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  1. #1
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    I'm affiliate manager for Sheet Music Plus, and we have a cookie length of 30 days. But we've often debated if we should shorten the cookie and increase the commission. I'd love to get other people's viewpoints.

    We have several competitors in our sheet music space. We are the only company that has a cookie length at all. The problem for us is that our competitors are able to offer higher commission percentages because they have no cookie length so they pay on a smaller percentage of affiliate sales.

    For very sophisticated affiliates, this is not a problem. But many affiliates - even large ones - don't understand the value of the cookie length. And affiliate directories don't advertise cookie length - just percentages. So we're concerned that affiliates are not choosing our program because they notice the lower % rate, and don't understand about cookies.

    And, unfortunately for us, someone who tries a competitor may just assume that sheet music is a bad product to sell, or that our program will perform even worse. We know that our bottom line performance is at least 50% higher than our competitors. But unless affiliates try both programs, they don't know that.

    As a result, we've debated internally whether we're better off just raising our commissions and reducing the cookie length. We wouldn't reduce the ultimate pay-out to affiliates - it's easy to adjust the commission to a level that compensates affiliates equally for a long cookie length or a non-existant cookie length.

    For us, it's not a matter of ethics - we'd pay the same ultimately either way. We consider our affiliates our sales partners and want to do whatever we can to help them produce. We love signing affiliate checks - it's proof that our business is growing. But, we're also concerned about the difficulty for many affiliates of truly comparing our program to competitor programs.

    I'd love to hear what affiliates have to say.

    Thanks,

    Jenny Richmond
    Sheet Music Plus

    Jenny Richmond
    www.sheetmusicplus.com

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador affiliatemakeover's Avatar
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    I've never bought sheet music online, but I bet that in a niche like that, if I did buy that type of item, I would probably have that site bookmarked and visit it often.

    Therefore, as an affiliate, I would rather have a long cookie duration. Why not just make it forever?

  3. #3
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    Having an unending cookie would worsen the problem I discussed in the above post - while some affiliates would be very pleased, most affiliates don't realize how much this adds to their bottom line. Increasing cookie time means that we'd ultimately have to lower our pay-out %. After all, we do have to have some gross margin left to cover our costs!

    To an affiliate not sophisticated enough to compare cookie lengths, this is find. But, in our experience, this is a small % of affiliates. Most don't consider cookie length when choosing an affiliation program. That's our problem.

    It's like Amazon's 15% direct product commission - that's easy for them to do because there are so many restrictions on getting the commission. But there are many affiliates who think that 15% looks a lot better than a competitor's 10% with no restrictions.

    Jenny Richmond
    www.sheetmusicplus.com

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador affiliatemakeover's Avatar
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    Your super-affiliates will come faster and bigger with longer cookies. If you can't afford it, up your prices to cover the fee [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    There's no way I'm attempting to become a super affiliate for a program that doesn't offer me lifetime commissions. I will find another merchant who does and spend my time there.

    Maybe other people feel differently, but when I put a month or two of time into developing a website based upon one merchant, I only do it when I know the merchant is giving me what I need. That's a personal choice though. Super-affiliates are your bread and butter though, right? They should be.

  5. #5
    ABW Ambassador affiliatemakeover's Avatar
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by AffiliateMakeover.com:
    Your super-affiliates will come faster and bigger with longer cookies. If you can't afford it, up your prices to cover the fee [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    There's no way I'm attempting to become a super affiliate for a program that doesn't offer me lifetime commissions. I will find another merchant who does and spend my time there.

    Maybe other people feel differently, but when I put a month or two of time into developing a website based upon one merchant, I only do it when I know the merchant is giving me what I need. That's a personal choice though. Super-affiliates are your bread and butter though, right? They should be.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Edited to add: I'd accept a slightly lower payout for lifetime commissions on a niche product such as yours.

  6. #6
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    Let me re-ask the question - how do we get potential affiliates to understand the true bottom line value of our program? Must we've seen look primarily at the commission %, and totally discount our delayed cookie.

