Introducing a New Breed of Affiliate Marketers

Having hung around the U.K. affiliate community for many years, I found myself looking at everyone’s New Year’s resolutions. I dabble as an affiliate, and last year did not do badly at all. The overwhelming feeling that I got from reading the resolutions was that the affiliates are looking to step up their game in 2010 — but not in terms of “volume” as much as in quality of service to their customers.

Some of the top resolutions from a multitude of posters were:

  • Improve the consumer journey.
  • Sell off those domain names hardly touched and stop buying new ones.
  • Learn from past mistakes.
  • Focus more on current traffic.
  • This doesn’t sound like the affiliates of old. Maybe they are growing up? Historically, they have been considered opportunists and untrustworthy. Like multi-level marketing, low barrier to entry, low cost, one man start-ups based on hope rather than planning are generally all the rage in a recession. But look under the belly of the affiliate industry and you will see an incredible amount of change in 2009 that is likely to generate a very different breed of affiliate in 2010. In 2009, life got tough for affiliates that were unable to add a clear, unique selling proposition or value layer to their audience.

    Google stopped many of them from advertising on AdWords. Google also cancelled lots of affiliate revenue streams through the AdSense system. At the same time, as sweeping cuts came down from merchants, the affiliate community saw program after program close.

    A closed program can be immensely painful for the affiliate that has invested days or even months — not to mention money — developing a route to market, only to find the revenue stream dry up. For every merchant that closed a program in 2009, 10 affiliates saw their incremental revenue streams drop…and that was on top of any downturn from a lack of consumer confidence.

    But affiliates are nothing if not resourceful. They are undeterred and the old adage “what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger” applies to this industry in 2010 like no other. There is simply too much at stake in the affiliate industry to think otherwise. Affiliates can react faster to the latest fad. Be it Twitter appearing on Google or Bing providing cash back to consumers, than almost any other type of business. They are immensely Internet savvy, and generally have all the tools and decision-making processes centralized in one place or person to be able to marshal resources into a new venture. The result is one of opportunity.

    Affiliates can profit from the video or mobile waves now. They don’t need to wait for new technology or boards of directors to catch the wave. They can ride the crest…beat the rest. I think that this is where many of the new opportunities for affiliates are likely to lie in 2010. At the same time, people who have been in the game for a while are looking to consolidate — to strengthen their consumer’s journey and rid themselves of redundant domains. Certainly, there are rich pickings for these affiliates in going through this process — retracing the ground that they trampled in a rush to market the first time around. But with the old guard concentrating on its own back yard, 2010 may be the opportunity for the new wave of affiliates to seize the day.

    Meet Dixon at SES UK, Feb. 16-18, 2010, where he’s moderating the panel, “New Affiliate Opportunities & Strategies.”

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