Affiliate Marketing and Mary Kay?
By Linda Woods
Friday, November 14, 2003; 4:00pm EST
One of the common misconceptions about the internet is that this new
fangled technology makes doing business somehow mysterious, complex or
even risky. While there are certainly lots of technical issues to
grasp and implement effectively, I�m happy to report that the basic
tenets of proven business tactics are still alive and well.
During the dot-com
�boom� years, there were many failures, primarily due to poor business
models, not bad technology. Simple principles like �but low, sell
high� or �the customer is always right� were ignored in a frenzy of
wildly inflated valuations and pre-IPO ecstasy. This has scared some
folks away from investing in internet businesses, and online companies
have been more conservative over the past 2 years, resulting in a
shake-out of the most idiotic ideas and businesses that were based
solely on OPM (other peoples money).
But lo and behold,
the good news is...the internet isn't going away. And, online spending
is growing exponentially quarter after quarter. Long time brick and
mortar companies with online sales channels are thriving and
experiencing phenomenal growth. So, with all that in mind, what does
that mean for affiliate marketing?
It means... it's here
to stay. Why? Because affiliate marketing is basically a very old,
very well established sales channel based on one of the best known and
most successful business models there is: the outside sales force.
Yes, affiliates are very much like the troops of cosmetic wielding
Mary Kay consultants in pink or the ubiquitous suburbia nirvana called
You see, the
affiliate marketing industry got off to a little bit of a wrong start
in my humble opinion. We all thought that the technology was what made
it cool. We were wrong. What makes it cool (and lucrative) is that if
done right - it is a powerful sales force that the big direct
marketers like Tupperware, MaryKay, Avon, Amway have known for a very
long time. If you have a good product, an outstanding compensation
plan, a well thought out award/incentive system, a community of
personal relationships with customers and offer excellent sales
materials, your business will explode with an army of individuals
brimming with enthusiasm about your company.
What happened in the
affiliate marketing niche is that companies looked at the technology
providers that do the tracking of ads served, to somehow run our
programs for us. That just isn't what they do. That'd be like asking
the guys in the fulfillment center warehouse at MaryKay to knock on
your neighbors doors with cleansing cream in hand. Nope - that's not
how it works.
What works is every
online merchant must emulate this tried-and-true traditional sales
model to really grow their business, focusing on recruitment,
compensation, incentives, loyality and service, not what tracking
software to use. They�re all good, and have their pros and cons. (I�ll
discuss this in a future article)
An offline company
that wanted to expand it's sales reach by hiring an outside sales
force wouldn't think of hiring people without interviewing them and
assessing their capabilities. The company also wouldn't think of
sending that person off to sell the product without great sales
collateral and constant motivational support. Conversely, a good
salesperson wouldn't even consider expending energy selling a product
that didn't pay good commissions, on time and offered good customer
support and a product they could believe in.
So, what's an online
company to do? First of all, stop trying to attract every affiliate on
the face of the planet. Be selective. Do your homework. Look for the
good ones, look for the sites that have something complementary to
your product offerings. Make your commission offer exciting, fair and
extremely reliable. Think up great motivational offers. Mary Kay
saleswomen work their fannies off for free pink or burgundy Buicks and
Cadillacs. This also works wonders in the online gambling world as
well, with top affiliates driving away with Ferraris!
And, it's not only
money that motivates them in the direct sales model. There are weekly
motivational meetings with simple recognition given for success. This
can be done easily and inexpensively with tele-seminars, regular
newsletters and bonuses handed out to top producers. Or, by giving
your affiliates top notch custom made web pages with your products
datafed onto their site, like an Amway catalog with the salesperson's
name, phone number and affiliate ID dynamically generated on it.
Treat your affiliates
like valued salespeople and they will be loyal and productive. But
this can't be done with thousands of faceless ID numbers on a
statistics report. You have entice them with generous commissions on
relevant product offers, communicate regularly and personally with
them, reward them for performance, and know what their business
strategy is and enhance it with good marketing materials and support.
This approach will develop over time a valuable, effective and loyal
sales channel that costs less than any other means available to
If you're thinking
"Yeah, but I can' t do that, I have 5000 affiliates and not even one
whole staff person focused on it." Then, you need to rethink your
affiliate marketing strategy. If you don't assign human resources to
this powerful force, you won't see the results. Period. If you expect
to join a network, get 2000 affiliates overnight and then watch the
sales explode, you are sadly mistaken. It takes constant and creative
effort to nurture this kind of sales channel. Try focusing on less
than 100 that are really devoted to your program and work with them
personally to build their traffic and sales. If you can�t afford a
full time, experienced and well paid Affiliate Manager, there are
companies (like mine) who do Outsourced Program Management for a fee
usually less than what full time employees cost.
So, technology is not
the most important thing here, human resources and creativity are.
Yes, there are compelling reasons to closely evaluate what your
tracking software or network is capable of doing, and you must make
sure you are using the best, most cutting-edge tracking interface you
can afford. But, it is much more important to follow the traditional
business principles taught to us by giant successful direct sales
companies like Mary Kay Cosmetics, in order to create a truly
successful, vital affiliate program sales channel.
Source of Article
Linda Woods started her own consulting business in May 2000, after
a 10 month stint with Commission Junction, in the Marketing Department
in charge of Affiliate Acquisition and Educational Training. Prior to
that she was the Marketing Director for WebStuf, a web design firm,
where she specialized in helping smaller companies develop their
marketing strategies, including affiliate marketing channels. She has
taught E-Commerce classes at University of California at Santa Barbara
and writes and speaks extensively on internet marketing strategies.
Linda is also available for private consulting contracts of all sizes.
You can visit her web site at http://www.partnercentric.com/.