    We could extend the cookie period, but that does not help us with affiliates who compare our less restrictive program with our competitor's very restrictive, higher commission program. Obviously, you'd see through their program in a heartbeat. But most affiliates don't.

    (And as a footnote, just raising our prices to increase commissions isn't an option. The prices are set by the marketplace and our publishers have published list prices. If we started charging above list price, we'd lose lots of business.)

    Jenny Richmond
    www.sheetmusicplus.com

  7. #7
    Crazy Cat Lady Heidi's Avatar
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    Hi Jenny,

    We've spoken about this cookie issue before. I'm undecided on how it would impact my overall sales. I do see some 2nd and 3rd visit sales resulting from clicks on my links but most orders that come through for me say the items were purchased on the 1st visit.

    A part of me would love the higher commissions and a part of me says don't fix what isn't broke. I have always considered SMP cookies fair in comparison to other merchants.

    When comparing SMP to your competitors - its unfortunate if people are judging your program based on % because quite frankly.. I have tried them all and the only other company that I've been able to sell sheet music for is Amazon and they just don't offer the selection that you do.

    At one point I had all the Sheet music merchants on my pages -- only SMP and Amazon converted.

    Best way for you to get more affiliates -- Word of mouth from your successful affiliates will go a long way -- but find a way to reward us for that referral [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    Heidi
    Fit2a-t - Make Money Selling T-Shirts From Your Site!!

  8. #8
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Jenny Richmond:
    To an affiliate not sophisticated enough to compare cookie lengths, this is find. But, in our experience, this is a small % of affiliates. Most don't consider cookie length when choosing an affiliation program. That's our problem.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I understand your problem. The main thing you would want to remember is that it isn't the number of affiliates that will determine your future success, it's the quality of those affiliates.

    Only a small percentage of affiliates are successful - the superaffiliates - and those are the ones you would want in your program. And yes, the superaffiliates look at cookie duration. The majority of affiliates, the "homepage/newbie webmaster" don't know about cookie durations, but they don't know how to sell for you either.

    I believe the solution is to better target the advertisement of your affiliate program. Try to hunt down the superaffiliates and focus on EPC, not percentages. Participate in affiliate forums, maybe publish a monthly top 15 earners list. Affiliate directories are not very useful IMO, I view most of them to be spam.

    -- Less is more --

  9. #9
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Jenny Richmond:
    Let me re-ask the question - how do we get potential affiliates to understand the true bottom line value of our program? Must we've seen look primarily at the commission %, and totally discount our delayed cookie.

    We could extend the cookie period, but that does not help us with affiliates who compare our less restrictive program with our competitor's very restrictive, higher commission program. Obviously, you'd see through their program in a heartbeat. But most affiliates don't.


    Jenny Richmond
    http://www.sheetmusicplus.com<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Forget those that don't understand the value of a long cookie. They probably wouldn't add to your bottom line anyway. Hard core (and therefore effective) AMers do, and those are the people you want.

    As a side note, We have run your program and the conversion rates were very good. The only problem we have is that the average sale is like $9. so we make a buck or so on each sale. If you sold instruments, you'd probably be one of our top money makers. But it's so hard to do $1 at a time.

    You have a great site, a nice affiliate program, good all around.... you just sell products that are too low priced for most affiliates.

    http://SearchToSale.com - Turns your search box into money.

  10. #10
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    On a side note, I've had many affiliates comment to me on our 365 day cookie. That alone gets us the exposure to many quality affiliates..the quality affiliates tell other quality affiliates. I wouldn't think of making it any less...

    Perhaps in your case if you can't raise the commissions or need to shorten the cookie...start thinking about some sort of incentives that you can offer your affiliates...I'm not just talking about the top affiliates, but all producing affiliates in general. If you can offer some sort of bonus program, the lower percentage or cookie duration may not mean as much.

    TH Media-Web Solutions For The Small Business
    Check Out The TH Media Affiliate Program

  11. #11
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by TH Media:
    Perhaps in your case if you can't raise the commissions or need to shorten the cookie...start thinking about some sort of incentives that you can offer your affiliates...<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Good advice. Some merchants has a step by step program, the more the affiliates sell , the higher the percentage.

