I am tired of having to explain myself to affiliate managers when I don’t want to join their programs. Ironically, I am typing this post while sitting right next to an affiliate manager, my mom Cindy Ballard. She’s tired of hearing me complain, so I’m going to express myself in a blog post.
In any given day I receive between 5 and 20 emails from merchants, affiliate managers, and OPMs asking me to add their programs to my site. I rank these in a certain priority order before I even respond:
- Merchants I absolutely know I want based on brand reputation
- Recommendations from people I really trust or who I will add anything for without question (like my mom)
- Merchants I check out and decide that I want based on products, commissions, and the look of their site
- Recommendations from people I know but only casually and who may not really have my best interests at stake
- “Cold call” emails from people I don’t know at all but seem to have looked at my site
- Spammy emails from people I don’t know who have never even looked at my site.
Based on where they fall in my priority list, I decide how quickly to respond to the requests. My dream brands get emails within 5 minutes. Trusted friends in the business usually get a response within a few hours. From there it only goes downhill to the bottom of the list which usually sit in my inbox about a week until I just delete them because I don’t know what to say or how to say it.
But affiliate managers are persistent. They use tricks like “Please Respond” in the subject line or “Can we set up a meeting on Tuesday?” to try to get you engaged. I feel guilty when I get these because I know that I do not want to join the program. So I let the emails sit even longer until I get the followup “We recently reached out to you and you have not responded” email. Sometimes I even get voicemail messages reminding me of the emails that they just sent.
How do you say “no” without feeling like a jerk? Here are some of my favorite tips.
- Thank them for “reaching out” or “connecting” or some other social business lingo.
- Use the word “unfortunately” at least once (Unfortunately we are not accepting new merchants at this time, adding new links, etc.).
- Be honest. If you just don’t have time to add the merchant, say that. Tell them to follow up with you in a month. If you don’t like the merchant, say that it isn’t a “good fit” for your audience. If the commission isn’t good enough, tell them it isn’t “competitive” with other merchants you already have listed.
- Promise to keep the merchant in mind for any future opportunities that you might come across. You never know when either the merchant actually WILL work for your niche or the affiliate manager might have a different merchant that does work for you. Don’t burn bridges!
- Make it quick. You don’t have to explain yourself. Just give them a couple of sentences of acknowledgement so that they can cross you off their list and move on to other affiliates that they are more likely to be successful with.
Sometimes you will still get responses where they try to convince you that you are wrong. If that is the case, cut your losses and just delete the email or respond firmly “no.” But most times they will thank you for even taking the time to respond. People tend to ignore a lot of email. If you are one of the few people who respond thoughtfully with even a sentence or two, the goodwill generated will outweigh the 60 seconds it took you to respond.
Affiliate managers, can you help us out here? Try not to make us feel guilty, especially when you are only trying to get us to join the program for numbers and not really because we can make any sales. That doesn’t really help either of us. Be honest with us about how something would actually be good for us if you really want us to join. Try not to sound like a used car salesman who just wants to make the sale regardless of whether it’s the right thing to do. Affiliate marketing is not just about sales, it’s about relationships. We don’t want to have to avoid you when we see you at conferences because we can’t look you in the eye.
How do you respond to the different types of requests that you get? Do you respond to every email or just delete most of them?