How Not to Close an Affiliate Program

by on February 20, 2014

The email heard round the industry!

Well…only if you were in this particular affiliate program. Or had any friends who were in it. Or pay attention to Facebook or Twitter. My phone, messages, and email have been lighting up since an email came out a little bit ago from the owner explaining why he is closing the program.

I know it’s only a matter of time before even more people see the email than already have, so I don’t feel badly about posting excerpts from it. People are upset about it for various reasons. Our industry is huge but small at the same time. A lot of people are friends and even family. When someone openly trashes a colleague, people get defensive. When someone pretty much tells us that our industry is worthless, we get angry. Both of those happened today.

So what’s the buzz? Here are some excerpts from the email and why I think it was handled terribly.

“Now that Valentine’s has passed it was time to look at the raw numbers and unfortunately more sales were brought in by work I did in Yahoo answers a few years ago than from affiliates.”

This feels like a slap in the face to affiliates. Like we aren’t trying enough. Could it be that it was the program that wasn’t successful and not the affiliates?

“In truth affiliate sales never really grew after the short lived, disastrous OPM. He said he kicked affiliates out of the program because he didn’t like them or had previous bad experiences with them, it was not based on what the affiliates were doing with this account. He was also using the send email to affiliate function in order to harvest email addresses, if you’ve received unwanted email from him I apologize. It took over a year to recover from the overall sales drop that happened as a result of his suggested changes. Perishable products just can’t be treated like aprons and t-shirts and it was my mistake to follow those suggestions.”

Blame an OPM that had the program YEARS ago for why the program is not running well now? So openly defame someone in our industry? An OPM who has won awards for his work? Of course it had to be his fault and not the way that the program has been run since then. That makes perfect sense. This type of public shaming of someone who formerly worked for a company is unprofessional at best and even borderline libelous because of the ramifications it could have on the OPM getting work in the future.

If the OPM company wants to weigh in here, they can. I’m not sure it’s worth arguing the specifics. I was in the program before, during, and after the OPM. There was never any difference to me except that I never found the tone of the emails for the OPM offensive like I did almost every single email from the merchant. The program was run best when the OPM was there but it has never been all that great in general due to the restrictions the merchant places on the affiliates.

“While ShareASales merchant rates and fees are reasonable, affiliate sales are nowhere near offsetting that.”

Again, it’s our fault as affiliates that we didn’t do a good enough job making the program convert. ShareASale fees are VERY reasonable. More so than any other network. It doesn’t take a lot of sales to offset the minimum monthly fee. At the pricepoint of this product, it would probably only take a couple.

“Far too often a customer looking for coupons would reach a page with advertisements for a competing company, even when the affiliate was listing our coupons.”

Why should affiliates have to promote only one company? We do what we do because we can choose who we want to promote without restrictions. If the merchant cannot compete, it is the merchant’s fault. This merchant repeatedly told us that he didn’t want any Adsense on any pages that had his name on them and did not want any other merchants promoted on those pages. Let us do our jobs!

This wasn’t even all of the email but you get the picture. I have to at least give him credit for not shutting down the program right before Valentine’s Day, although apparently no one was doing a good job promoting them anyway.

I’m not mentioning the merchant’s name because I don’t want the post to rank in any way for it. That’s not the point. My point is that our industry is tight. We stick up for each other. There are good ways and bad ways to announce program changes, close programs, move networks, etc. Throwing everyone else under the bus and failing to take responsibility for yourself is not acceptable.

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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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{ 3 comments }

Greg Hoffman February 20, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I missed #6. We kicked out a handful of affiliate but recruited 33 niche content affiliates to backfill any losses. I guess they didn’t convert either.

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Trisha Lyn Fawver February 20, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Well said! You can’t be vague but specific at the same time. It’s just sour grapes. Not to mention outrageously unprofessional.
Trisha Lyn Fawver has written about…Polish Addict? Yeah, I Think So…My Profile

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Greg Hoffman February 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I have no problems admitting I was the “disastrous OPM” mentioned. Here are some facts.

1. We worked for FREE in May and June 2011.

2. We removed some parasitic affiliates that were taking credit for sales the merchant should have gotten naturally.

3. The merchant was averaging 5 sales a month in 2010. He asked for help because he was averaging 3 sales a month in 2011.

4. Theoretically, there was no affiliate program because his site did not convert. The average conversion was .59% in 2011.

5. We stopped working with the merchant when we realized there was no future.

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