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  1. #1
    Newbie spunk999's Avatar
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    Interesting conversation with merchant?
    I received a call from a merchant who I signed up for - some college referral program called Link2College or something like that, and the merchant called and left me a message telling me that he wanted to talk to me about the lead generation process and all that, so after playing phone tag, with him at the office, I left my home number and I get a call at about 7:30pm and I thought the conversation went a little crazy - he was basically saying that their organization thrives on high quality leads and he said that if half of my leads end up being bogus, I will be booted from the program.

    Ok, fair enough. I explained to him that I am an instructor at a community college and that I was planning on referring students who expressed an interest in flexible higher education options. I explained to him that sending him low-quality leads would be waste of his time, as well as mine, since no one wants a slew of reversals on their CJ account. I told him I had been to the site and I understood the programs that the schools on his site offered and that I understand where he is coming from and that I will certainly offer leads that are interested and can be reached.

    However the conversation ended with him telling me that there are a lot of college lead programs out there and that maybe this program is not right for me, and though I can do what I want, maybe it would be best to wait for some other site they are launching in 2008. He went on to say that they have been on CJ for several months and have received about 300 leads out of which NONE were qualified. They participate in a lot of affiliate programs, and they were hesitant to work with CJ because they are reputed to bring spam leads (he didn't say "spam" but that is what he meant) and that many people have generic forms that people fill out in schools and then the leads get plugged in to the site and when they call, the students are like, well, yea, I filled out a form, but I am not really interested, and that is if they get a working phone or an answer to the call.

    I realize now that my leads to this merchant had better be super-qualified if I expect to get paid on the lead, but it sounded like he was saying that his program may be too good for not just me, but pretty much anyone. I was a little baffled by the call and wanted to vent ... I will have some of my students who are genuinely interested in online programs fill out the form this week, and I told the guy I would follow up next week with him to see how things went when he followed up with them ... I'll keep you all posted ...


  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador Airstrip's Avatar
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    Ditch him - Ditch them
    Quote Originally Posted by spunk999
    I received a call from a merchant who I signed up for - some college referral program called Link2College or something like that, and the merchant called and left me a message telling me that he wanted to talk to me about the lead generation process and all that, so after playing phone tag, with him at the office, I left my home number and I get a call at about 7:30pm and I thought the conversation went a little crazy - he was basically saying that their organization thrives on high quality leads and he said that if half of my leads end up being bogus, I will be booted from the program.

    blah blah blah........ programs fill out the form this week, and I told the guy I would follow up next week with him to see how things went when he followed up with them ... I'll keep you all posted ...

    Unless you have NO other choices, I would dump this guy in a heartbeat. After hearing all his skepticism and pseudo slams...... I would not trust him any farther than I could . If you did send him good leads, what makes you think he would admit to it....... Dump him.

    He prolly can't pay the rent and is a horrible closer and the wife is threatening to leave him............. Dump him!
    The best things in life are not things at all...

  3. #3
    Newbie spunk999's Avatar
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    In any other situation, I would, but out of all the college lead merchantss that I have been accepted to, this merchants pays the highest, so I am going to give it a try ... I know my leads will be very super-qualified and I can send a steady stream of leads as long as I am teaching, so if I get screwed on 10 leads, fine, it would be their loss in the long run because not only will I stop sending leads, I'll let everyone here know and I'll take my leads elsewhere (though I am still trying to figure out if any of the other merchants actually pay too) ...

  4. #4
    Moderator bibby's Avatar
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    I wouldn't waste my time with this guy. There are similar programs on CJ and you might get a better affiloate manager.

  5. #5
    Newbie spunk999's Avatar
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    Yea - I am thinking that too, but still, I want to try and see if anything comes through with this one (since it pays twice as much as the others) ... I decided instead of sending all my students at once as leads, I will pick one and see what happens. So I did that, I referred one today ... and she is qualified, wants to go to school, considering online programs, wants to know more, filled out all the information with a valid phone and email. I send the following letter to the merchant:

    "Thanks for calling me the other evening - I am looking forward to a strong working relationship that will be beneficial to us both. I referred one of my students to your schools and I wanted to see how the lead pans out before I refer the rest of my class as we discussed - the one that is registered on the site is (name) - can you please tell me if she meets your criteria and if this lead would qualify for commission payment through your QC process (provided she is not a duplicate lead)? Let's see how she works out and if all looks good, I'll send the rest your way too ... Thanks a lot!!"

    This feels so backwards - I have about 180 merchants in my CJ account that I have applied for and am wanting to promote, however time only has me actively selling maybe 10% of that. Now here I am trying to sell my skills to someone to provide them with leads. You are right bibby, there are other merchants, but education related merchants are so easy for me to develop leads with since I teach. And this one pays the most, so I guess I have to jump through hoops.

