Who Controls the Balance in Affiliate Marketing?

by on February 23, 2012

Affiliate Marketing Balance

Who Tips the Scale in Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliates versus affiliate managers versus merchants. Who wins? Don’t we all have to balance together to be successful? Although I would argue that we do, I don’t think everyone would agree.

This week while I was complaining about merchants who lower commissions without notice or cause (HBO, Discovery Channel, etc), an affiliate manager was complaining to me about affiliates who demand higher commission rates without proving that they can convert. We went back and forth each telling our “war stories” of the week and complaining about the other side. “Don’t merchants understand that we as affiliates can just choose to promote someone else?” “Don’t affiliates understand that affiliate marketing is about paying for performance?”

What it boils down to is that we all need to be fair with our expectations. Sometimes things will happen unexpectedly to skew the balance. But on the whole there should be a fairness on each side and an understanding that we will all earn more if we work together better. When a merchant lowers its commission rate  to save money, it needs to know that it might end up losing a lot of affiliates and with that a part of its reputation. Is it a risk the merchant is willing to take? When an affiliate refuses to promote a merchant because the merchant will not give an exclusive coupon code or VIP commission, the affiliate needs to think about the reasons why that merchant cannot or will not give those things and if the affiliate truly deserves them.

Affiliate marketing is about business relationships but also personal relationships. It’s about negotiation and compromise. Should the merchant hold all of the cards because at any time it can cut the commission of the affiliate to 1% with a 5 hour cookie (I’m talking to you, FAO Schwartz)? Does the affiliate hold all the cards because he can out-SEO the merchant and send customers to a competitor?

Too many people think that their side is the one in complete control in affiliate marketing and refuse to take the time to see the opposite perspective. Do you think one side or the other controls the balance in affiliate marketing? If so, is it justified?

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Thanks for reading! I am a lawyer, blogger, affiliate marketer, and consultant most known in the industry for my cashback site, SunshineRewards.com. You can reach me on Twitter @sunshinetricia.
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