Fixing a Struggling Affiliate Program – By Jennifer Parker

by Sara Szado on December 24, 2015


When I started at Decision Analyst, I was an AdWords girl all the way. I was certified, which put me on the mailing list to receive pumpkins, complete with carving kits, and Jelly Belly-filled plastic droids.

It wasn’t just the swag that had my loyalty, though. AdWords was working for my small business clients. They were spending about $60 a day, converting a few leads a week into hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars in new business.

With this mindset, I began looking for ways to build up our consumer panel. I started my research and to my utter shock, found that the average cost per click was around $5.00. It didn’t take long to realize that this strategy was not going to work for us. Here’s what happened next:

We identified that affiliate marketing was the most cost-effective advertising for us.

Once I realized that we only paid on a conversion, that we determined the terms of and paid a price that we felt was fair, I knew that affiliate was our jam. Our old tried-and-true in-house affiliate program just needed some serious polishing.

We changed our Terms of Use to get control of fraud and useless leads.

We were paying affiliates for each double opt-in but were not getting satisfying results. Requiring the added step of an initial completed survey not only improved the quality of our leads, but we also found that it cut down on fraud. Filling out a registration form, opting in from a confirmation email, and then filling out a five-to-ten-minute survey, is not easily automated and is too much trouble for fraudsters looking for a quick buck.

We notified our existing affiliates of our change in Terms.

There are no shady shenanigans around here. As a bonus, the evidence of a sent email came in handy later when there were questions about proper payouts.

I researched affiliate networks to replace our outdated in-house platform.

While all of these changes were going on, we were searching for a new network to work with. Being unproven in this world of affiliates, I decided to take the safest route that, for us, turned out to be ShareASale.

We doubled our payout to affiliates and offered them a little something extra.

If our affiliates were going to have work harder to get leads, we felt compelled to reward them for it. We started sending out newsletters, and we held contests. In short, we added value to our offer.

Bonus: We reduced the overall cost per conversion.

It sounds too good to be true. But it’s not. It’s about quality and retention. By cutting down on fraud, and asking for a larger commitment on the front end, we’ve been able to retain the folks who actually want to be members.

Since we’re not paying for people who aren’t all that interested, and who are likely to close their account within the month, the cost per conversion is reduced overall.

Jennifer Parker is a Panel Administrator and the Affiliate Marketing Manager at Decision Analyst, Inc.

This article appeared in issue 32 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in October 2015.

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