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  1. #1
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    Taking Over A Program In Shambles
    Hello All, new here. I just took over as the manager for a CJ program (soon to be SAS & LC also). Let's just say the program is in need of A LOT of work. This will be my first AM contract but I am not new to internet marketing.

    As a long time marketer I can see from there very start that things were not being handled correctly. Reading over the long thread about what affiliates hate, I can say this program has been guilty of almost all of them with even 2 hate threads I can find in this forum about the program. It's a mixture of the management not realizing what the true value of a customer was worth and overpaying and the old AM not running the program right. So of course the payouts had to be decreased. They are still high for the industry, but affiliates are mad anyways. emails were not answered, the product feed is crap cluttered with 17K of products that are noise etc.

    So I guess my question is, if you were me taking over a program in bad need of a new start, where would you start for one to make things right and two to re-gain a good reputation? This is my list, please let me know what you would do different...

    1. Contact all current and past affiliates and let them know I am here to help and open to communicating
    2. Make sure the links available represent all major sections of the sites offerings
    3. Reduce the feed down to only the most popular products
    4. Organize the feed into categories (right now it's just flat with 17K products, ouch)
    5. Spend a LOT of time here bouncing ideas, creatives, etc off you guys / gals
    6. Once the account is in line, and ONLY then, find ways to promote it outside the networks

    Any must read threads for merchant's you can think of I would love links to.

    Thanks
    Jeremy

  2. #2
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Welcome to ABW, Jeremy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuru
    Any must read threads for merchant's you can think of I would love links to.
    Michael Coley's stickie here has a constantly growing list/collection of such threads + the whole "Merchant Best Practices Forum" is a definitely a must to study. The Best Practices forum is fairly new. So I would also encourage you to look up every question you're studying using ABW's search function. Many more important topics have been covered in those 84k+ threads over the years...

    Best of luck in your uneasy task, Jeremy, and feel free to ping me directly, should you need any help.

    Geno

  3. #3
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    This is my list, please let me know what you would do different...
    Whoa, whoa!! I see one big clinker in there!

    product feed is crap cluttered with 17K of products that are noise etc.
    NO product in a feed is ever "noise" unless it is:

    Badly entered into the feed (from a technical standpoint),
    a duplicate,
    or it's
    Out of Stock/Discontinued!

    Whatever you do, DO NOT DO THIS:
    3. Reduce the feed down to only the most popular products
    That would condense all the affiliates into a subset of what the pool of possible sales should be. The main point of having a FEED is so affiliates aren't stuck with just the "bestsellers" that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet are trying to flog.

    I think of nonbest-sellers like this: 1/2 of lots of small pies is much better than 1/1000th (or less) of the large pie! And, it's easier to get 1/2s of small pies. Everybody with a modem is trying to stick their fork into the big (bestseller) one--I've found that because of that, it's usually not worth it to go after bestsellers.

    The other ideas in your list sound okay, but I'd avoid a bestseller-only feed like poison.

  4. #4
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I agree with Leader and the others who say not to scrap the full datafeed. Clean it up, yes. Make a separate "popular products" feed if you want. But most affiliates who use datafeeds want the whole thing.

    I would also recommend that you hold off contacting affiliates until everything is cleaned up. Get all your ducks in a row, right all the wrongs, and then contact your affiliates to let them know that the program is being actively managed, what all has been fixed, and that you're there for them.

    You might want to talk with your top affiliates to find out what they think needs fixed, too. (First, you might want to make sure that your top affiliates aren't parasites.) You might want to talk with a consultant (like one of the many OPMs here on ABW) and pay them to make some specific recommendations.

    Some of the things you might want to check into:

    1) Are there parasites in the program? Dump them.
    2) Is your datafeed in bad shape? Fix it. Make sure it's well categorized, accurate, and automatically/regularly updated.
    3) Do you have outdated banners? Clean them up.
    4) Are your commissions low? Raise them.
    5) Are your return days low? Raise them.
    6) Do you have full, accurate contact information? Add it.
    7) Read through the As An Affiliate I Hate... thread (yes, all 400+ posts) and make sure you're not doing any of those things.
    8) Read through the Best Practices Forum and make sure you're doing all the right things.
    9) Read Geno's book.
    10) Make a Paid Announcement here on ABW.
    Last edited by MichaelColey; May 28th, 2007 at 04:09 PM. Reason: Fixed broken link
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  5. #5
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    First, you might want to make sure that your top affiliates aren't parasites...

  6. #6
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    If you are datafeed centric I recommend that you look at AvantLink. Gary and Scott have an affiliate defined datafeed that I consider the standard. They are parasite free and have high conversion rates. I saw one of my affiliates move over there from CJ and the conversion jumped.

