La Cosa Nostra, Affiliate Style: The Power of Partnerships

I grew up in New Jersey. Perhaps that’s why I’m in an affiliate mafia.

This mafia has no name or physical location. Membership varies by the nature of the deal. It may be revenue share, performance based, or a hybrid with CPM and performance bonuses.

These aren’t deals you make with strangers. Internet advertising is increasingly a smaller circle of those who get it and thrive and those who crash and burn.

For affiliate programs and most media buyers, mafias, or circles of influence, form around the ability to create and execute a deal. The genius is the execution, from creative to running out the campaign to final tracking and review. It all hinges on the partners you choose.

In the tumultuous online advertising market, mini-mafias make deals and don’t screw each other. If they do, they lose their positions. It’s not about ad standards, it’s about the standards of doing good business every day.

The mafia I’m in consists of about six businesses working together closely, each doing what it does best, from technology or marketing to fulfillment. Such economic mafias are growing all over the Web.

From Mass Affiliates to Select Partners

The old days of affiliate programs, when you opened a program with some affiliate software provider and let the masses sign up, are over.

Only 5 percent of affiliates actually make sales for you. The 5 percent have become resellers, what I call the “performance mafias” of affiliate programs. They make the rules by making deals that work for all involved.

The Little Inkjet That Could delivers remanufactured inkjet cartridges and office products through a variety of affiliate partners. Virtumundo is one of them.

You may not like those inkjet emails, but many customers do. They benefit from the partnership of a solid supplier of physical products with a smart email marketer that saves them a ton of money with a cheaper alternative to new, name brand cartridges.

That’s the power of partnership: Neither party could do what the other is doing. Virtumundo is excellent at opt-in mass email. can deliver a reliable product and guarantee it.

Before you scoff at these resellers, understand inkjets make money for super affiliates and for distributors. My company has still not cracked the top echelon, the mafia, of’s affiliates. That’s very select company.

There’s a reason this product does so well. Where do you think the major printer manufacturers will make money? On inkjets, not printers. New cartridges are much more expensive than remanufactured ones. The bigger companies would argue remanufactured inkjet cartridges are not as good as their products. True, but they’re much cheaper. knows how to deliver a good product on time. Fulfilling inkjets that work is a challenge for any distributor. The company used its fulfillment capabilities to build a robust affiliate channel.

There are two mafias: on the high end, the HPs and Dells sell expensive new cartridges. In the trenches, companies with affiliate programs offer remanufactured cartridges that work for a lower price. People love the value proposition.

As the Internet becomes a stronger advertising channel, whether driven by CPM for a few prominent networks, such as AOL and MSN, or by direct marketing methods, including affiliate programs for smaller companies, the challenge is to survive.

Affiliate marketing is as much about the other companies in your mafia — the publishers, email marketers, technology providers, and the advertisers — as it is about your own product or service.

Is your marketing your thing or our thing? If it works, it’s la cosa nostra, which translates as “our thing,” because it works for all involved.

The Price of Admission: Knowledge, Execution, and Who You Know

Knowledge is the privilege of partnership. It’s what we all buy and sell. What you know separates you from the masses.

Who you know and your track record indicate your ability to make deals flow. Partnership is something you earn with every deal.

Your word and ability to deliver separates you from the scrap heap of dot-coms. No one will bury you under Giants Stadium, but they will get the word out if you don’t deal fairly.

As they say in “The Godfather,” “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Earn friendships. In really good mafias, no one dies.

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