The sheer volume of similar affiliate networks and other companies at Affiliate Summit West 2012 drove me and readers of the blog here absolutely nuts! I talked with a lot of people that are wondering why affiliate networks all lack originality these days. And the general consensus is that they don’t even realize it but they are all playing it safe. Nobody is out there being aggressive right now, except a handful of companies that are at the top of the heap.
Why do I think this is happening? Companies are scared to be original and stand out. They might not want the attention, they might not want to be bold, they might not know what they are doing, they might not have the right team in place, they might need help and not know where to look, the reasons and excuses are endless.
Having no presence at conferences.
No presence or a poor presence at the major trade shows can be death of an affiliate network or industry company. There are some exceptions but even the exception companies are physically at the show and present in some sense, so don’t let the exceptions throw you off into thinking you don’t need to do this. They may not all have booths but they have a very specific strategy that sets them up to not need booths. EWA would be a good example of a network that I don’t think needs a booth (and they don’t use them.) But, not every network has the status of EWA and can get away with having no booth. If you’re new or mid level and working your way into higher status it could be a mistake if you don’t understand the tactics involved in using booths. I generally recommend booths to just about all companies trying to make it big. That face to face aspect can really help you open new doors and it can be hard to generate organic networking without the booths if you are just randomly walking up to people. And, you can’t get that kind of networking over the computer. People will take you a bit more seriously to see that you are setup properly and working on your networking and marketing with the conference presence.
Blending in is an excuse to not be aggressive.
Do you want your network to just do OK or do you want it to stand out? How are you going to stand out in a sea of similar companies? If you think about that last question for a second, you might realize that there are so many similar minded affiliate networks out there. What does that mean for you? Stand out! Why do you think the top affiliate networks have VERY bold marketing tactics? Think about the top few affiliate networks and look at how they all have very bold marketing, special events at conferences, conference presence (in some aspect), and essentially are all VERY different companies in terms of views and marketing. Don’t blend in… stand out. If you look like 100 other networks out there, I and the rest of the affiliates out there are going to pass you by.
Paying affiliates late (or not at all).
Do you know how fast word travels when someone is late on payment to their affiliates? Or, waits till the last minute and cuts you off? Fast! I’ve personally been burned out of money altogether and trust me I made sure that everyone I knew in the industry was made aware of the situation. Why? Because when I smell something funny going on I want to let others know so that they aren’t exposed to the same situation, even if it’s not as drastic as burning me out of a payment I will generally let my inner circle of friends know what’s up so they can be leery too. It’s like protecting your friends from something bad you see coming. In fact, there are networks out there that have not paid me altogether because of outrageous reasoning. And, still to this day I will tell people my horror story of the networks that have burned me. I know there are more of you out there like me that when you have something go wrong you aren’t shy to tell your friends and industry contacts. I hope you guys keep doing this, and don’t see it as bad thing that you are “ratting” anyone out, because they are the ones burning you and you need to speak up so nobody else gets burned.
Copying everyone else.
Looking the same and making similar claims are one of the most underrated but deadly bad habits of them all. It’s a subtle but extremely deadly mistake. Studies I’ve done have shown that almost all of the networks that copy networks before them in similar marketing messages like “fastest payouts” and “highest payouts” and other “we have the best xyz” type messaging grow much slower than networks making unique and creative marketing choices. I can’t tell you how many networks I saw copying others at ASW because I lost track, there were that many. It’s unfortunate that more networks aren’t bringing in outside consultants to get a fresh and honest view of what’s working and not working for them, and how to fix it without any company politics issues at risk since a consultant is telling them. Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to do that and hire someone to tell you what you are doing wrong, because Ego tends to get in the way when a company thinks their marketing is really good, but in reality it really isn’t and they are personally attached to it.