It’s Too Late (Affiliate Marketing for Holiday Sales)

By , October 5, 2010

Yesterday, I turned away a prospective client with unreasonable expectations. He wanted me to help design and implement an “affiliate program” this month, with the goal of generating significant profits for the 2010 holiday season. I told him, “It’s too late.”

I didn’t suggest that he abandon his plan, but the simple truth is that the “growth cycle” for a new merchant’s affiliate program is much slower than he’d expected.

It can take several weeks (and sometimes several months) to properly design and technically implement an affiliate program. After the program is “active,” prospective affiliates (web publishers) must be carefully recruited (and efforts must be spent to exclude unethical affiliates). Even after hundreds of web publishers enroll as “affiliates,” they might not post the merchant’s advertising for many weeks or months.

Three years ago, I published a series of 11 articles explaining the entire process of launching a new affiliate program.  While there have been some changes in the industry since then, most of that advice is still relevant, and I encourage merchants to spend a few hours reading through those articles and reading the “Merchant Best Practices” sub-forum at

The merchant who called me yesterday had more problems: his web store wasn’t well-designed to attract visitors or convert visitors into customers. Among the problems: the store lacked any “privacy policy” and had no “About Us” page; the company’s legal name, address, and phone number weren’t disclosed anywhere; and shipping charges weren’t disclosed until after customers entered a credit-card number.

It’s never too late to work on internet marketing strategies, but unfortunately it is almost certainly too late for this merchant to reasonably expect meaningful sales or profits from an affiliate program during the next 90 days.

If this particular merchant chooses to fix the immediate problems I identified in his web store, he’d be wise to intelligently plan and conduct some brief tests using PPC Search (Google AdWords, Bing, Yahoo), to obtain immediate data and results to use to further plan his marketing strategies.

Unfortunately, my hunch is that he’ll instead pay a modest “upfront fee” to hire an unethical agency that’s promising fast “results” from an affiliate program. If so, I predict that his web store will disappear before Valentine’s Day. (I won’t name the merchant, and I honestly hope I’m wrong and that his business will succeed.)

One Response to “It’s Too Late (Affiliate Marketing for Holiday Sales)”

  1. Mark Welch says:

    FYI, there was a time when a new affiliate program could expect to attract hundreds of new affiliates in a week, and could reasonably expect profits from a affiliate program within a few months after launch. That time was from 1996 to 1998.

    I’m not aware of any merchants launching an affiliate program after 1999 which was truly profitable within six months.

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