    And to think with all this extra time I am putting into this, I could be selling the heck out of Old Navy right now.

    Well, thanks for listening to me vent!!

  6. #6
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    I'd be careful with this one. He just smells funny. I'll be very surprised if you receive payment on any leads no matter how qualified they are. Be sure to let us know.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  7. #7
    Newbie spunk999's Avatar
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    You know in King Fu movies when the two fighters do a jump kick toward one another and completely miss one another? I am seeing that happen in this industry. I am a legitimate publisher with legitimate traffic and legitimate leads partnering with a legitimate merchant trying to access those leads in an environment consumed by spam and bots and scams - it causes these jump kicks in communication that completely miss the point.

    I got a call today from my affiliate manager asking about this thread in regards to the impact public comments make on the integrity of programs and why I would start such a thread when I am trying to build a relationship with a merchant? In my other job, I work as a reporter so I am very in tune with the importance of open and public communication allowing access to information that lead to informed decisions. There have been countless merchants that I have decided not to even deal with after reading several threads involving experiences with those merchants. These forums allow us to learn from the mistakes of others.

    I am on the defense because because the merchant I am working with is on defense due to all the bots and scam leads that are submitted by illegitimate publishers who create this environment that makes lead generation a war zone. What a messed up world we live in! So I get a standard call that every new publisher gets which intends to deter scammers from taking advantage of a program, and I am thinking, "Why is this guy thinking I am trying to scam him?" Well maybe it is because the 150 publishers he dealt with before me submitted bogus leads, I don't know, that may have something to do with it.

    Please don't read this thread and think that my defensiveness or my questioning of the process is an indicator of the integrity of the program I am writing about. This is the global warming of lead generation. The spammers and scammers have impacted our environment and now, we all think that every program reflects toxic radiation so we are overly cautious. Publishers are scared they are not going to get paid. Merchants are scared that they are going to lose their investment.

    After some good wholesome communication with my affiliate manager, I think that we see eye to eye. The company seems very legitimate and I have a good feeling that I will actually get paid here. I am going to trust the process and I am going to talk openly with my affiliate manager if anything looks suspect. I have a handful of other merchants that never logged sales that I know occurred. I took their banners down immediately. I could post a list here of all the merchants whose sales never posted for me. But I think I will call the affiliate managers first to see if there was a problem that maybe we can easily resolve.

  8. #8
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    A Different Perspective
    Hello Everyone,

    I am the Affiliate Manager for Link2College.com. I came across this thread and was amazed at the responses some of you put down without hearing both sides of the story. I guess to start off, yes I did make a call to this publisher because they were looking to join our program without having traditional organic ways of driving traffic. After chatting with her in regards to how we operate our program, and what here marketing methods were, I felt that in order for her campaign to more effective, she might want to wait until we launched our new site, to help better assist the type of traffic she had. The reason for that statement was “not because we felt we were too good” but because our forms do not offer program details, or granule information about the school or school process. The URL we are about to launch does just that, and is also customized around school programs. Providing the end user with as much information they would need to make an educated decision. Either, way upon reading the thread I contacted this publisher to discuss how they completely read into what I was saying the wrong way, and asked for somewhat of a retraction. But as you all know, first impressions speak volumes in future relationships. Therefore, I have decided to engage in this thread as an educational piece for all of you to share.

    First and foremost, we are a full service advertising agency that specializes in post-secondary education. As a matter of fact if you watch day time television in most of the larger markets, chances are you have seen one or several of our school ads which we created, placed and drive leads to. Link2College is a publisher site we manage and have decided to bring it into the CJ network. Our company has been working with CJ for over 4 years and has a long standing reputable reputation. We have 2 programs one of which has close to 2,000 affiliates and the other is Link2College which is a new program to the CJ network. Over the past 3 weeks we have been vigorously reviewing the traffic and have been in constant communication with CJ over the quality (which by the way has been horrible) and have placed some strong restrictions on the campaign. Just to give you some insight on our methodologies, we currently have affiliates with 3 and 4 EPC ratings waiting in que, not because they are not strong affiliates, but rather they are new to the network or the relevance is not a right fit and they are not truly tested.

    To shed some light on this, for anyone who is truly interested to hear the advertisers perspective? The affiliate/advertiser game can get extremely tricky as there are always mischievous people trying to come over on less savvy individuals. It’s either advertisers not paying their publishers for qualified traffic while still capitalizing on the hard work of the publisher or it’s the publishers, not adhering to the advertisers guidelines and posting leads that are just plain “bogus” through bots, manual posts are any other way they seem fit just to make a quick buck and hope they get away with it.

