Just Launch Your Program Already

It’s always fascinating to sift through reader email. Even more amazing is the way questions and comments seem to come in waves. Lately, there have been quite a few advice seekers wondering about setting up their programs. Which network should I join? What are the right criteria to evaluate affiliate network vendors? What do you think of network A? What do you think of network B? But the email that really got my attention went something like this.

“I’ve been an avid reader of your column for about four months now. After a long due diligence process, we selected network A over networks B and C… We were just about to pull the trigger… when we received word that network A was going to raise its rates, invalidating the business case I built… What do you think?”

Before we go too far, let’s be clear. My column depends on reader feedback. I have nothing but respect for the position of the reader. While I think there are some nice lessons to be learned by thinking about issues like vendor selection, this aspiring affiliate marketer is not alone. My comments are meant to be helpful, not critical…

Analysis Paralysis

It probably happens to bigger companies more than smaller ones — that tendency to trade urgency for perfection. Here’s a senior person at an established company — one that’s doing several hundred million dollars in annual revenues from mostly dirt world activities. Along the way, the company’s developed some great web properties, and he’s trying to lead them across the Rubicon and into the world of affiliate marketing. Good for him.

Unfortunately, he might be making the mistake of thinking that success as an affiliate marketer will be driven by which affiliate network his company joins. Instead, he should focus on getting his company to launch an affiliate program with any affiliate network. Don’t misunderstand, there are clearly differences between programs, but the point is to get in the game and soon. You can always iterate. Just how much difference can a few months make?

Opportunity Costs

The opportunity costs of not starting right away are just enormous. Earlier this week, I was speaking with a colleague that runs several affiliate programs for her company. In the last three quarters, her programs have added about 15,000 new affiliates and have grown to represent about 20 percent of her company’s volume. Great stuff.

Or maybe you saw the news on ClubMom, a program headed up by fellow ClickZ columnist Shawn Collins. In the three months since its launch, ClubMom has signed up 1.3 million members for its free service. Of these, ClubMom indicated that affiliates drove over 222,000 sign-ups in less than three months-all of this with only 3,600 affiliate webmasters. My kudos to Shawn…

The point is that affiliate marketing has some obvious pitfalls, but the decision of which network to use shouldn’t be the critical path item. Worry about how to recruit affiliates, or how to build better banners and links, or how to hire an affiliate manager. Affiliate marketing works. The sooner you start, the more you’ll know. What are you waiting for?

Still have questions? Send them to joel@irant.com.

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