  7. #7
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    Definitely keep the full feed.

    I take the full feeds and filter them into niche areas so a partial feed would be of no use to me. Also as has been said all your affiliates would be competing for your top selling items.

    All your others ideas are sound.

    Another suggestion would be to create set of RSS/XML feeds for your 15 newest products, 15 best sellers, 15 special offers 15??????? etc so they can be easily added into affiliate blogs. Keep the feeds from about 10 minimum to 20 maximum products.

  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager Alan Hamilton's Avatar
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    Ditto the advice here. In addition, add longevity... The longer you are here, interacting, contributing, updating, etc., the better people will get to know you and your business / affiliate philosophy. If you are here for the long term, people will come to see it, and from there you can reshape your program and be regarded for who YOU are and not what came before you. It takes time - as do all good things...

    Welcome to ABW, and congratulations for taking on the challenge of restructuring the program. It can be very gratifying...

    Alan
    Join the Spicy Aprons Affiliate program on ShareASale Visit us on Facebook www.facebook.com/spicyaprons Follow us on Twitter @Spicyaprons

  9. #9
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    Thatnks for all the advice guys.

    The reason I was thinking about reducing the feed because 90% of it is cell phone faceplates. Over and over and over with different colors etc. But I guess if I can get them separated into categories thy would be more manageable.

    Also what are the must have fields for product data feeds? Maybe that needs it's thread

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador writerguy's Avatar
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    "Must have" fields for datafeeds?

    I can only speak from my very limited experience, but I use mostly SAS datafeeds and structure them according to what works with them. Even though they no longer put a header row on the fields in their datafeed, it's my understanding that they are all set up as pipe delimited text files in the following fields:

    ProductID|Name|MerchantID|Merchant|Link|Thumbnail|BigImage|
    Price|RetailPrice|Category|SubCategory|Description|Custom1|
    Custom2|Custom3|Custom4|Custom5|LastUpdated|status|
    manufacturer|partNumber|merchantCategory|merchantSubcategory|
    shortDescription|ISBN|UPC|

    I and others here have found that the "Category" and "SubCategory" fields are most useful if done right. If not, often the merchants have more logical, usable category/subcategory information in the "CustomX" fields.

    (One SAS merchant right now, for example, has the totally useless Category and SubCategory fields showing "Sport/Indoor," and "Billiard Balls" or something like that.)

    As one of the least experienced datafeed people here, please don't take my comments or advice all that seriously. Many others work frequently with SAS, Linkshare, and CJ datafeeds as well as many independent feeds and no much more about it than I.

    Just my 2-cents worth.

    Gary the Writerguy

  11. #11
    affiliate emeritus missdonna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xuru
    a CJ program (soon to be SAS & LC also)
    I'd say go to SaS and nobody else. That way there's no worrying about whose cookie gets the sale, and less chance of the sale being stolen by a parasite.

    It should be much cheaper for you, too. So you can afford to pay better commissions.
    Affiliate Marketing - The hardest easy money I ever made.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xuru
    Hello All, new here. I just took over as the manager for a CJ program (soon to be SAS & LC also).
    And why is it that you feel like you have to be on every network? Have you considered the implications of keeping track of all the cheaters on CJ and LC while trying to service your real affiliates on SAS?

    You do not need to be on every network. You only need to be on one, then do your own recruiting. Affiliate Networks are not recruiting halls. A new AM running a program on three networks is enough to keep me out because you will have a full-time job keeping up with the cheaters and unless you have a sophisticated back end you will have many sales with multiple cookies and this will lead to you reversing sales and that only p*sses off affiliates.

    I would recommend you reconsider this "the more networks the better" approach. This is not at all the case, no matter what other networks tell you about their "market share".

    Keep your datafeed but make sure it is well categorized and that the prices are correct and the images are good.


  13. #13
    Troll Killer and best Snooper!
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    I agree with what everyone has said about choosing a network and sticking to that one network. (And like the others I recommend SAS.) I am very wary of any merchant who works with more than one network. It introduces a degree of complexity that is very unsettling and unpredictable for the affiliate.

    If you're trying to clean up a mess it's best to apply the K.I.S.S. method and work from there.

  14. #14
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xuru
    Also what are the must have fields for product data feeds? Maybe that needs it's thread
    What a great idea! I wonder if that's ever been done before? (Clue)

    Maybe it might be in the Datafeed Forum? Perhaps one of these?

    Datafeed standard

    Data Feed Standards
    Michael Coley
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  15. #15
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    Michael, that was a rhetorical statement, hence the smiley. No need to tell me to get a clue. Give a man a chance. This place is huge so it will take some time to go through all the good threads. Thanks.

