More on Affiliate Marketing

Posted by Jesse Willms on October 06, 2010

As I noted in an earlier blog post, as an individual marketer you can only afford so much advertising and can only devote so much time to selling your products. When you get into the affiliate marketing game you can literally end up with hundreds, if not thousands of people working hard to sell your products for you. Best of all, because they work on commission you only have to pay the network when they get results. If they drop the ball, you are not out of pocket at all.

That said, there is one serious drawback to affiliate marketing – it’s much harder to regulate how your products are advertised, and this can have a negative effect on your business reputation.

In other words, if your affiliates screw up or engage in unethical behavior, you get the blame and end up holding the bag – nobody ever knows who they are.

To understand this, it’s important to review how large-scale affiliate marketing works. You get started by connecting with an affiliate network company. These kinds of companies make their living by signing up and managing large numbers of affiliates. Every time one of their affiliates makes a sale, they take a small part of the commission.

As soon as you sign up with one of these advertising networks, they try to get their affiliate list to promote your products for you. But when this happens, you lose some control over how your product is advertised, and it becomes very difficult to regulate. The affiliates have the ability to market your products any way they see fit, and you rarely if ever know who they are.  Some networks are good at policing and managing the way their affiliates advertise, and some look the other way and allow less-than-ethical advertising practices continue.

Now, most affiliates are honest, hardworking sales people. But, there is a bad apple or two in every group. This means that every once in a while, you are going to have an affiliate market your product unethically.  Usually what they will do is send out spam emails to market your product or else make false, exaggerated claims about your product.  Then, if a consumer gets upset you are the one who gets the blame.

You can try to minimize this by constantly searching the web to see how your company is being promoted, and then complaining to the advertising network when you find a violation. But, you are still going to miss one or two errant affiliates.

That’s a bummer for people like me who are working hard at maintaining good business ethics. I don’t believe in spam, false claims or misleading my customers in any way shape or form.

But I know that because I choose to work in affiliate marketing, every so often a customer is going to come forward and it’s going to be clear that I got burned by an awful affiliate.

All I can do in those cases is make sure that my customer service representatives are well trained, able to explain the situation and offer refunds as soon as possible. Then, I contact that advertising network and have them stop the affiliate from promoting my products.

It’s a very frustrating situation and one that any Internet marketing person needs to think about before they decide to enter into the affiliate game.