Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Affiliate Chicken Soup

There's this joke that has this crowd gathered around a dead man, where an old woman insists, "give him some chicken soup!" A nearby doctor responds, "Madame, I'm afraid chicken soup won't help," to which she replies, "It couldn't hurt!"

That's how -- for the moment -- I feel about affiliate programs.

Don't get me wrong. Affiliate programs are a great idea. Theoretically, they should increase your sales and make more money. The idea itself was powerful enough to propel into the stratosphere of awareness almost overnight. For a minute there, it seemed as if everyone had pasted an Amazon link on to their home page, giving Amazon gazillions worth of exposure -- and revenue -- for what other businesses were paying dearly.

So if the idea is so good, why aren't affiliates running up big sales numbers? How come big companies like Microsoft, WebTrends and others are abandoning their affiliate programs left and right?

I'll tell you why: because they were signing up affiliates, not sales hustlers.

The raw numbers on affiliates suggest that most of them are slapping up logo links on web pages that never get promoted or seen, let alone clicked. The result is that out of any given army of affiliates, you can expect -- if you're lucky -- maybe a few to produce any results at all. Which puts the likes of Commission Junction and its ilk in a wholly new light, if you were even thinking about using them to launch your venture.

My point isn't that affiliate programs don't work; it's that many affiliates don't like to. And until you can find the ones who do, you're bound to be disappointed with your affiliate program. If you think that you can increase their motivation with bigger commissions or faster payouts, think again, cowboy. Here's my data:

As you may or may not know, I offer a very sweet affiliate deal for my book, The Revenge of Brand X. Pays big. Really big. In fact, I designed it to purposely pay over twice what any other book store pays -- $8 per book. I pay faster than other bookstores, too. Yet of the 100+ affiliates for my book, 4 have generated sales through their links (beating industry numbers, of which I'm proud), and one still insists on linking through Amazon, all of which proves that money and payout rate aren't the key motivators here.

Could it be, perhaps, that the book just sucks? Yeah, I suppose so. Except that it's selling through other channels even faster than my own site, which is the ONLY site promoting it, a decision I made specifically to protect my affiliates.

So what's the solution? Well, the way I see it, the money move is to locate and unite the top affiliate producers under one tent, which both Affiliate Force ( and Affiliate Union ( ) and a few others seem to be intent on. That's a good thing, but a job that will take a while to realize.

For now, I'd steer clear of the big affiliate vendors -- and their set up fees -- at least until they can show numbers that beat my own -- and I don't expect that to be any time soon. In the meantime, you're probably better off NOT making an affiliate program the main course of your marketing program.

I'd look at it more as, say, chicken soup.

Rob Frankel

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