There is a right way to run an affiliate program, and a wrong way. Unfortunately, affiliate programs and merchants are really starting to suffer as a result of not address one of the most immediate and relevant marketing concerns (or so they should be) with their online reach.
One example of this is the Nuance Affiliate Program and I will explain my recent experience that I had dealing with this specific program.
So here's my story...
I use dictation, and I have been using it very actively since August (as a result of breaking my hand in a baseball accident). You can read all about the story here.
I have firsthand (not pun intended) gotten to see the benefits of dictation in terms of typing speed. I type at a pretty decent pace, typically 80-100 words per minute. So fairly quick. But using dictation allowed me to take things to the next level, sometimes achieving double that.
So, naturally the topic of "dictation" is something that I am going to be writing about and leveraging within my own personal affiliate marketing campaigns. It is also something that I have been and will continue to recommend here within WA.
When deciding how I was going to go about "blogging" about such a program, I sought out affiliate programs in the dictation software space.
Being one of the most popular, established and useful tools for dictation, Dragon Naturally Speaking was one of the first choices. Although I am currently using Mac Enhanced Dictation (free with my Mac), and it is very good, it doesn't learn my speech, my accent and I cannot add words that I say frequently (that are not part of the dictionary, like Jaaxy).
So I am on the hunt for an alternative, I have been recommended Dragon by a few fellow dictators, so this was the natural direction I was going to head with my advocacy.
And Then Their Affiliate Experience Fell Apart.
So, I sought out affiliate programs in this space, one of the first being that of Dragon. Dragon Naturally Speaking is operated by a company called Nuance, and sure enough they have an affiliate program that is operated by CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction).
I applied through their website, and it took me to CJ (which I already have an account with).
As an added benefit, as a Nuance affiliate call me you get to promote other products and services under their company umbrella. This is always nice, when you can be introduced to new potential markets and products you can promote as an affiliate.
After applying, it was indicated there was an application process. This is typically an in house review team, but in some cases these are operated by a third party that try to decide whether you will be a viable affiliate (representative) of their products/services.
Unfortunately, this where I hit a wall. If you have been around the affiliate marketing space for any amount of time, you likely have been met unfairly with an ambiguous "disapproval" letter.
A little discouraging that a company would send such a generic letter to a potential affiliate. Strike one, Strike two and almost strike three in my opinion.
I decided not to accept this generic response though...
CJ.com allows you to correspond with affiliate programs through their messaging platform, so I reached out and left them a quick message. I am yet to get a response after over a week, so I have moved on.
If they do get back and change their mind, perhaps I will change my overall perception and recommend the Nuance affiliate program and promote their products such as Dragon Speak as an Affiliate.
One denied application can have a profound impact on a merchant (also known as an Advertiser in the affiliate marketing space). And this leads me to.
Companies That Feel Affiliates Owe Them, Will Eventually Fail.
As a result of this, I certainly do not recommend the Nuance affiliate program to others, nor will I have incentive to promote their products or services.
If a program like this cannot give an affiliate the time of day, or the very least open up discussion with someone with a potential reach of a million+ people, then It is my suspicion that they don't have adequate resources in place to deal with affiliates or they simply don't care.
This is unfortunate, because companies are now getting trampled within the online world. Companies that are investing in their affiliate programs and taking pride in the fact that they are working with affiliates, putting affiliates on a pedestal...are succeeded. Those that are not, are starting to vanish.
We have seen the recent closure of some of the largest brands, established companies that simply failed because they could not compete with companies that are doing online right. Companies like Amazon that "get" affiliates (although they have their issues ar times as well) and are receptive to new affiliates are eating thse other companies lunch. There are many well oiled affiliate programs out there that are doing things druggy, which does give me a lot of hope.
We have seen the failure of Toys"R" Us (read my blog about it here), Sears, Aeropostale, Crocs is in big trouble, American Apparel, Macy's to name a few. Here in Canada, we are seeing companies like Hudson Bay (our anchor department store) having issues because they haven't taken their online experience as serious as they should (and they don't even have an affiliate program, doh).
One Lost Affiliate, One Story, But a Significant Event.
Nuance has lost a potential affiliate, free marketing reach in front of potentially millions of people over time, and unfortunately my perception of their affiliate program has been jaded by this experience (and perhaps yours).
If you're a merchant and you are reading this, please learn from this experience and please put your affiliate first. If you are making life difficult for affiliate to promote you, they won't. They will promote something else, and they will recommend anything but your affiliate program to their affiliate and industry friends (other authority website).
When you put affiliates first, you are establishing in essence a significant marketing team when you acquire new affiliates, a marketing team that only gets paid when they drive revenue to your business, and a marketing team that is willing to potentially work HARD for you and do most of it free (until they are making you money).
Try hiring a Chief Marketing Officer that will work for free or on a pay per sale basis. It simply won't happen.
I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions, I know many of you have had great experiences with affiliate programs, and in some cases not so great experiences.
Our ethos is that we are all equal in the affiliate marketing world and that you can accomplish amazing things, without a background in websites, marketing, or the internet. That is going to remain true as we move forward in the affiliate marketing industry continues to mature.
I have never been more excited and hopeful, but I feel that there needs to be an attitude change by merchants (advertisers) that feel that new affiliates owe them something. Thye should be working to capture their attention, if not, there are plenty of other alternatives for affiliates and they will be move on to better and more receptive programs.