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fair to All Affiliates
...even those who are very small and haven't yet got huge volumes of traffic. Everyone should have a fair chance and be paid on the basis of how much good they do. No elitist exclusion!
When you're in the business of affiliate marketing, running an affiliate program, it is quite usual to find there to be a few affiliates who do very well, a great many who do some good, and a vast number who don't really do much at all for that particular affiliate program. That's OK, because in affiliate marketing you only need to pay for the good that's done. You pay the affiliates who've done well in proportion to how much they've helped you to sell, and those who've sold something get paid accordingly. You don't need to worry about there being affiliates who've not sold anything yet, as they are not costing you anything to keep. Besides the fact that some of them may be luckier as time goes on, there is also the important point that it's best to be fair to everyone!
(It's also worth considering a flat-rate percentage payment system, rather than a tiered structure. If everyone is paid N%, those who do more good get paid more commission anyway, so you don't need to pay them disproportionately by having tiered rates).
It's especially important to avoid an elitist attitude where "only the top performing affiliates" are allowed on the program. The bad PR associated with that is so bad that even a quite prosperous company can be brought down by it. Besides, it can be avoided, by being on good terms with just about everyone, at no extra cost.
In case you're wondering why it is that way, try to think about it from an affiliate's point of view: The affiliate puts some of their time and energy into writing about your company, and puts up a nice page to invite people to go and buy things from you, and the understanding is that they'll be paid per success. That's usually quite acceptable from the affiliate's perspective, and it's a fair chance, and they might do some good or not. If it was a raffle, people don't mind if they don't win, but, if they found their number hadn't been put in the hat in the first place, they'd be furious about it! So, if you pull the carpet out from under the small affiliates by "streamlining" or some such elitist nonsense, it should come as no surprise that the affiliates will be upset, and the busy bees that you banished from pollinating your garden will switch to stinging you instead. Fortunately you can avoid that peril, by having the good commonsense to allow everyone a fair chance to start with.
Is that practical? What about the cost?: Largely it depends who you believe. The good news is that MOST affiliate networks have no problem with affiliates signing up and doing what they want. There is no cost per affiliate, as the software is written properly to allow that. That's how it should be. A radio station transmits and it doesn't matter if there are a thousand radios switched on or a million, and it doesn't matter how many of those have people actually listening to them instead of just being in the background.
What about compliance?: The "compliance" issue is another matter, because if you're familiar with the old days of marketing when you said what you wanted on your ads and that's what you got, it may seem strange to move to this brave new world where all these affiliates can stand on their soapboxes and say what they want. Well, MGM and FOX have had to cope with that for years! They'd spend millions on their product, and no sooner was it on the silver screen than there'd be movie critics with notebooks in the cinema passing comment upon it. So, no compliance there! But then these days you might worry about the FSA! Legend and folklore has it that if an affiliate says something questionable about a financial company, then the FSA shall smite the financial company, as it is presumed to be their fault if they've not stamped out any free speech among affiliates. THIS IS NOT SO. The FSA has never punished any financial company for something an affiliate has said, and, what's more, the friendly people at the FSA are horrified to hear of the FSA being misrepresented as some sort of Bogeyman with which to silence free speech and fair comment. Using the FSA as a Bogeyman to scare everyone into complying with this or that company colour scheme or logo or manner of expressing the exact corporate mantra, is not fair, and it's not what the FSA is about anyway! They're about FAIR PLAY in the financial markets.
No company, whether it's got an affiliate program or not, can control what people say about it on the Internet. From a practical point of view, it's best to settle for allowing free speech in general, and only taking action against cases of extreme indiscretion, where someone has said libellous things or flagrantly misled the public into something deceptive financially. In my opinion, the people to tackle and do something about are those who have deliberately misrepresented the interest rate or other aspects of the deal in order to make more money, unfairly. That matters. And, it's an FSA matter. People expressing an opinion about their likes/dislikes etc, isn't. Also, changing the logo isn't. So, in practice, you don't need to pay for policing the Internet to stop people saying what they want, and instead you can concentrate monitoring efforts versus cases of misrepresentation, passing-off, bad PPC, etc.
I'm a successful affiliate and I am often in the list of "best performing affiliates", so you might wonder why I am grumbling about unfairness to the small affiliates who don't do so well. The thing is, it's a matter of being fair, a matter of avoiding discrimination and prejudice, even if it's not yourself that's being discriminated against. Also, for the good of the whole genre of affiliate marketing, it's important it remains a good wholesome game where everyone has a fair opportunity, and it's not brought into disrepute by bad practice becoming the norm.
See Guide to Good Practice in the Affiliate Marketing Business