They say that politics, egos and cut-throat practices exist in all facets of business, whether it be professional sports, on Wall Street, or even in a small industry like affiliate marketing. And while I can’t speak for those other two examples (although I dabbled in pro wrestling long enough to know how dirty that business is), the CPA space has been my professional life for a decade; while I love the perks that come with this business – flexible schedule, a young entrepreneurial spirit, great earning potential – I’ve experienced a lot of the negatives first hand and have subsequently learned to take the “high road” and avoid getting caught up in them.
In the early 2000’s when CPA marketing began to blow up through verticals like dating and ringtones, the industry was very different than it is today. Affiliates were stereotypically quiet, shy introverts with more money than they could spend, and a lot of networks employed beautiful young girls as Affiliate Managers who would try to secure an affiliate’s traffic by luring them through flirtation, and sometimes a lot more than just flirtation. Industry parties were loaded with sex and drugs, and some guys would let the money go to their heads and become pompous jackasses boasting about their diamond crusted watches, their cars, or how many times they scored at the shows. After a couple of years, I stopped attending the industry parties in order to avoid these jokers, and found that my time was more productive wining and dining my top partners.
Fast forward 10 years, and a lot has changed, although not everything. The sex and drugs are still readily available if that’s your thing, and there are still a lot of young clueless guys flaunting their big bucks. But the reputation of the typical affiliate is totally different; they’re all business now and are much more interested in a stable offer and a high EPC than a flirty AM. As a result, the majority of the networks that survived the “crash” of 2011 have stopped employing the useless stripper types and have replaced them with intelligent, knowledgeable people that may not flirt with you, but will help you optimize your blogs and ads to maximize your CVR.
As positive as I’d say these industry changes are, there are a couple of particular elements in affiliate marketing – which again, do exist in other forms of business – that need to change as well. They are:
1) The sometimes extreme methods of self-promotion and self-glorification that exist in the biz.
Don’t get me wrong, everybody likes to have their “15 minutes of fame”. Hell even I’ve been guilty of boasting about my wrestling days, who I’ve met or who I know. But because of the power of social media, there is more gratuitous and oftentimes pathetic self-promotion in affiliate marketing now than ever before. On a daily basis you’ll see guys posting ridiculous pictures of themselves on Facebook, or creating huge images with their company logos on them, or posting cheap plugs for their self-named domains, or bragging about how they’re crushing certain offers. And a lot of people, whether they be newcomers to the space or just unsuspecting idiots, believe what they read and actually put these people on pedestals and assume that if they say they’re the shit, then they must be the shit. But most of the time it’s all smoke and mirrors; these people aren’t crushing anything, their revenue numbers are crap, they’re living in their parents’ basement and they monitor their message boards and Facebook groups seemingly full-time so they can delete any posts that call them out so that they don’t get exposed. I even recall several instances in which somebody bragged about how they were killing an offer that they were actually brokering from us and averaging 2 sales a day on. These people think that they’re turning themselves into brands and establishing some level of celebrity status, but is it really worth it if people look at you as a Honey Boo Boo instead of a Steve Jobs?
2) The fear of competition and the poison that stems from it.
Oasis Ads is about a year and a half old now, and we’ve made a point of letting our work speak for itself. We don’t post messages all over social media groups, and our offers aren’t brokered from other networks that we need to financially keep us afloat. We establish good direct relationships, we create our own pages and offers, and over time as word has gotten out about us and what we have to offer, affiliates have started to seek us out. As a result, we’re hearing almost on a weekly basis both from affiliates and advertisers about how some of our competitors rip us and create absolute fallacies about us, simply because they see us as a threat. I know of at least three networks that have told affiliates that we have no money and don’t pay affiliates on time, when in reality we have a healthy bankroll and have never been late paying our weekly wires, not to mention the obvious fact that we don’t exactly e-mail our bank records to our competitors and so they’re of course clueless about our numbers anyway. Networks have also told some of our advertisers that none of the top affiliates will work with Oasis Ads because they’re exclusive to these other networks – any affiliate reading this right now I’m sure is happy to know that some networks try to claim “ownership” of them huh?
I don’t and won’t make up false claims about other networks just because I’m threatened by their competition. If an advertiser asks me about Network A and I’ve never had a negative experience with Network A, I’ll say so. I’ve even introduced advertisers to networks in the past. I wish that more networks could be cordial and work together; it would definitely help us all police the deadbeat advertisers with inflated caps and no money, that’s for sure. But it would seem that the fear of competition is too strong for this to be a reality.
Now, I’m not mentioning this stuff because I’m losing sleep at night thinking about it. I’m mentioning it in the hope that affiliates and advertisers alike that have been sucked in by these types of people will be able to start seeing them for what they are, and instead focus their time on people and networks – yes, like Oasis but not just us – that work hard to establish solid, direct relationships and don’t waste their time spewing bullshit.
As always, your feedback is welcome.