years of experience; and "educating you and your staff." I generally delivered a very detailed report -- similar to the now-free advice, but with more detail and usually several "appendices." But a huge part of my fees were for extended phone consultations and often in-person meetings, to insure that the client actually understood and acted on my advice.

    And part of my advice was usually a mixture of "common sense" and pragmatic feedback about the core business. From 1996 to 2001, I probably turned away 90% to 95% of prospective clients, often because I simply didn't believe in their businesses. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who will gladly take your money and develop an in-depth plan that has no chance of success. (Of course, one problem is that even with a great idea and a great plan, some clients still manage to ruin their own opportunities, and of course the marketplace and the economy will ultimately affect your company's performance.)

    And don't forget the cost to actually implement affiliate tracking -- for some merchants, this is surprisingly complex (especially if the merchant offers third-party payment options such as PayPal, Google Checkout, and/or Amazon Payments), and may require paying for many hours of scripting or programming help, and sometimes several iterations of debugging.

    (2) You will absolutely not recover the cost of the OPM's fees (or network setup fees) in the first month or two, and your affiliate program will not be profitable in the first few months. If you aren't willing to spend $5,000 on launching your affiliate program, plus more money to grow it, you should seriously reconsider the idea of offering an affiliate program at all. (You could launch a program for much less than $1,000 total out-of-pocket, but if you let it run on auto-pilot, even that modest cost will probably never be recovered.)

    Affiliate programs have a "performance cycle" that is almost completely opposite the performance you'd get from most other forms of advertising, such as PPC Search (Google AdWords). While PPC can generate nearly-instant measurable results (which might be good or bad), an affiliate program requires many months to build and often a year or two before becoming profitable (or possibly demonstrating that it won't be profitable). But those affiliates may continue to bring you new customers and new sales for many years, while your PPC expenses cease to generate results as soon as you stop spending on PPC.

    With an affiliate program, you're building many individual relationships with web publishers, who will integrate a wide variety of advertising into their web sites (some will use banners & buttons, others will use text links, some may create or use special landing pages, and some may use product-catalog datafeeds).

    We all know about the "80/20" rule (20% of activity produces 80% of the results); in affiliate marekting, it's more of a 95/5 rule (or worse). Depending on how you recruit your affiliates, you might find that only 5 out of every 100 who "join" your program will ever become "active" (post any links). And then only 1 in 5 of those might ever generate any sales. At least during the first few months, just one of your affiliates will almost certainly generate more than 50% of all affiliate activity (and a few months later, that affiliate's sales will be eclipsed by a newer affiliate who doubles or triples the sales tracked through the affiliate network).
    Last edited by markwelch; May 5th, 2009 at 05:18 PM.

  12. #12
    Affiliate Marketing Consultant Andy Rodriguez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Subliminal
    Oh, Andy Rodriguez is the only one who gives a guideline of price - he quotes $5000-10000 + a cut of sales as agreed, and the $5000 has to be paid upfront. $5k is a lot to us right now, is this a normal sort of price? And this is an impossible question, and one we would probably have to talk to the OPM about but would we expect to make that back within the first month or two and be profitable soon after on top of the OPM fees?
    Sub,

    Not sure if we have spoken, not sure if we have even sent you a proposal. Our rates are posted and we don't hide the fact that we are probably on the higher end of the scale for our services. Those are our posted rates but each client is unique and we do tailor the "fees" to suit the individual merchant.

    With our OPM service, you are not only paying for our level of top notch service, you are also paying for our relationships that have been developed over the course of 9 years. We are in fact one of the oldest OPM firms in the business with a staff of 8 in house managing porgrams.

    Depending on many factors, including but not limited to your vertical, experience in the space, conversion rate on your website and many other factors, you may or may not get the ROI in 2 months. We would need to speak to you and discuss one to one. Our first phone conference is free as well.

    Let me know if we can serve you, we pride ourselves in running clean, profitable programs with integrity and industry best practices.

    Thanks,
    Andy Rodriguez Consulting, Affiliate Program Management and Consulting Services, Since 2001
    www.andyrodriguez.com | E: abw@andyrodriguez.com | P: (888) 931-ANDY (2639) | Skype: affiliatedoctor | AIM & MSN: AffiliateDoctor | Subscribe To Our ABW Forum Posts | Follow me on Twitter | Join Our Affiliate Programs

  13. #13
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    See this post on the issue of "how long does it take to see positive ROI from an affiliate program?"

