Waking the Dead

Quick, what percent of your affiliates are active? I’m talking a very liberal definition of being active. Say those affiliates have driven five or more clicks to your site in the past month.

If you said 20 percent (or less), you can take comfort in the fact you’re doing about as well as everyone else. That’s cold comfort.

When I compiled affiliate marketing statistics for Affiliate Metrix, I found in the vast majority (74 percent) of affiliate programs, only one fifth or less of affiliates were active.

If you don’t know how many of your affiliates are active, you’d better figure it out quickly.

R.I.P.: Your Program Potential

You know who your super affiliates are, but do you know which affiliates are dead (read: inactive since joining)? There’s much talk about recruiting affiliates, especially those vaunted super affiliates. That’s not the end of the process, though. It’s only the beginning of a successful affiliate program.

It’s essential you know which affiliates are dead. It’s wonderful if you managed to recruit LookSmart and Schoolpop, but if they never put up your links, they’re nothing but a couple of fancy names on your dead affiliate roster.

If you’re not categorizing your affiliates according to activity level, it’s time to start. At the very least, you should break down your affiliates into active, dead, and super categories.

Now, it’s time to get a handle on dead affiliates and make an effort to revive as many as possible.

Returned Mail: User Unknown

One reason you have so many dead affiliates is you don’t have working email addresses for them. When you send email to affiliates and get a whole bunch of bounce-backs, don’t just delete those messages.

Open the undeliverable emails, figure out which bounced, and try to pinpoint the correct addresses by checking their site contact information and domain registration information in Alexa or WHOIS. You might even do the unthinkable: pick up the phone and call.

By the way, did you do anything when all of those @home.com addresses went bad last year? If not, you’ve probably got a whole bunch of bad addresses in your database.

Increase the Signal-to-Noise Ratio

A given affiliate usually wants to promote your site. Often, it’s signed up with dozens, if not hundreds, of programs. You’ve got to make an extra effort to get it active.

Whenever you touch base with affiliates, be sure to include code for your best-performing link (including their affiliate ID). If they joined your program and haven’t put links up, spoon-feeding them their code can often be the solution to getting some activity.

Send their login information (URL, user name, and password), too. Make it as easy as possible for dead affiliates to be revived.

It goes without saying a monthly newsletter with updates, news, and affiliate codes should be sent. Yes, I know you’re busy (affiliate managers content to sit on their hands don’t read this column), so if you need content, feel free to use tips and tools I’ve published at AffiliateManager.net and in the ClubMom newsletters.

Lead the Horses to Water and Make Them Drink

Back to categorizing affiliates. When you’ve isolated the dead affiliates in your program, you can launch an education campaign through automated communications.

For instance, I have a nine-installment series I mail to dead affiliates. The messages are sent alternate days after an affiliate is classified as dead (30 days after joining the program with less than five clicks). Each email includes a tip to succeed with my program, account login information, and my contact information.

I’ve been doing this for about a month, and dead affiliates have been crossing over ever since. Less than a third of my affiliates are currently inactive. I’m trying to educate them into submission. As they’ve been inactive for a month or more, odds are they won’t become active on their own.

The goal is to either get them to read the emails and become active or to let me know they’ve decided to not promote us. In that case, I can remove them from my program and gain some bandwidth.

The Perfect Engagement

Many successful managers have found affiliates are interested in participation in a community of fellow affiliates. This is a great way to engage novices. Establish an atmosphere that encourages questions and information sharing.

There are free community tools out there, such as Yahoo Groups, where eHealthInsurance interacts with its affiliates, and A Best Web, host of TigerDirect’s message board.

Recently, Herby Olschewski, of AffiliateFORCE fame, launched the Internet Affiliate Marketing Association (iAfma). This membership organization for affiliates, merchants, and affiliate solution providers looks to be an exciting evolution in the affiliate marketing space.

The ClubMom program launched a new message board on iAfma. Having run a Yahoo Group for affiliates over the past two years, I was pleased to migrate my group from that clunky, megacommercialized platform to the feature-rich iAfma boards.

Next Steps

So you’ve got 15, maybe 20 percent of your affiliates performing. Don’t fret, but don’t accept being a part of the status quo either. Try these ideas and you’re bound to see producers come out of the woodwork.

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