Affiliate Marketing or Merchant Marketing?

At last week’s Affiliate Summit in Miami, David Hall – Communications Director of Affiliate Window – stood up in front of a room full of top performing affiliates and admitted that the UK affiliate market was “merchant centric” in comparison to the US, and that he’d be taking a lot back from the US experience.

Well done to David for having the honesty to say it in public, and foresight to see that the industry won’t grow like the US has if nothing is done about it. I feel for David, he’s got a lot of work on his plate.

Just this morning  I opened an email from Orvis outlining their new Terms & Conditions containing:

1) Rules against brand bidding – fair enough

2) Rules against using their  brand name in site meta tags – effectively ruling them out of being featured on any well-constructed database-driven site.

3) A load of language like “Orvis reserves the right to change the Affiliate Link at any time without notice.”

In short the agreement says “play exactly to the letter of the law or we’ll pull your commission, and don’t whine if we decide to change anything at our end. Jump, or again, lose your commission”

Having looked at the Orvis programme a while ago, then having a poke round their flagship store in Stockbridge, I figured it was just the sort of niche content site I could do a good job with, and there didn’t seem like a lot of affiliate competition, now I know why.

Instead I’m building the site around a stack of small competitors that I discovered while researching the niche. I have a product reviewer lined up in the shape of my dad who is a fly-fishing nut, living near Stockbridge – a fly-fishing mecca in the UK, and a stack of unique offers  gained by talking to some of the other merchants who have promised to supply me with product feeds and  regular updates throughout the year.

That last bit is important,so I’ll repeat it.

merchants who have promised to supply me with product feeds and  regular updates throughout the year.

These guys have put down, on emails that they recognise the investment in time, effort and marketing budget that I’ll be putting into the site, and that in return they will provide me with the following:

  • Product feeds which are complete. up-to-date and free from out-of-stock product
  • Details of any offers, sales and discounts  being used in other channels
  • Press releases (not just when they get covered)
  • Creative, product, and lifestyle photography to use with articles
  • A guaranteed term of the programme with notice periods on both sides

These are small merchants who recognise that they can get a jump on the competition, not by bullying and hiding behind contracts, but by pro-actively working with their affiliates and making promises that give us the confidence to make the investments in time and money to create marketing that will genuinely create value for the merchant. They have agreements in place that protect the investments of both sides.
As long as there is a fear that a programme will be pulled at any moment, affiliates will stick to the tactics that make a fast buck.

I applaud David’s efforts with the IAB to improve standards within the affiliate industry, but by picking an organisation that has practically no affiliate representation, Agreements like Orvis’s will be considered the norm, and affiliates will vote with their feet on programmes that could otherwise be successful.

To any affiliates reading this article, I’d be really pleased if you could add to the list of terms WE would like to see in a perfect set of programme T&C’s.

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