  16. #16
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    Jeremy wrote: > "Reading over the long thread about what affiliates hate, I can say this program has been guilty of almost all of them with even 2 hate threads I can find in this forum about the program." <

    When I've been approached by prospective clients with "checkered histories" in the past, but who profess an entirely new attitude in the present, I've always insisted that the very first question needs to be whether to re-launch at all.

    Instead, it makes sense to consider whether to do a "fresh launch" using a new company name and site. This could be either a complete migration of the entire business to the new name, or creation of a separate company identity/brand that would be used only for specific marketing strategies (including the affiliate program).

    Of course, there are a number of companies that utilize this strategy without first having a "checkered past" -- they offer their same collection of products under multiple web-site identities, often with different prices, and some offering affiliate programs and others not.

  17. #17
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    To tap into why reducing datafeeds is a really bad idea, get the book "The Long Tail" which explains why the internet causes a large amount of sales in non-top product. It's a great eye opener to why Amazon, Itunes, etc... are so successful, and it will help you understand why selling less of more is better than selling more of less on the internet (hint: you aren't paying for shelf space)

    Phil Andrews
    Affiliate Executive
    phil.andrews@earthclassmail.com

  18. #18
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhea
    I agree with what everyone has said about choosing a network and sticking to that one network. (And like the others I recommend SAS.) I am very wary of any merchant who works with more than one network. It introduces a degree of complexity that is very unsettling and unpredictable for the affiliate.

    If you're trying to clean up a mess it's best to apply the K.I.S.S. method and work from there.
    Three months ago, I wanted to have SAS & Avantlink, both great.

    Infact we closed our in house program in order to consolidate the work.

    About 2 weeks ago we were putting together our DB in Beta to test it out on SAS. It was then my staff said once was enough, we decided to hold off on Avantlink at this time to concentrate out efforts on one network.

    We signed up with SAS in '03, and today applied for their "Exclusive" status.

    Also if you go back to your boss and nix the LC $10,000 signup you'll look like a hero immediately.
    Bob Pets Warehouse
    Worlds Largest Pet Supply DataBase
    Join our Share-A-Sale Program [since 2003] Twitter



  19. #19
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    This is a great thread. I'm in a similar situation here and am in the planning stages right now of how we revive our neglected affiliate program. Let me add this question to the mix -

    If you've been burned by a company, how can your trust to be regained? What would it take? How does the new AM assure you past mistakes won't be repeated?

  20. #20
    Affiliate Manager JusticeforGirls's Avatar
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    We may need to start a whole new forum for new AMs working with programs who have been "dragged through the mud" in the past. I'm in the same boat. We relaunched about two weeks ago. We tried to get most of the major changes out of the way before we relaunched. Here's our plan. We're about half way through. BTW, we are with LS.

    1. Make all old banners/marketing material inactive. Replace with new material.
    2. Add new search function creative.
    3. Schedule promotional creative and execute ON TIME. (This was a huge problem before)
    4. Create HTML Marketing Newsletter.
    5. Change Affiliate Approval to manual. (It was automatic approving everyone before)
    6. Increase commission and increase return legnth.
    7. Update pages on our site to reflect new attitude.
    8. Make Search Policy available in LS interface and on our site.
    9. Send letter to affiliates detailing new management and goals: increased communication, better creative, becoming dynamic
    10. Update LS Affiliate Touch Points (Auto E-Mails, Create Links Area, Merchant Description)
    11. Utilize LS's Campaign Manager Function
    THIS IS WHERE WE ARE NOW
    12. Clean up product feed.
    13. Work on creating and managing FTP for Banners
    14. Restore a previously active affiliate tools site.
    15. Create a data feed not hosted by LS's Merchandiser.
    16.Create mini-store abilities
    17.Create RSS feed for marketing newsletters/promotions updates
    18. Begin questioning possible fraudulant affiliates.

    Whew! Did I mention that I'm not the strongest tech person? Eek!

  21. #21
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Simmons
    If you've been burned by a company, how can your trust to be regained? What would it take? How does the new AM assure you past mistakes won't be repeated?
    It would depend on exactly how I was burned. A change in management (especially to a trusted OPM) goes a long way. A few other things that help: A sincere effort to implement affiliate friendly policies. To be open and available publicly. To address issues that are brought up.

    If I was not treated fair financially, it would take full restitution plus assurances that it wouldn't happen again.
    Michael Coley
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  22. #22
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Phil, good question as I am going through this right now. Start contacting your top affiliate by phone. If you don't get a pick up leave a short but concise message and follow-up with an email. Explain that you have been brought onboard to resolve past issues and are soliciting affiliate feedback so you can attack the top concerns first. Work on that and follow up to all affiliates with a newsletter. Keep things positive, have open channels of communication and hold your head up high!

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