We love to tout the benefits that a healthy affiliate program can offer an online business.
But there's a flip side to the success stories of referral programs: when you create an affiliate program, there's a high chance that you'll also have to deal with a lot of negativity, too, from partners who are struggling to make any money to downright dishonest referral partners.
We've had to deal with disreputable affiliates who offer “fake” coupons, work with those who are really struggling to bring in sales, and address affiliates who are running ads to our products… which becomes a conflict of interest because we end up competing with our own affiliates for ad clicks.
So we're sharing a little of what we've seen – as well as tips to overcome these affiliate program roadblocks for smoother sailing.
It's a win-win for all of us: we're able to reach new audiences and increase sales with qualified clients. Our affiliates make a nice side income from sending qualified leads our way.
Staying vigilant while managing your affiliate program will help it to be a successful and overall positive experience for everyone involved.
Affiliate Marketing Fraud Is a Real Thing (And It Can Happen To You)
After you learn how to start your own affiliate program, you take a step of faith in the goodness of humankind. You welcome affiliates and offer them a share of your profits in return for sharing your products with others.
This can work wonderfully.
But there are two major types of affiliate fraud that tends to pop up with this type of program:
- Disreputable affiliates who create fake “coupon” sites that falsely represent your product.
- Affiliates who only sign up for the program so that they can benefit from using their own affiliate links.
Either type of fraud can harm your company.
(Sidenote: legitimate affiliate marketing success stories abound, so don't let this discourage you!)
Fake Coupon Sites Scam The End User
When a potential buyer sees your product, they might do a quick Google search to look for coupons. This is when they'll likely end up visiting a fake coupon page set up by an affiliate.
The page might claim “click on this link to purchase [your product] at %15 off,” at which point the buyer is sent to the purchase page. They have no way of knowing whether the coupon was real or not – all they see is the price on the checkout page… which happens to be the full-price of the product.
The impact: the end client can become impervious to other, legitimate sales. You're advertising 10% off for a bundle, but they THINK they already have a coupon for “15% off”.
Instead of getting a deal, they get scammed.
A Self-Awarded Discount is Not The Purpose of An Affiliate Program
People who buy using their own affiliate links are irritating because they're essentially using the program to give themselves a discount on your product.
Once the purchase has gone through, they're likely to forget all about the program… which means that they're not sharing your link or introducing your products to any new audiences.
In short, they fail to invest in the heart and soul behind a thriving affiliate program.
How to Detect Affiliate Marketing Fraud
There are a few ways to detect the various types of affiliate marketing fraud mentioned above:
First, you can install a tracking script on your website, so that the link referrer is recorded. This will allow you to see on which page your clients are finding the affiliate link. Then, you simply verify whether it is from a legitimate referral. (The downside to this is that there's really no user-friendly way to view this info. It's a code-based script that you have to track through your website files).
When you're on the lookout for affiliate marketing fraud, another good practice is to ensure that the client who made the affiliate purchase wasn't already in your system before they clicked on the link.
If the clients are already in your system, they normally wouldn't be clicking on affiliate links to purchase: they'd simply order from your sales page.
A client who is in your email system and then purchases through an affiliate link might be a sign that they're signing up for an affiliate link before purchasing your product.
If this happens, you can simply investigate further.
How to Prevent Affiliate Marketing Fraud
Unfortunately, there's no totally fool-proof way to prevent affiliate marketing fraud. The best course of prevention may simply be to screen any potential affiliates before accepting them into your program.
Some information you might want to know ahead of time:
- How they plan to promote your products
- A link to their site(s)
Then, maintain a proactive stance to detect affiliate marketing fraud before it gets out of hand.
Take Time To Plan How to Create an Affiliate Program That's Profitable For Your Business
The dark side of affiliate marketing is real. It can leave your program with a bad taste in your mouth – and an unpredictable stream of revenue from your affiliate referrals.
While there's no magic solution, there are three main areas where you can invest your time and attention to improve the effectiveness and morale of the program.
1. Your Affiliates Will Be Unsuccessful… Unless You Can Lead Them
For an affiliate program to be hugely successful and bring in a strong revenue stream for your business, you're going to have to spend a bit of time managing and supporting your affiliates.
