My Usual Recommendations (for Merchants planning an affiliate program)

By , November 5, 2007

This is the most common set of recommendations I give to merchants who are planning to launch an “affiliate program,” based on the factors discussed in my other posts in this section.

  1. Affiliate Technology: I strongly recommend ShareASale as an affiliate technology solution.
    • The initial cost would be modest (a $350 setup fee, charged on the date when the program is “launched” for affiliates, plus a $100 minimum initial deposit, although I’d recommend a $300 initial deposit).
    • I also recommend that you set up “auto-deposit” to maintain a minimum deposit balance of at least $300 initially, and later increase your minimum deposit balance to at least $500, to avoid a “low funds” or “offline” status).
    • ShareASale’s ongoing fees are also modest (it charges 20% “on top of” the affiliate commissions). After several months, a minimum monthly fee of $25 would be charged if your affiliate sales don’t generate at least that amount in SAS fees.
    • In the past, I have sometimes recommended that merchants offer a lower commission initially to “test” the market, with the option of later raising the commission rate if affiliates don’t respond. (No commission reduction is ever pleasant.)
  2. Create Compelling Affiliate Content: I recommend that you devote adequate resources to creating a strong collection of “affiliate content,” including the affiliate-program information page, FAQs, datafeed, and creatives (banner & button image ads). This content must explain why affiliates should prefer your offer to those of your competitors (but without naming your competitors); it should be factually specific, without excess “hype.” (See the outline of “reasons why customers choose MerchantName.com” and “reasons why affiliates should choose MerchantName.com,” in an appendix to this report.)
  3. Full-Time Affiliate Manager: I recommend that you allocate one full-time staff position to manage the affiliate program during its first three months of operation. If this role is one of several shared by an employee (or worse, scattered as part-time work for multiple employees), the affiliate program may fail because other duties will always seem more urgent. In addition, it will be a very substantial effort to properly identify and recruit prospective affiliates, to activate enrolled affiliates, and to organize and maintain information about prospective and current affiliates.
  4. Affiliate Evangelism: At least during the first months of operation, you should devote considerable effort to publicizing the launch of your new affiliate program, on existing discussion forums and directories, as well as on “affiliate-specific” forums and directories.
  5. Learn “Best Practices.” Your affiliate manager should spend some time reviewing the free advice and discussions in the “Merchant Best Practices” forum on ABestWeb.com, to better understand “how affiliates think” and how they may respond to specific practices.
  6. Affiliate Agreement and Policies. Every ShareASale affiliate must agree to the ShareASale Affiliate “Terms of Use” Agreement, and merchants must agree to a separate “Terms of Use” Agreement (http://www.shareasale.com/termsofuse.cfm). Your legal department should review these, and may be uncomfortable with some provisions (such as the Illinois choice-of-law and forum-choice clause). Each merchant may create “additional terms” for its relationship with affiliates – some merchants actually include a complete “Affiliate Agreement,” but most do not. ShareASale also provides a separate area to post a PPC bidding policy, including a list of specific trademark terms which affiliates may be prohibited from bidding.


  1. Issues That Might Lead a Merchant to NOT Offer a Public Affiliate Program (Negatives)
  2. Public vs. Private Affiliate Programs
  3. What Factors Do Publishers (Affiliates) Consider When Selecting Advertisers (Merchants)?
  4. Affiliate Technology & Network Choice
  5. My Usual Recommendations (for Merchants planning an affiliate program)
  6. Affiliate Recruitment Strategies and Practices
  7. Captive and Stealth Affiliates
  8. Affiliate Program Policies
  9. Outsourced Program Management (OPM) for Affiliate Programs
  10. Selling the Affiliate Program
  11. Types of Affiliates (Web Publishers)

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