opinion

Social Marketing - Changing Times

Sarah Jayne Anderson

Marketing an adult affiliate program has always had an element of smoke and mirrors about it. We are, after all, in the entertainment industry and affiliate programs have acted much like entertainers. Chasing each other to put on the biggest and baddest show for their audience. The highest payouts, the most elaborate bonus offers, the most attention grabbing reps. It all worked too. It is what got affiliates through the door for the better part of a decade. Which is precisely why all the flash became expectant rather than exception. It is how the West was won but, if we look around now, where did it get us?

It is no great secret that the affiliate marketing model is suffering. The information super highway is littered with affiliate program ghost towns. Program collapses and consolidations have made it increasingly difficult for affiliates to spot the thriving affiliate programs. They do exist and there are still great profits to be had in the relationship between affiliate and affiliate program. However, the time has come for affiliate programs to focus less on the flashy antics and more on ensuring the basics of their program are sound.

Making sure your program looks alive is one of the most important aspects of marketing to a modern affiliate base.

Adult affiliate programs that have managed to keep themselves healthy face the challenge of marketing to an increasingly cynical affiliate base. Old school webmasters remember all too well the early days when risking not getting even your first check was an inherent risk of promoting any affiliate program. With the exception of high profile processor collapses, that was much less of an issue for several years but as programs disappear non-payment is becoming an issue again. Understandably, it has put affiliates on edge. They are becoming skilled at spotting tell tale signs of program decay and pulling out of promotions accordingly. Making sure your program looks alive is one of the most important aspects of marketing to a modern affiliate base.

Start with one of the most basic, yet most overlooked, concepts and have solid and dependable contact information on both the inside and the outside of the affiliate program. As both an affiliate and an affiliate manager looking to do business to business deals, this has become one of my biggest frustrations. Somehow, it has become all too commonplace to not even have an email address on a program tour let alone a phone number or an instant messenger contact.

It isn’t just enough to have contact information on the page either. Make sure all the communication methods you have on your program site are monitored. More than one affiliate program has lost me as a potential affiliate because they never replied to my pre-signup questions and even more have lost out on getting business from me as an affiliate manger because there was simply no way to get in contact with them.

As daunting of a process as it may feel, now is also the time to take a real audit of your affiliate area. Does it serve the needs of your modern day affiliates? Many programs have spent years in a cycle of creating and adding new promotional materials to their affiliate areas. Fewer, have spent the time to go back and cleanup out of date materials. Nobody needs your 2002 Christmas banners for promotion now. If your promo materials look old get rid of them and get new ones. Keeping them around doesn’t make you look established as much as it makes you look like you aren’t maintaining your program.

If your affiliate program has a program news feed on it, make sure it is updated regularly. Going to a program and seeing that the last update to such a feed was months or even years ago is one of the reddest of red flags to an affiliate looking for signs your program is in danger.

Similarly, it is great that your program has been nominated for industry awards but those ‘2009 nominee’ badges need to come down unless you are adding a button for each subsequent year beside it. Just one distant year on its own makes me wonder what happened to you the following years. Either you weren’t nominated or nobody is paying enough attention to the appearance of your program to add the buttons from recent years. It is much better to not have buttons and update feeds at all than to have negligence counteract your marketing efforts by making your program look stale.

The actual mechanics of running an affiliate program may not be the glamorous end of the industry. However, committing to taking even small steps to consistently maintain the appearance of an active program can be one of the most effective marketing investments a company can make today.

Sarah Jayne Anderson is HustlerCash.com’s affiliate manager.

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