What (Super) Affiliates Want

I attended the panel “What Super Affiliates Want” with Scott Jangro, Jeremy Palmer and Rosalind Gardner at Affiliate Summit East 2007 in Miami last week.

More appropriate would have been the title “What Affiliates Want“, because every affiliate wants what super affiliates want of course; and from what I heard what those “wants” are, should they actually most of them get.

Wants That Should Never Be a Wish
With a few exceptions are the wishes something every affiliate should have, as a matter of fact, not just affiliates, but any partner or even vendor or customer.

They want to get the information and tools needed to do their job, want to be paid for their job fairly and on time, do not want to be lied to or abused and want to get some special attention.

The latter part might fit the supper affiliate treatment a bit, but an occasional special attention to the smaller guys in the program might also be something that should not be neglected completely. Always remember, super affiliates do not just exist, they come from somewhere and are often the most loyal affiliates to a program they grew with to the status of super affiliate.

Not All Affiliates Are Equal
The needs vary in detail a bit depending on the type of affiliate. A search affiliate has different needs than a content affiliate or a coupon affiliate. None of them likes to be lied to or taken advantage of in a bad way.

Real time reporting or semi-real time reporting and short payout cycles are catering to search affiliates, while special content and a large variety of creatives cater to a content affiliate. Information about your business, which includes information about your best sellers and hot products, is an important fact for any of your affiliates.

Custom Tracking Parameters
Detailed reporting that helps affiliates to do their tracking and analytics is a crucial feature for any type of business, including your affiliates. Most networks support custom tracking parameters that can be used by affiliates to pass along some information to be tracked and reported. Some networks make the tracking and reporting of this custom parameter optional, but this does not mean that it is not needed. If it is there, track it and return it back to your affiliates. If you have an in-house solution, add a custom parameter that can be used by your affiliates.

Automated Access to Reporting Data
Scott mentioned one thing that I was also touching on in my post to the announcement of Commission Junction that their web services API does not support the access to publisher (affiliate) reporting data.

Hallelujah! “What took you so long?” might thousands of affiliates ask. The grim fact is that CJ is the first major network that provides automated access to reporting data to its affiliates. What is the problem there guys?

Returning reporting data via some sort of API in machine-readable format takes less programming that designing and programming a fancy reporting interface where a user can make mistakes every time he uses it.

Getting Attention
That you will have a hard time to get a super affiliates attention by sending emails or harass them on the telephone, especially in the middle of the night, their time, is obvious. Normal affiliates do also not respond much better to emails and do not like to be interrupted in their sleep via the telephone as well.

Sending them a physical product via snail mail, for example a selection of the products you sell and want the affiliate to promote is getting attention by anybody. Perks like this don’t have to be exclusive to super affiliates, a prime example of this are the “Wynn Fam Tours“. Learn for yourself what they offer virtually all of their affiliates.

Guess what, it works, I even referred to them again, here in my post.

I am not even active or good in promoting offers in their vertical, but still managed to send more business their way than they spend on the perks for me.

Special Commissions
Having some room in your commission structure is probably a good idea. If you have special commission rates for your top performers, my advice to you would be to keep it special and do not give it to everybody and his uncle. Keep it reserved for your proven top performers.

Unique Content
Unique content is highly in demand and content affiliates appreciate if you can provide them something that does not everybody has. Content production is time consuming and it is understandable that you cannot provide every affiliate with unique content.

This might be something that only super affiliates get, but make at least sure that you have a good amount of different content available to your average affiliate. Do not give all of them one piece of content and that is it.

If I missed to mention anything important, please feel free to add it via the comments form below.

Update Note: The trans-script Powerpoint slides for the panel is available in PDF format here. The trans-scripts Powerpoint slides for all other Affiliate Summit 2007 East sessions are also available. Check out the latest AffiliateTip.com newsletter by Shawn Collins for details.

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

12 Responses to What (Super) Affiliates Want

  1. andrew wee says:

    Carsten,
    Good insightful post.
    I think most merchants still relegate affiliates as a secondary or fallback sales channel and only select merchants like Wynn recognize that affiliates can send your campaigns into overdrive.
    [The thought of having a comp stay as part of a familiarization tour is enough to get ANY affiliate excited]

    You got me excited for a second when you mentioned “transcripts” which generally refer to a verbatim word-by-word record of a session.

    I think you probably meant the PDF versions of the powerpoints.

    The Super Aff session had a scant 3 pages which didn’t contain much info, so I’ll wait to check out the vids Shawn will be posting soon.

  2. Durk Price says:

    Great summation of AS Session. This was a must see/hear event. I thought it was one of the best sessions at AS and I liked a lot of them.

  3. Andrew wrote

    "think you probably meant the PDF versions of the powerpoints"

    I fixed that :). Thanks for pointing it out.

    Shawn said that he will make all videos from the sessions available online for free this time. Give him a few weeks to get them all done and up on the web. I am also looking forward to see them, because I missed 1-2 sessions that seemed to be interesting (for me).