Many of your affiliates will have questions (“Why am I not getting results?” “Where is my money?” and “Are my links working?”)
For some of the more common questions, you might offer training resources (“Best practices to make the most out of your affiliate links”) and a list of FAQs to explain how payments work, etc.
It's best that this educational info is housed in the same area as their affiliate links (if possible). It will be far easier for them to view the info, especially since it's likely that they're a member of more than one affiliate program… and it can be tough to remember which rules apply where.
The importance of housing all of your affiliate resources in one area is why we made sure AccessAlly had a built-in affiliate system that integrates with all of our CRMs. So no matter which system you're using, you can house everything – links, graphics, and info – inside your own membership site.
Many affiliates rely on their commissions for a major source of income. When problems arise within the program (broken links, payout mixups, etc.), it's important to treat these seriously. What might seem like a paltry sum from a business revenue perspective might be a huge part of your affiliate marketer's income.
Fielding tough questions through email is a good practice to ensure that there's a written record of communication, in case of a dispute later on.
2. A Rule System Keeps Everything Legal and In Order
Speaking of communication… it's worth taking the time to be up-front and super clear about what you're promising (and not promising) for your affiliates.
- How often you pay affiliates
- Is there a minimum threshold for payout
- What happens when there's a product cancellation
- How are they allowed to promote (paid advertising? product mention?)
- Can they use your logo or modify branded graphics to promote your product?
These are all things you should have listed prominently for a strong affiliate program.
These are also things that are worth consulting with your lawyer to draft the correct wording. In the event of a dispute, it might save a lot of hassle.
3. Affiliates Long For Organization and Resources
Are you setting up your program for success or failure?
I've been an affiliate for a few different companies… and have been totally at a loss for how to get even the simplest links from them.
I've logged into affiliate “sites” that were totally bare, with no way to navigate through the area. I've been to affiliate areas that did NOT provide links, but only offered jumbled instructions on how to create your own.
This “do it yourself” approach makes it difficult to promote your products.
This might include:
- A single place to login.
- All necessary links pre-created (none of that “add this code: ASDKJAKLJA to the URL, but only after spinning around twice and spelling your name backwards”).
- Pre-created affiliate links, so affiliates just have to copy/paste/go
- Affiliate orders listed, so they know right away how much they've made
- A resources page to help them promote your products with gusto.
- A leaderboard during launch windows so they can compete and get excited about their sales.
Maintaining a Professional Affiliate Marketing Program Can Be A Huge Bonus For Your Online Business
When you invest in creating a balanced, helpful affiliate hub, you increase the satisfaction of your affiliates – and decrease the amount of frustration within the program.
And, if you're using our software, take time to check out how AccessAlly can help make this happen.
Content updated February 2019.
You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it yourself:
“I made 5 figures last month, and I can show you how.”
“I run a 6 figure business, so you should take my course.”
“We have a 7 figure company, and we’ve doubled our business year to year, sign up for my programs.”
…What do you feel when you’re exposed to these marketing messages?
If you’re anything like me at various points along my journey: probably a mix of jealousy, anxiety that you’re not there yet, and scratching your head asking yourself if there’s something wrong with you or your business.
I get it.
Income claim marketing is prevalent in the digital marketing space, and there’s a reason for it.
In case you’re not familiar with it, income claim marketing is when a business or coach shares how much money they’ve made… in an effort to prove how successful their business has been. Usually, this display of wealth is also used in order to sell something that promises to replicate these results for students.
This is a guest post by Alexia Vernon.
How to build an audience online… it starts with:
Becoming a trusted expert in my industry.
Launching a signature online program.
Creating an engaged community that champions me—and my offerings.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have—and likely still are—pursuing one or more of these goals. Whether you are a web designer or a wellness coach, a technological wizard or a digital newbie, your inbox is likely flooded each day with experts showing you how to utilize online marketing and technology to achieve your business goals.
I’m not one of those people.
