Affiliate programs are some of the most effective ways to drive traffic, boost sales and enhance branding for your online marketing campaign. However, doing things wrongly can cost your business dearly. This article will show you why your affiliate program might damage your company’ reputation – and how to avoid that to happen by doing proper Corporate Reputation Management.
Whether you are an online business or a brick-and-mortar business looking for ways to grow your business, affiliate marketing is one of the best strategies. Why?
Setting up an affiliate program is simple: All you need to do is acquiring a system or script to run it, set everything from the amount of commission to training/tutoring material for members, and hire an affiliate manager to oversee activities.
Alternatively, you might want to join a large affiliate marketing network, such as Commission Junction, ShareASale, and so on. This is even a simpler way to set up an affiliate program for your business; you don’t have to maintain a system or hire someone – everything is setup by the network and you can “borrow” their system for a certain amount of fee.
Both have their own set of pros and cons, but both are just the tip of the Iceberg; complexities begin when you start approving new members into your affiliate program.
Affiliate marketers can help your business growth, but…
…approving the wrong members and not having a strong reputation management policy can hurt your business, literally.
Consider this scenario: Suppose you approve Mr. XYZ as a member of your affiliate program. Then Mr. XYZ, an aggressive Internet marketer who is eager to use any ways to make money from the affiliate program he joined, start promoting your company’s products and services anywhere – on forums, blogs, classified ad sites, and so on.
He then naturally promotes your products on review sites, even write a review himself and publish it to his blog. Then he started to write fake reviews in order to boost his affiliate income, and publish them to dozens, if not hundreds, of sites.
He also learn that the word “scam” after your company’s brand works wonder in bringing customers in, even though his review is not about you scamming others; it’s about getting people’s interest by having controversial headline.
From this one member only, there are contents spreading on the web for people to read. Unfortunately, many of his reviews are fake, again, with a purpose of getting more affiliate income.
Now, consider the above scenario, but multiply that by 1,000 members. Now you know how your brand will suffer from thousands of fake reviews and fake scam headlines and so on.
Imagine what those things will do to your business reputation… and your business’ bottom line. It’s NOT a pretty picture, don’t you think?
This is where online reputation management kicks in…
You see, cleaning up the mess is costly. You need to do it with your in house team or seek help from your affiliate network. However, the bottom line, you need to eventually hire an online reputation management company to fix those.
How to avoid getting into affiliate problems?
1. Revise, revise and revise your affiliate program policies
State in your policies what kind of methods allowed to promote your products. Force members to abide to the rule, or else, they will get booted out of your affiliate program.
2. Hand-pick members carefully
Auto-approving anyone who wants to promote your affiliate program is not recommended, although some big companies do that. You should approve manually (or hire someone to do it for you) and/or setup auto-approving rules that will weed out most of questionable members.
3. Monitor your members’ activities
Regularly surf the web for reviews, posts, and articles done by your members – even anyone else – about your business. Are they legitimate reviews? Even bad reviews are definitely great reviews if they are legitimate.
4. Do online reputation management
What you are aiming to do is to weed out fake reviews of your members or anyone who seem to hate your company, for one reason or another. So, you need to do something about that fake reviews – and also real but negative reviews.
If you decide to hire someone, be sure to hire the right (read: ethical) reputation management company that will not adding misery to your business by, for example, using SEO techniques to push down legitimate but negative review on your products, posting yet more fake reviews – this time positives – to “dissolve” the bad reviews, and so on.
5. Read case studies and adopt the advice and tips
There are some online reputation management case studies you can learn from such as this one. They can offer you advice and tips to recover from bad (fake) publicity across the web.
Affiliate program is generally a good way to boost your revenue; however it’s not for everyone. Unless you are ready to handle the nitty-gritty that comes with it, I suggest you aim for other forms of marketing partnership, instead.