    -- Less is more --

  12. #12
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>I'm affiliate manager for Sheet Music Plus, and we have a cookie length of 30 days. But we've often debated if we should shorten the cookie and increase the commission. I'd love to get other people's viewpoints.

    We have several competitors in our sheet music space. We are the only company that has a cookie length at all. The problem for us is that our competitors are able to offer higher commission percentages because they have no cookie length so they pay on a smaller percentage of affiliate sales.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    If you have an impulse buy item shorten length and raise commissions. For sheet music I would go with the higher commission and shorter cookie- especially since it is niche. I have a feeling users KNOW what they want when they hit the site.

    SuperAffiliates look for high commission and FAIR return durations. Best practice minimum is 10 days, I recommend 15 at minimum. Large affiliates often negotiate longer return days.

    The super-long cookie duration is often a myth, especially when you consider natural browser attrition. I have seen multiple levels of analysis that proves this over and over.

    Life-time commissions are great, but are only needed in certain high-margin, commodity driven industries. This doesn't mean cookie durations should be short, but should be reasonable, competitive and it should reflect the overall ad buying strategy you are using.


    You should be doing some analysis on your program and customer buying habits to determine the impact of cookie setting.

    It is true unsophisticated affiliates do not understand return days very well, but why would you want to build a program around properties that have no marketing sophistication? It is proven time and time again you will get little to nothing through these people so why build a strategy around them? (sorry for the rhetorical questions)

    AffJus also makes a good remark about average ticket- this is something that sophisticated affiliates look at and often more important then cookie duration.

    This is where you can make your mark by varying product mix just for affiliates- example a "Starter Bundle" that only they can sell- this bundle seeks to bump avg. ticket. I personally also look at the Mode of Average Ticket as well because it gives insight into what kind of hurdles consumers are willing to achieve.

    Savvy affiliates are very keen on getting their own promos, codes, specials, and bundles because it allows them to deliver value to their clients.

    Lastly you are correct in that cookie duration has nothing to due with "ethics", it has to do with business practice.

    regards,
    Wayne

    Wayne Porter
    V.P. Product Development
    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
    http://www.revtrends.com
    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  13. #13
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    Thanks everyone for the great comments. There's a lot of work left to do on our program! We are planning to upgrade the program in 2003, and so it's really helpful to hear what affiliates would like.

    I've seen several references to EPC. How is this calculated? How do affiliates evaluate EPC before signing up with a merchant? How does a merchant credibly get their numbers out there? Our affiliates have widely varying effectiveness rates depending on the quality of their traffic, merchandising, etc.

    AffJus - I'm very surprised at the low order size that you experienced with us. How long ago where you in our program? The order size you experienced is not at all representative of what our affiliates are doing today. We've made many improvements to our site over the past few years, so I'm curious if maybe your experience would be different today.

    Thanks again everyone!

    Jenny Richmond
    www.sheetmusicplus.com

  14. #14
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>
    AffJus - I'm very surprised at the low order size that you experienced with us. How long ago where you in our program? The order size you experienced is not at all representative of what our affiliates are doing today. We've made many improvements to our site over the past few years, so I'm curious if maybe your experience would be different today.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I think we started last year, early and run thru July of this year. You did well on the conversion ratio, it was just always $10-20 sales.

    Waynes' point about bundles might help.

    I'll PM you.

    http://SearchToSale.com - Turns your search box into money.

  15. #15
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    QUOTE:
    "how do we get potential affiliates to understand the true bottom line value of our program?"

    This is maybe a little late but here you go:

    You keep your cookie duration same and increase the comission. Then, announce this change with a network-wide e-mail campaign and in your newsletter. This will hurt your margins for a while but will expose your program to potential quality affiliates. Then, shorten your cookie duration, explain this change resonably with an e-mail. If affiliates happy with other aspects of you program like conversions and payments, this change will have a very little impact on them.

    This may not be very affiliate-friendly strategy but it's fair answer to your question.

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