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showpost.p...3&postcount=33 (from this discussion thread: http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=85372)

  14. #14
    Affiliate Manager FriendlyPlanetTravel's Avatar
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    Subliminal,

    First welcome to ABW.

    I'll give you a contemporary "newbie" merchant view as you have already received golden advice from the veterans here.

    As for -"auto-pilot" - we started our program at SAS last September , put up a few banners, and left on auto pilot as there were other pressing projects to be handled. (the biggest being a complete site re-design) We had our first sale almost immediately, but then only a trickle during the next 6 months. As projects started to fall into place, I began to pay more attention to the affiliate program in the last two months. An "announcement" at ABW, weekly email creatives to affiliates, a datafeed (still not 100% but getting tere) and MOST importantly, active participation at ABW. Now we are getting sales everyday and my boss is just about beginning to believe in affiliate marketing as they have authorized the expenditure for a "meet table" at the affiliate summit coming up in August. Once the new site re-design comes online, we will do a "hard launch" , ie. newsletter announcement to ABW members and SAS affiliates, banners etc. per Haiko's guidance.

    If you aren't getting the jist, I will be more vocal - it takes a LOT of time and effort to run an affiliate program that gets results. Unfortunately, my boss won't authorize the cost of an OPM at this point, they agree with Mark for keeping it in house, but hopefully as the program grows they will get me an assistant. However, I did talk to Andy and he seems very competent, but there are many competent OPM's here to chose from. IMO - I would go with one of them. It might be a little more expense upfront, but well worth it overtime. Remember an affiliate program is a cost center and like network fees, commisions, payroll, etc - the OPM cost is just part of the picture. Do enough sales and the overall cost center will show a profit.

    Best of luck with your program.

  15. #15
    OPM Queen Kristin Kinsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Rodriguez
    Sub,
    Those are our posted rates but each client is unique and we do tailor the "fees" to suit the individual merchant.
    Hi Sub,

    Andy, of course, is spot on!

    I believe most OPM firms tailor there quotes and services to the potential clients needs.

    The other important factor is that you need to set up calls with those you are thinking about working with. It is not only about fees, but you need to make sure that your manager is a good fit for your team, brand, and program. You want someone that you can mesh, and work well with.

    You definitely can't go wrong with anyone here at ABW in terms of service!

    My Best,
    KK

  16. #16
    Affiliate Marketing Consultant Andy Rodriguez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FriendlyPlanetTravel
    However, I did talk to Andy and he seems very competent, but there are many competent OPM's here to chose from. IMO - I would go with one of them. It might be a little more expense upfront, but well worth it overtime. Remember an affiliate program is a cost center and like network fees, commisions, payroll, etc - the OPM cost is just part of the picture. Do enough sales and the overall cost center will show a profit.

    Best of luck with your program.
    Totally agree, ABW has a fine crop of talented OPM's with ethics, experience and good skills. While i was doing my affiliate manager training seminars, I had the pleasure of working and training most of the OPM's here at ABW. Most if not all have attended my 3 day seminar and are aware of industry best practices. I would suggest you still speak to them at lenght and ask for references etc.

    Most of our succcesful merchants today, don't even consider the $5K an issue because the ROI on their program far outweights the fee.

    Feel free to contact us for a free evaluation, we may or may not be a fit but we will sure give you top notch advice and you can pick my brain ...

    Good luck,
    Andy Rodriguez Consulting, Affiliate Program Management and Consulting Services, Since 2001
    www.andyrodriguez.com | E: abw@andyrodriguez.com | P: (888) 931-ANDY (2639) | Skype: affiliatedoctor | AIM & MSN: AffiliateDoctor | Subscribe To Our ABW Forum Posts | Follow me on Twitter | Join Our Affiliate Programs

  17. #17
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    Thanks friendlyplanet, I found that useful, and we definitely want to make a committment to get this off to a strong start and not neglect things. I think we were just very niave to think we could do it all oursleves in a bit of spare time

    Things are getting clearer, and I am now looking at the different OPMs, seeing who manages what and who might be a good fit and reading websites to get a feel for people.

    Thanks for replying Andy and Kristin, we have had a look at your two companies already and probably would like to speak with you, but perhaps I can contact you to arrange something in a day or two as we need to research more, collect our thoughts, and get a real list of our questions and concerns together Thank you very much though and hopefully we can speak soon!

