Affiliates and Merchants Working Together

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I’d like to relate a story, that was actually part of the inspiration to write about split-testing affiliate pages a few days ago. One of the previous merchant’s programs I was managing was doing pretty well as far as sales. We had solid growth across the program with productive value-adding affiliates.

One of those affiliates however, one who I had a prior relationship with, felt that we could be doing better. He’d observed that the traffic he was sending us should probably be converting at a higher level. It WAS converting, but he was expecting a >5% conversion rate, since the traffic he sent was highly qualified and he wasn’t just pushing anyone and everyone our way. Many affiliates in this situation would dump the merchant, pick up a competitor, or deprecate the page and links on their main site. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the path of least resistance and will probably put the affiliate in a position for better earnings.

However, this particular affiliate took a different path. He liked our program and liked the merchant’s products. Also, his having a relationship with me probably helped as well :) He took a look at the merchant site and had a few ideas on how conversions might be improved. He reached out to me to let me know he had some ideas. I immediately offered a commission boost to our top-line commission in exchange for ideas. This was a total win-win for him. If his ideas did help conversions, he’ll benefit from the increased sales and conversion rate, and he’ll benefit doubly from the higher permanent commission boost.

Now, the more cynical amongst us might point out that IF his ideas did help merchant conversions, the merchant will benefit significantly more since conversions should improve across all their sales. It might be the difference of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is all true, there’s no sugar coating it. IF his ideas did help conversions, but that is a mighty big if, then the merchant will benefit significantly. But so will the affiliate, and when you get right down to it, it DOES benefit the affiliate more so than by keeping the knowledge to himself.

Yes, he could have gone to a competitor, but he had started promoting us first for a reason. He felt, for good reason, our stuff will do better in the long run. Also, keep in mind, there’s no reason as an affiliate you can’t go to the competitor anyway and offer competing products side by side. Let the customer decide with their purchases. Back to this affiliate now. So keeping this “conversion advice” knowledge to himself doesn’t add cash into his wallet, but by sharing it, it DOES potentially add cash to the wallet. It’s a pragmatic decision to share.

So let’s get back to this story. The affiliate shared his ideas with us, and we took them, implemented and split-test. Some of his ideas had no discernible impact at all, but one of them DID have an impact, And it was pretty big. Conversions improved by a significant margin across the whole site, and his conversions also improved right along side. The merchant was incredibly grateful, and with just a little bit of lobbying on my part, awarded that affiliate with a healthy cash bonus. Probably less that what the merchant might have paid by hiring a consultant, but the affiliate now has the top end commission rate in hand also to benefit for months and possibly years into the future.

So, affiliates and merchants keep this in mind. Affiliates, be receptive to building relationships with your affiliate managers, and merchants keep in mind that your affiliates can be very valuable partners and help your bottom line in many more ways than one.