Affiliate Program Management: Leadership vs. Management – By Geno Prussakov

by FeedFront Staff on September 12, 2008

One of the major problems in affiliate program management is that many affiliate managers think of themselves as being merely that – affiliate managers.

Management, by definition, entails organizing a structure to accomplish the plan. Affiliate managers’ classic roles are those of recruiting, planning, optimizing, organizing, directing and controlling.

Affiliate managers, either outsourced or in-house, are perceived by merchants/advertisers as “thinkers”, whereas affiliates/publishers are viewed as “doers”.

The problem is that it often stops at that; the impersonal, efficiency-oriented, hardcore management. Such an approach and style works in classic teams, but affiliates are as far from being a traditional workforce as any group could be.

Very few merchants can afford to practice a rational management approach and still run successful affiliate marketing campaigns. Affiliates are generally not tied by contracts, but rather they are the born-to-be-free types, and do not tolerate directing, controlling, top-down management.

I believe many affiliate programs can be greatly improved if their affiliate managers understand the difference between rational management and leadership, and develop the skills and qualities of good leaders.

Richard Daft, author of “The Leadership Experience,” speaks of leadership as an approach concerned with “communicating the vision and developing a shared culture and set of core values that can lead to the desired future state.”

There is involvement of others as thinkers, doers, and leaders. Unlike management, “leadership occurs among people” and is “not something done to people”. 

Some of the best OPMs (outsourced program managers) and affiliate managers I have known are true leaders. Knowing that every soldier is important, they develop unique individualized relationships with nearly every affiliate.

They are not afraid of making emotional connections. They are inspiring and motivating. Their focus on people – as opposed to the concentration on the affiliate program’s ROI and growth only – is one of the prime characteristics of affiliate leaders.

Most of us have heard affiliate marketing is a highly relationship-centered industry, so we should foster relationships with affiliates. Most super affiliates I know won’t start promoting your program unless they have shaken your hand, or known you as a genuine and trustworthy affiliate manager.

What are the important personal qualities for an affiliate manager to develop to compliment his/her approach by good leadership?  

In “Force For Change: How Leadership Differs from Management,” author John Kotter  recommended addressing it on five levels: (a) heart, (b) mindfulness, (c) communication, (d) courage and (e) character.

It is no wonder why affiliate managers who constantly work on their leadership qualities attract more affiliates, have a more loyal affiliate following, and develop stronger affiliate programs.

Geno Prussakov is Founder of outsourced program management company, AM Navigator, and author of “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing” and “Online Shopping Through Consumers’ Eyes”.




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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ultima online gold November 17, 2008 at 12:38 am

Great debate on Leadership vs. Management and tons of perspectives. I've covered many in my blog on the topic over the years. My own model looks how people approach 'risk', the upsides and downsides respectively.

Geno Prussakov December 4, 2008 at 10:13 am

To clarify the applicability of Kotter's 5 levels (heart, mindfulness, communication, courage, and character) in affiliate marketing:

(1) Unlike in traditional management – which is prone to the boss-employee emotional distance – affiliate leadership should allow room for emotional connectedness (heart). (2) Unlike other managers who tend to portray themselves as the experts, affiliate managers/leaders should have an open mind (mindfulness). (3) While management is concerned about talking, leadership believes in improvement through listening (communication). (4) When management is often about conformity, leadership is all about nonconformity (courage). (5) Manager’s approach epitomizes insight into organization, whereas leaders practice insight into self (character).

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