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The Many Faces of Affiliate Summit

Affiliate Summit West 2015 took place at the Paris in Las Vegas, Nevada and it was another great event.  As usual,  I arrived a day early and took advantage of the early check in on Saturday evening. It took less than five minutes to pick up my badge and bag, much different than the experience of those who went Sunday morning.  Since they began offering early check in I have done so and totally  forgot how hectic Sunday morning check-in was until I tried to walk through the lines to get to one of the conference rooms. Even I, a native New Yorker, got anxiety in the crowd. I do have to say that even though crowded, the Affiliate Summit staff did a great job and it was efficient.

My approach to this Summit was a bit different than previous ones. Although I had a couple of client meetings, my goal was to meet new people, some random meetings and others planned in advance. Getting a chance to talk with new people allowed me the opportunity to get a broader perspective of our industry.  Some new to the industry, some seasoned veterans,  all were new contacts and they shared with me their thoughts, ideas and opinions; many times it was an eye opener.

It is always invigorating to speak to someone and hear the excitement  as they speak of their dream. Creativity and excitement is contagious, one fresh idea leads to more and energy explodes. But it’s more than that. These meetings served a reminder of the many things that are good and positive and of what is possible – anything is possible. It also reminds us there are real people on the side of that computer, real faces behind the affiliate number, the merchant name and yes, even behind that network.

The veteran from military service,  the parent looking to create a better life for their children, the retiree forced to earn money to put food on his table, the college graduate struggling to pay student loan bills, the student still in college fighting to pay tuition and even the golf fanatic looking to finance his hobby – these are the faces of affiliate marketing.

Sometimes we lose the faces, so caught up in the business and activity that we lose one of the most important aspect – the people.

There’s something special in all of them.

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Is There a Miracle on 34 Street in Online Marketing

As a consultant, one of the services I provide  for merchants is an objective review of their affiliate program. Recently, a merchant who has been struggling with their program, retained me to review their program. After I completed my research and evaluation we had a lengthy discussion of my findings.  As you can expect, for a merchant who invested a lot of time, energy and money into their website and program finding out  some simple but costly mistakes were made can be hard to digest. One of the hardest for many merchants to understand are leaks.

Leaks can be costly. No, not talking about a leaking pipe or roof, but leaks on a merchant website. A leak on a merchant website is any link or text that invites the visitor to leave the website. It is hard to understand why a merchant would invite their customers leave. In my opinion there is enough competition without creating more.

Each time I see a leak on a website I am reminded of  the 1947 classis movie, “Miracle on 34 Street”. In that movie there is a great scene with Kris Kringle and a female shopper. Although working for one famous department store as Santa Claus, Kris tells the shopper to go to Gimbles (a rival department store) to make a purchase; Gimbles had better quality and better price on a toy. The shopper is so impressed that Kris and the store he worked for had her best interests at heart, she vowed to the store manager that she would not shop at Gimbles but instead she would remain a loyal customer. In this movie, after an outpouring of positive feedback, the department store runs with the new marketing ploy of referring their customers to other rival stores for best prices. The positive feedback increased their public image and they saw increased profits despite inviting customers to leave and shop elsewhere. (In my movie scene summary I have removed the name of the store Kris worked for because that store and its program have nothing to do with this post.)

While it may have been plausible back in 1947, that same marketing technique has little value in 2014.  Referring customers to visit another store after you worked hard to get them to your website can cost you. Shopping at any store has become easy, we can easily shop almost anywhere and have a product within days. We have less of a sense of loyalty to a merchant because they are local, instead, we often shop value and price. Why send your customers to a competitor?

As a merchant, if you are giving your website visitors an invitation to shop elsewhere, you are risking losing them.  Weigh the benefits of linking to a competitor and more importantly, know the costs.  Let your competitors do their own advertising,