For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, there are some pervasive myths about affiliate marketing that I feel compelled to dispute. Some of these myths are perpetuated by the “get rich quick” crowd, and some of these myths are perpetuated by short-sighted business managers. Here’s my list and my take.
First, a quick note about me: I’ve been an affiliate marketer since 2006. I used to work for the company that is now known as Affiliate.com. I’ve made money promoting both lead generation offers and products for a percentage of revenue.
Myth #1 – Affiliates and Program Managers Say “Affiliate marketing is easy.”
If you’re an affiliate (or a retailer) and you think things are easy, you’re either very lucky or very new. Affiliate marketing is hard, especially sustained affiliate revenues.
Myth #2 – Program Managers and Retailers Say “Affiliates siphon off sales that we would have gotten anyways.”
It’s true that affiliates can sometimes send you customers that would have found you on their own, but this isn’t really a problem if your affiliate management program is profitable.
What’s more, this statement is true of any advertising or marketing that you do. If 100 people use a coupon to buy your product, that doesn’t mean that your coupon generated 100 incremental sales. Some of these coupon sales were incremental, and some of them were people who were going to buy your product either way and just happened to take advantage of your incentive.
If you’re concerned that affiliates are stealing sales from you, there are some things you can do…just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Myth #3 – Affiliates Say “They’re Stealing From Me!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an affiliate say that programs are rigged to deny them of commissions. It’s a popular conspiracy theory in affiliate circles, and it’s almost always nonsense.
It’s true that some affiliate programs are rigged, but these programs usually aren’t managed by reputable companies selling a well-known product. If you’re working with an established and well-known brand, and/or with a professionally managed program, you’re being paranoid.
The reason? Established brands with professionally managed affiliate programs aren’t thinking about how they can take an extra buck or two from their affiliates – they’re wondering what they can do to grow revenue this quarter, this year, etc. What’s more, the bigger the company, the more concerns about liability. There’s simply too much at risk to intentionally try and rip off affiliates.
Myth #4 – Program Managers Say “Affiliate Marketing Isn’t Profitable”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. If your affiliate marketing program isn’t profitable, it’s because:
- You don’t know your metrics (i.e. the lifetime value of each new customer, how the customer acquisition cost in your affiliate program compares to other channels, etc.)
- You’re not doing it right!
Affiliate marketing isn’t inherently unprofitable. That’s like saying no one watches reality TV…there wouldn’t be dozens of reality shows on TV if they weren’t popular. Lots of companies make money with their affiliate marketing programs.
myth #5 – Retailers Say “Affiliate Marketing Is A Great Way To Launch Our Product”
Sadly, no. While it would seem that an army of affiliates makes for the ideal “bootstrap” marketing program, the reality is that affiliate marketing isn’t for start-ups.
First, understand that there are far more offers than there are actual quality affiliates. There are literally thousands of products, programs, and/or services that an affiliate can promote. If you’re offering a program that doesn’t convert well, doesn’t have developed creative, doesn’t have excellent tracking, etc., than you’re offering a program that’s not competitive.
Second, let’s say you manage to convince a potential high volume affiliate to try out your program. If they test your offer and it performs poorly, they’re going to cross it off their list and move on to another opportunity (in a list that’s hundreds of opportunities long). That’s a problem, mostly because you really only get one shot at a great affiliate…you need to have all your ducks in a row before you bring someone like that on board.
Three, managing affiliates takes time and costs money, and the vast majority of affiliates never generate revenue. Therefore, the vast majority of time and effort you’re going to spend on affiliate marketing is wasted. While that’s not a major problem for an established retailer (they’ve got the resources to make the investment), start-ups need sure-fire success. Affiliates aren’t what you’re looking for.