When Reciprocity is Called Into Question

So a while back I ran into an issue with one of our affiliate managers (who we’ll call Bob) and I wanted to share and delve a bit into the issue at hand (I’ve avoided doing so earlier because I didn’t want my frustration to hinder what I hope to be helpful suggestions). As I’ve mentioned, one of my duties at CouponShack is Advertiser Relations which entails regular communication and optimization discussions with our merchant partners and affiliate managers. In this particular case, Bob and I were discussing optimization opportunities for an upcoming holiday, which included an exclusive promotion and increased commissions in exchange for premium exposure and increased visibility for our merchant partner. Efficiency and reciprocity are always key goals when it comes to affiliate/merchant partnerships. So, nothin to it. We agreed upon our optimization discussion, and we each held up our end of the bargain: From the merchant we received an exclusive promo and increased commission, and they received premium placement in our holiday category, home page placement, and exposure in our blog. A couple weeks later I get an email from the affiliate manager, upset because he feels that I hadn’t upheld my end of our discussion, citing that his advertiser wasn’t a featured merchant in the holiday section, that other merchants (specific to the particular holiday) were diluting his advertiser’s exposure, and the results of our optimization weren’t up to par. Now, I’d like to dissect this particular instance and I’ll do so in sections:

  • First and foremost I have to defend myself and my job performance. My number 2 goal behind job performance and doing what’s best for CouponShack is reciprocity in regards to our advertising partnerships (which includes affiliate managers and Outsourced Program Managers (OPM’s) relationships). I get very irritated when advertisers treat affiliates like employees (children would be a better term) of theirs, and expect that we do what they say and when they say it. Affiliate/Advertiser partnerships are exactly that- partnerships and they should be treated as such. Promotional opportunities and optimization should be mutually beneficial and improvement of the overall partnership depends on proactive efforts from both sides. Practice what you preach..oooh, there’s another one of my cliches! But I can say with the utmost confidence that in this instance, all before and any afterwords, I do what’s cooperatively expected of me, and what’s best for each individual affiliation.
  • Earlier I mentioned my frustration with the issue at hand. Frustration from the fact that Bob was suggesting that I wasn’t doing my job; frustration due to the rudeness from an AM (affiliate manager) with whom I had a great relationship and had worked hard to develop that relationship; and frustration from his ignorance. One of the accusations behind Bob’s reasoning was that he felt his merchant wasn’t receiving featured placement in our holiday section, and that other advertisers were diluting his exposure. Now, first of all the merchant was featured in the particular section, but unfortunately as new promos are added older ones are put in at the top of the list, in effect pushing previously added promos down. Quick fix with a simple request rather than an invective email. I went in and simply put his merchant’s promo back at the top of the list. Secondly, in regards to his ignorance, and let me first say that I don’t like to use this word but he’s involved in the industry and he knows how affiliate marketing works, so, yeah. Anyway, Bob was basically upset because there were quite a few other merchants being promoted alongside (actually below because his was featured) the merchant he represented. Affiliate managers should be well aware of how many merchants and advertisers there are in the affiliate marketing industry. CouponShack is partnered with over 7,000 advertisers and we have the same responsibility to each individual one. Obviously, some receive premium placement and more exposure than others when a partnership is optimized, but I had an obligation to promote other programs that were relevant to the holiday as well. Bob seemed to disregard this as well as the fact that the merchant he represented had been featured in a holiday blog, promotional blurbs and was also included on our home page- the only merchant relevant to the particular holiday, I might add, who received this premium placement. No matter where you’re positioned in the industry, it’s well to remember that the affiliate network consists of tens of thousands of entities and, from a publisher’s perspective, we have an obligation to do what’s mutually beneficial for all of our merchant partners.
  • Finally, I believe another, and maybe the underlying reason Bob was upset was the fact that our efforts were producing little traction. In other words, sales were not meeting expectations. Now, he didn’t come out and say this but I’m sure his frustration stemmed from the merchant breathing down his neck about lack of sales. Hey, you don’t think we’re a little discouraged when efforts don’t produce results? I put in the extra work on my end, too ya know. And this brings me to my argument that Bob was in the wrong on how he handled the situation. As I mentioned, I held up my end of the bargain in providing Bob’s merchant additional placements (As did he in regards to an exclusive promo and increased comm.- don’t know if I mentioned this but I should because this post is not intended to discredit anyone). This additional placement and featured exposure put the merchant he represented in front of 300,000 unique monthly visitors via our home page, Holiday Category, blog and ad blurbs; as well as, at that time, over 25,000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers. So is it the merchant’s lack of exposure or the consumer’s lack of interest in the merchant that led to a shortage of traction?

As I mentioned, my thoughts in this post have no intention whatsoever of discrediting Bob as a person or AM. He is one of my most reliable contacts, and CouponShack and the programs that Bob represents have a very positive and productive partnership across the board.

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