Affiliate Marketing Trials and Tribulations

Daryl, who is a self-professed outdoor blogger and photographer, creates a link to a product on my website. And because he’s such an awesome self-professed blogger, someone clicks through from Daryl’s awesome blog to my website and buys my product. I make a sale (!) and Daryl gets a commission. Everybody wins. Bob’s your uncle!
Super easy, right?
Not so much.
Well, it turns out, that product is out of season and 40% off so Daryl’s commission just ate my remaining margin. Not to mention I have to ship it for free, pay someone to get the product image, write the description, build the web page, pack it in a box, and god knows what else goes into selling things online. Then my competition decides to give Daryl a 3% commission bump for who knows what reason and I’ve just lost my referral link. What’s an affiliate marketing manager newbie to do?

Affiliate Marketing Mountain Biking

It’s not always about sales.

I’ve been managing affiliate programs for about three years. Not long enough to call myself an industry veteran but I’ve picked up a few necessary details in my short tenure. First, the affiliate channel isn’t solely about making sales, which I feel that it is often branded that way. The merchant brands I work for are smaller, more boutique, and have very specific goals and customers they wish to serve. My promotions are limited by margin goals and how the brands are represented online. This is not necessarily a problem, but it means I cannot go flaunting coupon codes and flash sales to promote my affiliate channel and generate as many sales as possible to keep my numbers up.

What I need are specific partners that are as excited about my brand as me. I need someone who understands my business model. I need an affiliate who can write, take photos, create a web page, speak to a niche, and keep doing it on a consistent basis to keep his or her audience engaged. And that’s just their part.


Relationships matter in affiliate marketing

I’ve found, personally, that affiliate marketing isn’t just about Daryl linking to a merchant site and getting a commission. It is more about a mutually beneficial business relationship that works for two or more parties. It can be about sales or it could be about branding but the end result has to satisfy both parties. Luckily, I am in a position where I can go knocking down Avantlink’s door (literally) with questions. And this helps my day-to-day tremendously. As our young programs have matured and branched out I have gained access to minds that are bigger and smarter than my own. I’ve schmoozed for contacts and made quality outreach to new, exciting affiliates that mirror our efforts online. And as our business has grown, I have more freedom with commissions, making the monetary part of the discussion and negotiations a little easier.

Affiliate Marketing is about relationships

Goodbye newbie, hello opportunity

While it isn’t easy, affiliate marketing is a fun challenge and the channel has opened doors to other opportunities as well. Learning from what we’ve done within an affiliate network, my team has been able to use these same strategies outside of the network to gain external links to bolster the SEO value of our websites and establish partnerships that benefit our online properties.

Partnerships have long been a basic tenet of business. By utilizing affiliates within or outside of a network, you are propagating and building your brand, creating more awareness and driving new customers to your website. And as your traffic builds through these referrals, so will your sales.

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  • Mike Hardaker

    “mutually beneficial business relationship” win, win hope all is well Paul.

    SEO juice from organic sources not only helps the old Googlgod out but more importantly “branding”. We have had partners in the past that advertised and spent much more then they earned in returns ( a negative ROI perhaps…) why?

    Maybe the customer doesn’t make the sale now, or tomorrow or even the next day but in the future they will remember those brands and logos and shop in familiar territories or in your case online stores.

    Brands that invest in me, our site and outdoor sports as a whole, understand that I will forever have there back just ask any of my friends, peers or colleagues. Business is business however we all need to grow our bottom lines..

    Looking forward to working with you again in the future.

  • Chad Waite

    This is a great article and is probably the experience of anyone who has ever managed an affiliate program. I also agree with the point that affiliate marketing is bigger than just the raw sales numbers. It’s amazing how things like brand exposure, vocal advocacy from affiliate partners and more so often don’t stack up to “the almighty sales count” number that seems to be the only metric to judge effectiveness.

  • God, could I relate to this article. I had such a difficult time starting off because my focus was SALES, SALES, SALES. Thanks for the share. I will definitely be back for more of your value.

  • This is one thing I’ve always liked about Avantlink. Not that all other networks are bad, but there have been numerous instances where you feel like the affiliate manager cares about nothing other than sales numbers. What really blows my mind is when you try to take the time to get a deeper understanding of the brand, and all the affiliate manager does is push for more banner ad placements. Avantlink, overall, just seems to get it. Keep up the good work guys!