It’s been said that the majority of problems in the affiliate marketing industry stem from the lack of merchant training and education. During a recent interview I conducted with an outsourced program manager, a super affiliate and an affiliate network’s director regarding issues in the affiliate marketing industry, the first interviewee pointed to the “merchant’s lack of knowledge”; the third one stated that merchants are predominantly “uneducated”; while the second interviewee mentioned that there is “only one main problem; a lack of ethics on the part of a few players.”
The topic of ethics is an underpinning theme of the larger industry’s problem, and every one of my interviewees has pointed to it. However, prior to addressing the ethical problems it is imperative to underscore the importance of merchant education.
One way to define education is to call it a “process that provides knowledge, skills, moral values, and understanding required in the normal course of life.” (Amos, Ristow, et al, 2009, Human Resource Management, p. 324). I especially appreciate the incorporation of “moral values” in this definition.
Without the “knowledge” and “understanding” of the proper ways for the affiliate marketing channel to function, merchants cannot discern the improper ways. Therefore, dealing with all other industry’s problems should start with tackling the problem of the lack of knowledge.
Effective affiliate marketing education entails: (i) establishing and maintaining a solid theoretical basis, (ii) modifying theory to fit the context that the affiliate marketer works in, (iii) staying on top of the most current industry’s developments, and (iv) teaching others.
i) Theory. This is an area most frequently overlooked by affiliate marketers. The fact that our industry is young does not mean that it has a right to exist in a de-theorized mode. Reading at least two books a month is a must for every affiliate marketer. Among the directly applicable subjects, I personally enjoy works on leadership, motivation, consumer psychology, website usability and analytics, to mention but a few.
ii) Contextual Adjustments. Allow your context to shape the theory into a strategy – a thorough and methodical one.
iii) Continuous Education. Commit to a systematic self-education through affiliate marketing blogs, forums, and related news portals. Between changes in legislation, new unethical affiliate practices, and other rising threats, merchants have much to keep track of. Subscribing to RSS feeds of the above-quoted resources will help you to stay on top of the industry’s news, trends and tendencies.
iv) Teaching Others. Seneca, an ancient Roman Stoic philosopher is known for saying that “People learn while they teach.” Learning is always mutual, and while sharing the knowledge with others, the instructor deepens his/her own knowledge as well. Some twenty centuries after Seneca, the famous American novelist, Richard Bach, wrote: “You teach best what you most need to learn.” Start a blog where you would continuously share your knowledge with others. It will help you more than you know.
Self-education will take time. But it is time well-invested. So start today!
Geno Prussakov is the Founder of AM Navigator, and author of “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing” and “Online Shopping Through Consumers’ Eyes.”
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FeedFront issue 6 articles can be found here as well: http://feedfront.com/archives/article00date/2009/06