    Just to give you an example of this, in the past we have had countless publishers, try to post leads that are clearly driven from “host and post” forms…. and better yet that are non exclusive, incentivised, or flat out erroneous. Even though our guidelines state we will not accept these leads, publishers continue to push the envelope. Why because they can and they are getting away with it daily. In fact I just got a letter in the mail about a class action lawsuit that discusses this very thing. Think about it, if a publisher post to 4 different offers in the same vertical at $35 per lead that equates to $140 per lead. If they have a 50% burn rate which comes back, they just made $70 on that single lead. So screening new publishers and managing the traffic sets the expectation and eliminates a lot of these issues.

    Thus, as an advertiser, who is “paying” the bill is left with the unforeseen situation of managing the traffic and trying to sift through the minutia of garbage, until we have a core network of qualified publishers sending good traffic.

    Luckily, CJ does have a decent FRAUD team, but over time it still takes its toll on the program. Therefore, if we did not “QC” or call every single lead the integrity of our program will be breached and our client base of over 150 schools currently within our program will go away. Not to mention the damage it would cause to our agency.

    You see it’s not the publisher who needs to worry it’s the advertiser. Because at the end of every lead campaign there is a buyer and if the data is bad or does not convert at a certain rate…..adios…..you’re out! The damage is done, because high percentage of bogus or unqualified leads will kill your program and your relationships. But to the shady publishers who sent the traffic it’s easy to just find another offer and start all over again.

    Yet, still the cat and mouse game will continue and that is part of the reason a lot of strong brand names in the lead business opt-out of networks like CJ and is also why advertisers that choose to play the game have strict application policies and procedures.

    Either way, we are going to wait this program out and see what happens until the end of Q4. I just wanted to shed some light and maybe a different perspective for anyone who is interested. As for the publisher who started this thread I do apologies for the miscommunication, and I do hope that you find success within our program.

    Thanks
    Link2College.com

  9. #9
    Believe knight01's Avatar
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    Link2College, First, welcome to ABW.

    Certainly this thread was not what you would hope to find, but it is indicative of what happens when Merchants and Affiliates fail to have a true meeting of the minds.

    Having spent 18 years in the Real Estate and Mortgage industry, I certainly spent my fair share of money on bad leads, and indeed some that were simply bogus. So I can appreciate your position on wanting to protect not only your financial investment but also your company reputation.

    Sadly, as you've mentioned, the lead industry is rife with fraud and scammers. Your current approach of trying to qualify not only your prospects, but your partners is certainly admirable but likely not enough to protect you from the most egregious of these players.

    I'd like to encourage you to be active within the affiliate marketing industry and this forum specifically. In this way perhaps you can learn from others as well as share your thoughts on improving the lead gen side of affiliate marketing.

    The only way to truly fight the problem is to shed light upon it. I hope you chose to let this thread be the match which sparks your torch in this war against fraud.
    Someday starts today
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  10. #10
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    It sounds like a mix of bogus leads and also:

    The reason for that statement was “not because we felt we were too good” but because our forms do not offer program details, or granule information about the school or school process
    If the forms do not offer details, then it may be kind of tough for a person filling it out to know if it is really something they are interested in or not.

    Leads can definitely be tough online. One buddy who owns a mortgage co bought Internet leads for a while and they were all garbage - incentivized, not really interested so they stopped buying them pretty quickly.

  11. #11
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by Link2College
    So screening new publishers and managing the traffic sets the expectation and eliminates a lot of these issues.
    I have worked the lead gen market as a merchant and I know it's tough to be in that space but if it is done right, it will be very rewarding.

    Screening publishers will help with the quality. You mentioned that you are paying $35 on a lead, why not design a fraud system on your back end. Once you get the lead, send it out for data appending or cleaning. It can cost you anywhere for $.1 to $.35 per lead and that is only a small fraction of the margin that you make. This way, you are able to able to have a better filter in place to catch bogus leads and automate it.

    You will keep your advertisers happier with quality leads and deter affiliates from pushing bad lead to you.

  12. #12
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    Thank you for the responses. We do scrub both internally and externally in "real time" but we still QC every lead. The reason behind the QC is to prevent affiliates from taking advantage of our offer.

  13. #13
    general fuq mrbshouse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spunk999
    He went on to say that they have been on CJ for several months and have received about 300 leads out of which NONE were qualified.

    I just have to say it...Not even one.....that speaks volumes


  14. #14
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    Actually, we run a mortgage program and have sent back over 500 leads for bogus activity. At the same time we have taken in over 2000 leads in that same month....

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