How To Build An Audience Online… Starting Offline
While my speaking and coaching business has had an online presence since it’s inception 8 years ago, the truth is that I’m most in my zone of genius when leading live, in-person events that are high touch and low tech. Where I incorporate heaps of audience interactivity and few, if any, slide decks.
And it’s from leading these quality, transformational live events—e.g., workshops, retreats, corporate trainings, and TEDx’s—that my list has grown. That I’ve been able to emerge more meaningfully online through my spotlight products and coaching programs. That I’ve surpassed the six-figure mark and most importantly, found a way to marry my passion and expertise with what my audience craves.
Although it might sound counter intuitive to go offline to grow online, the truth is that intimate, high-touch, in person events can be one of the most effective ways to supercharge your online fan base.
Live events facilitate and deepen connections between you and your tribe—and between fellow tribe members—both during promotion for the live event and of course during the live event itself.
When led properly, live events put you at top of mind as a trusted expert—in the head and heart of those who attended as well as those who encountered your event promotion.
And the next time you launch online, you better believe that your live event participants will become crazy, beautiful proselytizers within your online community and, just as importantly, within their own communities.
Leading successful live events requires different, albeit complementary skills, to those that make an entrepreneur successful online.
Here are my top recommendations to ensure your first (or next) live event rocks—for you and your peeps.
1. Choose a structure that serves your tribe and your revenue goals.
One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is trying to replicate the model of other live events they have attended. As a result, many well-intentioned people are essentially taking their online programs and bringing them offline. Speaking at their audience rather than with their audience.
They are prioritizing teaching their tribe at the expense of transforming them.
In order to over deliver on your tribe’s expectations, choose a live format that enables you to design a truly interactive and mind-blowing experience.
Perhaps you want to lead a live workshop for 30 people. This number will allow you to have people up on their feet, practicing the strategies and techniques you are teaching—and enable you to deliver real-time mindset and skill-based coaching.
Maybe you want to work with an even smaller group via a destination retreat. One of my favorite things to do is to take a group of 10–15 visionary speakers to a fun location (next on my list is Kauai!) in order to mastermind and skill build.
This enables me to give my attendees oodles of customized strategy, opportunities for quality relationship building, and ample time to rest, restore and soak up a beautiful environment that supports the transformative speaking work we’re doing.
It’s also possible that you want to lead a more traditional live event for 100+ people. If going this route, it’s even more important to think about how you give your audience opportunities to apply what they are learning and to connect with fellow participants—versus just having them sit and digest information from you and guest speakers during a one-day intensive or weekend conference.
But the truth is that larger events have larger expenses and it’s often easier to net multiple five or even six figures of profit from an intimate, well-facilitated live event. You do so not only from registration fees, but also from offering participants in your experiences the opportunity to continue their work with you in ongoing private and group coaching, consulting and masterminding programs.
It’s not uncommon for me and other live event leaders to quadruple the income we earn after a workshop or retreat because the experience we create makes it almost effortless to enroll participants into our other programs.
2. Fill your in-person event through online marketing and community building.
Even though you are bringing your tribe together offline, it’s essential that you leverage online business building strategies to promote your live event.
Whenever my clients and I are designing our live offerings, we use a classic online launch formula to promote them. Just as you would hopefully not throw up a sales page and send people straight there for an online program or product launch… When creating a live event, you don’t want to ask people to register without first giving them a chance to “date you and your content.”
There are 3 top priorities for event leaders during the enrollment phase.
Priority 1: Get your audience eager to see you live
If you have participated in Nathalie’s Launch It and Profit training, this is the classic pre-launch stage where you are giving away quality, free content. When doing an online product launch, you might have a landing page where interested people can opt-in for a free video training series. Or you may be offering a free report, a series of interviews, or webinars.
When your goal is to fill a live event, I recommend that you wet your audience’s appetite by doing a series of mini-virtual events.
Remember, prospects are considering whether they want to be in your audience for 1 or more days and they are looking for evidence that you are charismatic, credible and engaging… worth seeing live. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to do this is to have a single landing page promoting 3 or 4 webinars where you will give snippets of different content that you will be sharing at your live event.
Webinars are one of the fastest ways to grow your list.
