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
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 Amazon.com 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
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 (http://www.affiliateforce.com)
and Affiliate Union (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ) 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.