Communication and Assuming Good Faith

The incident with CJ and the Yahoo affiliate program I posted about this Friday is a good example for bad communication and a common mistake in affiliate relationships. It happens every day and a lot good partnerships unfortunately break as the result of it.

This does not have to be that way. I would like to demonstrate on a very positive example, how good communication can solve potential problems and remove harmful obstacles quickly and efficient without causing any damage but strengthens the existing partnership.

It involves Commission Junction, the company I just criticized very strongly. This is not a contradiction, quite the opposite. It shows that there is no black and white or good and bad. There are only mistakes and right or wrong decisions and actions.

One mistake that is often made is the lack of good faith, on both sides of the fence. Advertisers mistrust their affiliates, affiliates mistrust advertisers and networks, I do not know, do not trust anybody, but themselves. In my opinion is this alone the main cause for the issues that follow as a natural consequence of this lack of faith and have to have as result the end of the partnership one day or another.

This mistake is not limited to affiliate marketing and plays an important role whenever different people have to work together as partners to achieve a common goal. Wikipedia is a good example for that and they realized this issue and created a guideline to combat it. The “behavioral guideline” is called “WP:AGF” and stands for “Wikipedia: assume good faith“. It is worth reading.

It is a guideline and not a rule or a law and they state that within the guideline to not give people a wrong idea about how to use the guideline in real life.

“it is not set in stone and should be treated with common sense and the occasional exception”

Kathryn Lerch and Drew Thomsen are part of the team at CJ, which manages the Microsoft test programs. The programs are not open to the public. I had good communication with the team from the beginning and everything was fine.

One day did I get an email from Katie that states that they received word from Microsoft that I am bidding on Microsoft trademark terms and by doing so violate the partnership agreement between Microsoft and myself.

The email lists the terms: MSN, Microsoft, Live, adcenter, ad center and included some examples of how I maybe violate the terms unknowingly because of specific settings for the pay per click campaign.

She asked me to look at this immediately and correct the campaigns that are in violation with the agreement. I was surprised, but knew that I had some small campaigns setup months ago, before I even became a publisher for Microsoft, which could cause this problem. I responded back that I would have a look and let her know the same day.

She said thanks and I was going to look at my PPC campaigns at the various first and second tier search engines.

I found campaigns on two engines that would return results for some of the terms Microsoft considers their trademarks and also noticed a problem regarding legit uses of the terms, even within the subject of promoting PPC services (what I did).

I removed the terms in question anyway, because they were not that important for my campaign. I did however point out the problem to Katie, because it might be affecting other Microsoft affiliates who use the terms more aggressively and not necessarily do that in bad faith.

My response was:

Miva’s platform is called “Miva Ad Center” (adcenter.us.miva.com). Looksmarts is even called “LookSmart AdCenter” (adcenter.looksmart.com).

Based on your terms am I not allowed to bid on those terms either. I removed them, but I would like to get some clarification on that.

I got a thank you back and the information that they discussed this problem and concluded:

“…as long as you are not directing users to a Microsoft landing page you should be fine.”

End of story and problem solved. Everybody is happy and no blood was shed. It could have gone completely different. Imagine if I would be a heavy promoter of Miva or Looksmart via PPC and would be a Microsoft affiliate as well. Now also imagine that instead of the personal email that explained the problem and asked me to look at it, would they have sent the very unfriendly and non-personal canned email I got when Yahoo! claimed that I am in violation with the publisher agreement.

So much for good communication and assuming good faith, I guess.

The whole thing could have gone the way it went with Yahoo! It did not, fortunately. The reason why it did not was the fact that good faith was assumed, and that existing communication channels were used to solve the problem.

The team who supports the Yahoo! program (from the CJ side or Yahoo! itself) should look what Katie and Drew are doing. They could learn a lot from them and so can a lot of others.

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

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