10 Reasons your Affiliate Program is Failing

Affiliate programs come and go. And if yours happens to be one that’s going, well, then you need to step things up big time.

There are a slew of reasons why your affiliate program may be failing. Knowing you’re failing is easy. Discovering the reasons why you’re failing is the tricky part. It’s not impossible, though. If you truly care about your program’s future, there’s plenty of due diligence to be done! If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll not only discover why your program isn’t catching on, but you’ll also find an easily solution.

Here’s a quick look at 10 reasons your affiliate program is failing:

1. You’re on the wrong affiliate network

Not all affiliate networks are created equal. Some are great for small businesses, others have the massive reach needed for large companies who can afford the higher fees. How can you tell if you’re on the wrong network? Get as much info as you can from your affiliate manager. How is your program being promoted? How many new affiliates have joined the past month or two? What percentage of those are pushing your program? How aggressive is your network pushing your program? Figure out if the network is truly giving you your money’s worth or if they just added you to their system and moved on to another program—especially if you’re paying for affiliate management services through the network.

2. Your affiliate strategy does not align with your business strategy

Your  business strategy is the driving force behind the goals you’re trying to reach. It’s the underlying direction you want to bring your business towards. If your affiliate program is not aligned with that strategy, you’re sure to face some difficulties and scrutiny within your organization. You’ll end up pushing your affiliate program in one direction, while your company’s focused on something else entirely creating friction and putting you and your affiliate program at risk.  You should make sure that you are incentivizing affiliates to reach milestones that help you reach your goals.  If you want affiliates to help acquire new customers, architect the commission and bonus structure to favor new customer referrals.

3. You’ve got the wrong commission structure

It’s a tough juggling game for sure, figuring out exactly how much commission to offer your affiliates. After all, the higher the percentage, the more likely they are to push your program heavily. So in theory that should mean lots more sales! But it also can mean a lot less profit for you on a per-sale basis. Crunch your numbers and see if a completely different commission structure is in order. You may want to switch gears completely and go from a revenue share platform to a CPA model. Or vice versa.  Understanding business margins is your job so include that when you’re modeling out different commission structures.

4. Your competitors are watching, waiting, and listening

Repetition is the sincerest form of flattery. Yeah, right. Not when it’s your competitors completely ripping off your ideas! Be careful with how you promote and communicate new initiatives, especially before they are general knowledge. Your competitors are patiently watching what you do, waiting to try to copy it, and execute it better.

5. You’re working with the wrong affiliates

Maybe you have a ton of affiliates signed up with your program. Maybe even 100% of them are heavily pushing your products. Unfortunately, if they’re the wrong type of affiliates, its’ not going to do much good for you. Imagine if your software affiliate program was being advertised on an herbal supplements website. Or a web hosting service that’s promoted on a senior citizens site. If your service or product is being promoted to the wrong audience, it doesn’t matter how many affiliates have signed up with your program.

6. You have an inexperienced program manager

Many of the problems you’re facing could be due to an inexperienced program manager. He or she could be pitching the wrong type of affiliates or going about it the wrong way.  They could be screwing up the information in affiliate emails with wrong dates, incorrect URLS, or bad coupon codes. They may not even be promoting your program at all, so be sure to follow up and find out exactly what your manager is up to. Affiliate marketing is about building relationships and if your affiliate manager is bothering your affiliates with irrelevant information, it’s going to be that much more difficult to be successful.

7. Affiliates are cannibalizing other marketing programs

Affiliates may be signed up with your program, but they could be doing you a disservice simply by using marketing techniques they see your company doing through other channels like social and search. If your Terms and Conditions are weak, it may be causing your downfall. Affiliates could be doing all sorts of harmful things like paid search and that are cannibalizing revenue that would have simply been generated through in-house paid search and other programs instead. Affiliates should be driving incremental revenue and value, not moving your marketing spend from one channel to another.

8. You have leakage in your affiliate program

Unless you’re pushing Pampers, this reason has nothing to do with diapers. Instead, you might have some real issues with your affiliate tracking code reporting affiliate sales. Maybe you’re using multiple ecommerce systems or testing out a new type of shopping cart and haven’t fully integrated affiliate tracking on all platforms. You may in fact be getting tons of sales but you’ll never know since you can’t follow up on the tracking.  Top affiliates will sniff this out and may drop your program if they find you’re not tracking sales correctly and accurately.

9. Your channel partners are calling the shots

If you have other channel partner programs, you may find yourself on the receiving-end of ranting partners screaming bloody murder when they see affiliates advertising online and claim that they are taking sales away from them. Be sure to have clear definitions and guidelines for affiliates and other channel partners. This language should be included in your affiliate program terms & conditions and your channel partner contracts. If not, you might find yourself being asked by channel partners to create limitations that limit the success of your affiliate program. Establishing rules for each of your channel programs is fine, just be sure it’s for reasons driven by your business needs not a squeaky wheel partner who’s delightfully persistent in sending you emails and leaving you voicemails about how unhappy they are now that you have an affiliate program.

10. You gave up on affiliates months ago

You figured it wasn’t worth caring what your affiliates do. They’ll just sign up and promote your site because it’s that good—your products and program sell itself. Or maybe you weren’t seeing immediate success you anticipated and determined that affiliate marketing wasn’t right for your business. At least, that’s what you thought. Boy were you wrong. Whether you have the best or the worst program on the planet, you need to be constantly communicating with your affiliates. Show them you care. Offer them deals, discounts, awesome creative, to give them as much new ammunition as you can in order to promote them. Even a simple “Hey, our program is still very much alive” type of email could do wonders, as affiliates sign up with hundreds of programs. Remembering just one isn’t so easy, especially if everyone else is constantly treating them better.