Here's what they had to say:
The most significant challenge by affiliate program operators is to attract and retain the best people. There is a misconception with branding — the most important branding feature is your team. Organizations spend extraordinary amounts of resources, time and money to build a brand. In turn, each team member is an ambassador to the brand. People want to do business with people they like. A single person who is unprofessional can translate to be a costly error. However, hiring an individual from an existing company generally relates to a premium compensation package and the possibility of burning a bridge with a company you are doing business with. Hiring an individual who is new to the industry takes time to train and develop. In turn, strong business people then become a commodity and the recruitment game becomes fierce. Losing a newly trained team member with your trade secrets can be detrimental in immeasurable ways.
— Silvercash / Silver Sinema Albert, Vice President of Business Development
There are tons of challenges to a program operator. What's the biggest one? In my opinion it's "stratification." It's like there is an upper class that is light years away from the lower class and there is no real middle class. There are huge programs with tons of funding, doing ridiculously dangerous promotions and offers to get the attention and traffic from all the webmasters out there — and then there are new programs, sitting on the opposite side of a huge chasm that separates them — offering 50/50 revenue sharing and barely getting any interest. Still, the bottom is weak and about to drop out from the affiliate program business model. We're all going to be focusing much more on direct business-to-consumer sales in the coming year or two. That's going to level the field again.
— HellHouse Vic, Slutty Dollars / HellHouse Media
Adaptability as your program diversifies. The conventional wisdom in the adult market is often that one content category is pretty much like another, but I don't believe that's true — each niche has its own needs, and webmasters don't want a cookie-cutter approach. At Kink.com, we've recently launched the first site in our gay sub-brand KinkMen.com, and we've needed to adapt the program itself to serve gay webmasters as efficiently as it does straight and trans sites. It's important to remember that affiliate marketing is about personal relationships, and smaller sites are every bit as important as larger ones. Whether a webmaster sends you one join or a hundred, he or she should get personal service.
— Terry Mundell, Affiliate Program Manager, Kink.com
The competition for surfer eyeballs in the marketplace is the biggest mountain to climb. This is the most hyper-competitive marketplace that I've seen in my 12 years. The pie has been divided into so many pieces with the proliferation of programs over the years that webmasters have more quality choices than ever to direct their traffic. The bottom line is that there is still gold to be mined and large empires to build. There are billions more people online today than when I started, which breeds greater opportunity!
— J$TYLE$, VP of MaxCash.com and owner of TheContentStore.com