  18. #18
    Affiliate Marketing Consultant Andy Rodriguez's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Subliminal
    Thanks for replying Andy and Kristin, we have had a look at your two companies already and probably would like to speak with you, but perhaps I can contact you to arrange something in a day or two as we need to research more, collect our thoughts, and get a real list of our questions and concerns together Thank you very much though and hopefully we can speak soon!
    Sub,

    Of those OPM's I talked about, Kristin is one that I would recomend 1000%. Kristin is like my daughter, I got her involved as an OPM back in the day and I trust her 1000% with any program she manages.
    Andy Rodriguez Consulting, Affiliate Program Management and Consulting Services, Since 2001
    www.andyrodriguez.com | E: abw@andyrodriguez.com | P: (888) 931-ANDY (2639) | Skype: affiliatedoctor | AIM & MSN: AffiliateDoctor | Subscribe To Our ABW Forum Posts | Follow me on Twitter | Join Our Affiliate Programs

  19. #19
    Outsourced Program Manager
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    Sub, There are a lot of good posts in here, especially Mark's #11, Andy's comments, and actually just about all of the posts. These folks have saved you having to learn what they did from years of experience. Good luck!
    Jack Kotowski • Certified Affiliate Manager • OPM/Agency - program details: ABestWeb Forum of JackMarketing
    Managing affiliate programs since 1997 | Google Profile - JackMarketing
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  20. #20
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Subliminal, there have been responses by four great companies, ARC, MadHatter, AMWSO and Jack. I have met them all and can wholeheartedly recommend all of them. You have also had responses from people in the industry who have a ton of experience and you have already received many, many $$$ worth of consulting (advice). I hope you make use of it.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  21. #21
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    I'm not experienced in your niche, and I have several new merchants launching soon, so am not here to plug myself. I would recommend you look for someone with some experience in launching the type of product you have, and of course all the people in the thread are good candidates with experience and good affiliate followings.

    It's refreshing to see someone that is open to suggestions, and willing to do the research and be willing to invest in the start up costs to do affiliate right. No, you won't make back the money you pay in consulting fees in the first few months, probably more like 6-8 months, but the money spent will pay dividends in the long run.

    You are in it for the long haul, not for the short term. Right?
    Deborah Carney
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  22. #22
    Outsourced Program Manager Jorge - SHOPiMAR's Avatar
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    Hello Sub,

    Lots of great advice here.

    I can also suggest many great OPMs here that you can work with and will help your program, but if you are not sure who to start out with and work with to manage your program, call Andy and the team at andyrodriguez.com. It's a long story, but we would not be an OPM or managing merchant programs long term if it were not for Andy and him not working with a past client after I left as marketing director unless we worked as a team.

    Andy is not only my friend but a true professional. Period.

    Welcome to ABW


  23. #23
    Newbie NBScott's Avatar
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    Awesome advice from everyone on here! I would definitely recommend having someone manage your program on your end as well. Some networks are out to make a quick buck rather than a long term relationship unfortunately and having someone on your side watching over everything is key.

    That being said, if you work with reputable networks you shouldn't have that problem and the cost to benefit might not be there.

    I think the type of product that you are offering, how the offer is set up, etc are going to play a big part in choosing a network.

    I would 2nd, 3rd, 4th giving a bunch of networks a call, feeling them out, and seeing what they can offer. Lots of places, like us , offer help with strategy and creative, and give you a designated contact in charge of building your business together.

  24. #24
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    Of the bunch you mention here, from an affiliate's standpoint, Pepperjam is the easiest to work with. They track reliably, pay on time, and the support staff are very helpful.
    CUSTOM BANNERS by GRAPHICS CANDY ~ Banner Sets and Website Graphics ~ Professional design, reasonable rates
    DESIGNER DOG CHECKS ~ We double-dog dare ya to write one!

  25. #25
    Affiliate Network Rep
    Join Date
    October 15th, 2008
    Posts
    51
    Hi Sub,

    The better networks should offer you account management.

    I work for Webgains and we are an affiliate network that provides a supported program. You will have an account manager that will not only monitor your campaign but also recruit all the right affiliates for your sector.

    If you wish to discuss the program further don't hesitate to get in touch with me. jmarulanda[at]webgains[dot]com

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