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Dumping Affiliates Who Don't Produce

Shawn Collins posted on the Affiliate Tip blog some thoughts about an affiliate manager wanting to dump inactive affiliates. I started typing a comment on his post, and apparently I have some strong feelings about this, so I've decided to share those feelings here, as well.

Begin rant
From an affiliate's perspective, it's incredibly annoying to be removed from a program where I was a big producer, and then maybe haven't produced anything for a couple of months. And without any warning or notification from the company, I am simply removed from the program. That means...

That means that my links stop working. When your links stop working for me, I stop working for you.

Is it really true that inactive affiliates eat up that much of a company's resources that the company would need to dump some of them?

That seems a little difficult to believe. Why not sort affiliates into Super-Active affiliates, occasional affiliates, and people who may do something someday.

By the third month someone is in your affiliate program, you will know what category they are in for the time being. Then, it's your goal to get them to move up in the designation above by one category.

But, as Jim Rohn says:
Some will do 30%. Some will do 60%. Some will do 100%. You can't turn a 30%er into a 100%er through frustration. So don't get frustrated. Just accept that they're a 30%er for now, and may someday become a 60%er. But it's their job to make that decision, and not your job to decide to boot them, just because they're not super active. I really find it hard to believe that a 30%er, or even a 0%er, can eat up that much of your time that it makes sense to boot them. That doesn't make much sense to me.

So let's talk about the three designations I've set up above, and see how you would communicate with them.

Super Active affiliates
These are the top 10% of affiliates. They are people who you take their phone calls when they call - maybe even give them their own direct access to you through a priority 800 # which you can set up for $5/month, - and their own priority email address. You give each of them a personal phone call once/month (or more) just to see what you can do to help. Your response time with this group is always less than 24 hours. These people may like the tools you create, but more likely, this group of people is going to have their own methods of marketing your brand (whether it be through PPC, SEO, video, or whatever). You bend over backwards to give this group what they want. Sorry to disillusion anyone too - you can send this group your newsletter, but many of them are going to be too busy (or uninterested) to read it thoroughly... It will be skim material for them.

Occasional Affiliates
These are the people who produce a sale or two every month. Having a lot of them will out-produce your Super Active Affiliates, but they will need tools, and perhaps some prodding, in order to become great affiliates. This is the group that should receive your monthly newsletter with tips and tricks for how to make more money with your program. They receive your newest creative, ideas for how some of your top affiliates are promoting your brand, and reports on what your top affiliates are earning (and if your top affiliates give you permission,) how they are earning that income. (VERY IMPORTANT to ask first though. Nothing worse than pissing off one of your top producers by giving away any secrets they might be using to promote your brand.)

People who may do something someday
These people get a short email from you once/month (personalized via autoresponder), to say something like: "Hey Jim! I'd love to help you, but in order to do that, I would like to know what your goals are with our program. Please call or email me back at your earliest convenience, and I'll help you get going." The next month, the autoresponder says, "Hey Jim, Noticed you haven't done much with our affiliate program. Are things just busy in your life right now? Let me know what I can do to help."

The next month, you say, "Hey Jim! I just wrote a check to one of our top affiliates for a one-month production for $10,241.27. I don't know if you're making that kind of money with the other affiliate programs you're promoting, but I'd sure like to help you do it with our program. Call me, or email me back."

The next month, you talk about your product or service and how it helped the end consumer, and that it was purchased through a connection with an affiliate.

You (or your team) can write 5 years worth of these messages in the matter of a few hours, and they get sent to non-performing affiliates automatically when they've been non-productive for, let's say, a three month period of time, and now they're being followed up with automatically. Where's the time in doing that? Let the computer do the work for you.

For the first few months they are affiliates, you would be in a state of moving people back and forth between these categories. After that though, you will have defined who you should be communicating with on a priority basis, who you should be communicating with, and who you should be letting the computer communicate with.

You will be separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, which is what you think you're doing by booting affiliates.

However, unlike plants, people can be encouraged to be more than they are, and that should be a goal for you as an affiliate manager. When you start writing bigger checks, people move into bigger houses, buy better cars, spend more time with their children, travel more, etc. And they are doing so because they were helped along by you, as well as the tools and encouragement you gave to them.

Ultimately, when you dump an affiliate, (even one who was an occasional producer, or even a non-producer), at best it strains the relationship, and at worst, it makes someone who may have produced for you become someone who doesn't even like your company or products anymore.




Great post!

I believe that in MOST cases simply dropping affiliates due to non-performance is NOT smart business. I say in most cases because I believe there are some circumstances where dropping non performers would be OK. For example, if you've tried multiple times to contact an affiliate, offering him/her free advice, promotions, guidance, and the like, but have received zero correspondence back from them and have recorded zero sales from their efforts, ok. And, if for some reason you believe it's too costly to attempt additional correspondence with your non-performers, ok.

However, I personally do not drop non-performers. This practice is not smart business (IMHO). The cost to keep such affiliates, is typically negligible. Further, I've spoken with more than one affiliate who have signed up many months before they actually decided they were ready to begin promoting a brand. Imagine how you'd feel if you were finally ready to promote a brand, only to find out after several failed login attempts that your account was deleted. Exactly! You probably aren't going to feel good about signing up again to promote a company who just dropped you.

As JK mentioned it is important to segment your affiliate base in such a way that will allow you to allot an appropriate amount of time to devote to each. Your Supers don't really need much of your time; just good tools, promotions, and an occasional thank you. Average affiliate will require a fair amount of your time, as they will want to discuss marketing ideas, promotional ideas, website optimization, search engine optimization, etc.--basically anything and everything to help them make more--so they can be like the Super Affiliates they read so much about online. Your non-performers require a TON of hand-holding, if they even respond to your attempted correspondence. Nonetheless, don't just drop them after one or two failed attempts to reach them.

Instead, run a Re-activation Campaign. Call your non-performers and try to speak to them one-on-one. Ask them if they are still interested in promoting your company. If no, you can drop them. But, if they sound even remotely interested give them the world. Create special promotions just for them. Create special bonus programs that they can take part in directly, and reap the benefits for hitting certain goals. Offer them free SEO/SEM education to help them get their websites setup in such a way that increases their chances for higher organic rankings. Again, give them what they need to get them motivated to start promoting your products.

I look at the standard affiliate segment and the non-performers segment as pure opportunity. This group is as much to your affiliate program as the Farm League is to Major League Baseball. The individuals in this group need you to help them hone their skills so that one day, they too can be a Super.

- Eric

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