    Thanks for the kudos Durk and Andrew.

    Durk: As you have been in the session too, you know that the session was a bit different than what I wrote in this post. I wrote what I was thinking when I heart the stuff mentioned in the session.

    I don't want give advertisers the idea that what was said there is only important to super affiliates and that the session title might have been a bit misleading. Okay, some of the things mentioned were specific to them, but that was the smaller number of things.

  4. Durk Price says:

    I saw that and thought that your comments just amplified or were your own opinions along with what you heard at the session. You may want to add that clarification at the end of the post. Either way not sure it is a big deal. BTW: Glad to hear Shawn is going to publish the videos. I told several of my clients about specific comments and ideas that came out of AS and would love to send them the link to the actual session for them to hear and see what I was trying to share with them.

  5. Durk Price says:

    Someone could make a bunch of money by going to all the merchants and getting them to post their keyword strategies in a central clearinghouse for affiliate to find the deals they want. It would also expose some pretty shoddy merchant strategies and probably help the market.

  6. Jonathan (Trust) says:

    That's what I was talking about over here:

    http://www.bumpzee.com/affiliatemarketing/entries

    That merchants should have clear PPC policies and it should be a requirement.

    "ShareASale (not in Europe) has separate "PPC Keyword Bidding Guidelines and Rules" the merchants have to maintain."

    They have a section for it but merchants don't have to maintain it. An incident is what prompted me to start the dicussion I just linked too above, where an SAS merchant didn't have clear policies and then it kind of blew up.

    All networks should have a section for PPC policies and merchants should be required to fill it out before the program goes live. It's a very simple thing to do and prevent a lot of issues down the road.

  7. I agree about the affiliates’ needs. Isn’t it surprising how little has been accomplished by the major affiliate networks? There is so much space for improvements. E.g. for search affiliates there is no easy way to find programs which allow PPC. Nobody has actually understood that search is a different channel with different properties, requiring different commission structures and payout cycles. Some networks don’t even track the exact time of the conversions,…

  8. Andreas said: “e.g. for search affiliates there is no easy way to find programs which allow PPC”

    ShareASale (not in Europe) has separate “PPC Keyword Bidding Guidelines and Rules” the merchants have to maintain. It contains the information about what is allowed and what is not.

    Even a Keyword grid that has the following options.

    Keyword, Bidding Allowed?, Bid Limit and Notes

    You can’t search for advertisers by restriction though, but you have to check that per individual merchant manually anyway. The restrictions are visible to affiliates prior joining.

    CJ has somewhat buried a so called “Keyword Link” to be used for PPC Affiliates.

    It contains Usage Recommendation, Protected Keywords, Recommended Keywords and Non-compete Keywords.

    If such a link was not maintained by the merchant and the terms do not prohibit ANY paid search, everything goes I guess.

    There is already a bit today, much more than there used to be, if it is sufficient or easy to use is a different story.

  9. Carsten, I agree with you, in many affiliate networks (not in all networks!) you can find information about the keyword policy. Something that from my point of view is missing, is – as Durk says – a way to easily find certain PPC programs within the whole jungle of merchants. A simple filter would be required. I also suggest something like a “restrictions form” that EVERY merchant MUST fill out in order to specify in a clear, standard manner what is actually allowed and what not. Restrictions in plain text, like in some networks, are often confusing and unclear.

  10. I know that thread at ABestWeb Jonathan. I even posted to it. It touches a somewhat related issue regarding the uncontrolled way how reversals are handled in pretty much all networks.

    The merchant can reverse at will and select any reason (the best is always “other”) without being held accountable for it. He is not required to provide some verifiable reference or proof that the reversal and the provided reasons are true and conform with the affiliate agreement.

    That means that an affiliate has virtually no way of proving its case in court, because no records by a 3rd party exists.

    This creates a right-free area where the advertiser can act as he likes to without the fear of repercussions.

    Regarding the PPC guideline as a requirement. Well, if the merchant does not specify any restrictions in that regards, than everything goes that does not violate any other rule or law. Google is extra cautious to protect themselves in case of a doubt so no problem there.

    The advertiser can not institute new rules that are valid retroactive and penalize affiliates for breaking the new rule in the past. And here comes the ability to do reversals at will into play, where advertisers could take the “law” into their own hands and make it retroactive, without admitting it.

  11. Amar Goel says:

    Your comment about automated access to reporting data is interesting. I think that as the complexity of offerings out there grows it is harder and harder for affiliates to optimize across this and even figure out how much revenue they are making. I am looking at building some tools for this, how helpful would people find these types of things?

  12. Amar, Tools that allow unified reporting across all your programs across all networkworks and in-house programs you work with (both sides, affiliates, but also outsourced program managers) are needed. There is only very little out there that attempts this. I mentioned the ones I know of in my previous post about the CJ API. I refer to that post from within this one. Cheers!