One of the things that many companies forget about is that it isn’t just the Affiliates which could be taking advantage of them. A lot of times it is the Affiliate Manager or Outsourced Program Manager (OPM). Often times the company hired someone or a company who thought they were or pretended that they were experienced, knowledgeable or trustworthy, but when the company finally does a value add analysis, the company may soon realize that the problem may begin with finding new Affiliate Management Companies or hiring a new in house Affiliate Manager. Other times companies will come and hire someone like me to come in and teach how to manage and grow a program that adds value, instead of just takes credit for sales that the company would have had anyways. Here are some of the things you should be asking your Affiliate Manager or Outsourced Affiliate Program Management Company on a regular basis to make sure that they are also adding value to your company and have your best interest in mind.
Who has been auto approved and who have you disapproved from the program? If you are on auto approve, you probably don’t have a direct line of communication with your Affiliates. Not only can this get you in trouble with the FTC advertising disclosures since you don’t know who your partners are or what they are doing, but you will more than likely also end up overrun with non value adding coupon sites, adware affiliates, trademark bidders and other Affiliates that you wouldn’t want in your program.
Out of the coupon sites that sent sales, send me the emails and screen shots of where the sales came from and where the value add is? It is important that if you have a lot of coupon sales, the majority come from value adds like newsletters, homepage exposure, category placements, etc… If they are just coming from people who left your site to look for a coupon then you need to rethink your Manager or Affiliate Management Company. Look over your top 20 Affiliates for the month and ask for screen shots or proof of where the coupon sales came from and track them from the pages on the coupon sites to see if they are adding value to you or taking advantage of searches like yourdomain.com + coupons.
What Adware Affiliates did you catch and remove this month or disapprove? Almost every week I come across an adware Affiliate applying to or that is in the program. During a bi-weekly or monthly call with your in house Affiliate Manager or Outsourced Affiliate Program Management Company, you should be asking for examples of ones that applied during the last time frame and seeing that they were disapproved. If your Management Company cannot do this, find a new one to do an adware audit of your program or hire someone like Kellie Stevens or myself to take a look. You may need to rethink your in house or outsourced manager.
How many recruitment emails and phone calls did you make and can you send me a few of the emails? It is important that your Affiliate Management Company is constantly recruiting new sites and Affiliates for you. A hands off approach is not an approach at all. It can get you in trouble with the FTC and will allow all of the bad players the ability to get into your program. Sure Affiliates apply through the network naturally, but the ones you really want probably don’t know you are there which is why your Affiliate Manager or Affiliate Management Company needs to go out and recruit new sites. You should ask for a few of the custom written recruitment emails to make sure they are working for you and not just taking your money.
What types of activation campaigns have they run for you? One important thing to do is to have activation campaigns on a regular basis. If your Affiliate Manager or Outsourced Affiliate Management Company isn’t running activation campaigns, ask them why not and question then until you get a solid answer. People join your program for a reason which is why activation campaigns are great ways to remind them of that reason and get them active.
Show me examples of FTC disclosures and warnings you have sent out since we last talked. If the FTC comes to you and is ready to fine you, you have to show that you have been proactive in ensuring that Bloggers, Tweeters, Review Sites, etc… are properly disclosing their relationships with you. I catch people every single week (in my program and some of my friends programs) violating this and either remove them or talk to them and get them on the right track. 9 times out of 10 you’ll find that they will instantly start disclosing or they’ll just stop working with you. It is important to show the FTC that you are being proactive and this is also why you cannot let anyone in who you do not have a direct relationship with. It is also another reason why a hands off approach or being on auto approve is also a bad thing. It is easy for a Manager to take a couple of screen shots and those screen shots also help to explain to the Affiliate what they need to do to be in compliance. Legit Affiliate Managers and Outsourced Affiliate Management Companies will have examples, especially recent ones, of your Affiliates and their sites and will be able to send them to you if you ask. If they don’t have them then you should do a search and see if you can find any obvious violations. If you can’t then it may be that you had a good and lucky week and they are in control. However the next week when new Affiliates start, you may end up with one or two that do not disclose and then your Manager or OPM will have new screen shots to share with you.
When you think about Affiliates adding value to a company, you usually just think of the Affiliate. The reality is that it usually starts with your managers or if the network is managing the program for you. Ask them the questions above and get answers. It is very important that your Management company has your best interest in mind and by getting answers to the above, you should feel more secure that they do.