Affiliate Marketing in the Dark, Part 3

I got an interesting response from my last two columns: A brand manager wrote to tell me that there were even more reasons why many brands don't use e-mail. The reason he cited was lack of control of the e-mail creative. His company couldn't be certain how the e-mail was going to look, and the affiliates they had spoken with would not show them the e-mail before it went out. Since they were so careful about how their brand was presented, they were hesitant to use e-mail. Of course, I was able to point out to them that whether they knew it or not, they were already sending e-mails. In fact, I was able to bring up 17 e-mails our tracking system had gathered over the last 30 days where they were branded and had links driving traffic back to their site.

This blindness is one of the more fascinating aspects of e-mail marketing. I can't remember if I've told this story or not in this column, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself. We once had a brand purchase our e-mail tracking system. It was a brand that used a number of different affiliates to send out their offer. When the client took a look at themselves in the system, they could see all the affiliates they were working with, and there was their second- best-performing affiliate, just like it should be.



However, when they looked at it from a different angle -- from the viewpoint of the affiliate itself -- they found that there were 59 other brands in their market sector that were receiving more of the affiliate's inventory than they were. 59 other brands' offers were sent out more often than their brand. And this was their second-best-performing list! How could this be?

When they contacted the affiliate, they were told this simple story: The reason they didn't receive more inventory was that the affiliate didn't like the creative the brand was supplying, plus the company paid less than the other brands. The brand immediate rectified the situation, adjusting the creative and upping the payout. They soon rose to the top of the affiliates' available offers and increased their return on investment.

But without some way of monitoring the situation, these things happen all the time. As far as the brand was concerned, the affiliate was working well for them. As far as the affiliate was concerned, they had 59 better brands they were sending offers out for, so why contact the brand about their low payout and lousy creative. Because they were both running in the dark, both brand and affiliate were missing out on a better opportunity.

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