Even when participants don’t enroll in your current live event, they often register for other events, programs and products down the line because webinars make our audience members feel close and connected to us as event hosts.
Priority 2: Incentivize early enrollment
As you share your webinar series with your newsletter list and expand your reach through strategic online advertising (e.g, Facebook ads that you run to your webinar landing page), make sure that you are making it easy for people to say, “heck yeah, I’m in” to your event early by making it cost effective to do so.
You don’t need to have an open and close enrollment period because you typically need to promote your live event 3–6 months before it happens, if it’s out of town, so people have time to make plans. And, let’s face it, you don’t want to have a hard stop on when tickets are available in case you don’t sell out. I often sell a handful of tickets just a few weeks before an event to members of my local community.
However, you can have tiered pricing that goes up 24 hours after each webinar. That way, when you make your offer at the end of a webinar for people to register for your live event, they feel a sense of urgency to do so before the price increases.
Another way to incentivize early enrollment is to do an initial 2-for–1 ticket giveaway the first week or two after launching your sales page. This is a terrific way to allow your early, most eager customers to fill your audience with their pals who likely will add more positive vibes to your event.
Priority 3: Prep attendees for the live event
Your live event experience begins the moment a prospective attendee enrolls. Make sure that you have set-up an autoresponder system that communicates pertinent details about the live event, e.g., location specifics, transportation, and daily schedule, so that they can make accurate travel plans.
Make sure also to invite participants into an online community, such as a private Facebook group for the event, to connect with other attendees. The more that your participants get to know each other, the more fully they will show up to the live event because they will be comfortable with one another. You can also use the new online platform, Periscope, to do quick video Q+A sessions with event attendees. I’ll be doing a lot of this during my next live event launch!
Plus, when your live event participants feel connected to one another, they are more likely to want to continue working with you because they want to continue to develop their new business friendships. The first person I ran into at Nathalie’s Off The Charts event was my pal from Launch It & Profit, Sara Bradford.
We spent much of the weekend together. When Nathalie shared details of the 9-month Daring Business Cultivator she was offering that year we knew we both wanted in, but we had to decide if this was the right business investment for us at that time. A key deciding factor for both of us was whether the other was going to do it. (In case you are curious, we applied, were accepted, had an extraordinary year together, and Sara—an amazing real food expert—is serving as the private chef for my Kauai event.)
You can also set your attendees up for success by giving them some pre-event work to complete in advance. Make sure that whatever activities you assign are fun, illuminating and will accelerate learning at the live event.
3. Find your “secret sauce” to move from expert to transformational thought leader
Finally, in order to make your live event game changing for you and your audience, you need to develop your speaking and facilitation skills. If you deliver any kind of online training, you likely have gotten comfortable speaking from your computer, behind a slide deck. Even if using slides (sparingly I hope!) at your live event, you still will be stepping into the role of thought leader. You will be center stage.
People don’t choose to make the time and financial commitment to leave their homes and families and attend a live event, no matter how established the event’s leader is, simply to learn. That’s what online is for.
They want to hear stories you’ve never told before—and understand EXACTLY how you have gotten to where you are today (so they can see the pathway toward where they are striving to be). They want to be asked to think more boldly and take bigger risks than you or anyone else has ever asked them to take.
They want to build genuine, long-term relationships with the other people in attendance. And most of all, they want to leave your event inspired and prepared to implement their insight and create real, ongoing results.
Successful and profitable live event leaders, like Nathalie, have mastered creating and executing a live event that they couldn’t have captured in an online format. They ask questions, lead activities, provide guest speakers, and do laser coaching that deepens the experience of their curriculum and facilitates real, lasting transformation for their audience.
They are so much more than experts who are delivering great content. They are true thought leaders who artfully energize and engage their participants through the live experiences they create.
As I hope you can tell, I’m insanely passionate about leading live events—and supporting other entrepreneurs, change makers and visionaries to do the same.
Whether you have never led a live event before, but know that you want to do deep, delicious work with your tribe—or you have previously led live events, but they just haven’t been as profitable as you now know they can be, my hope is that you take my recommendations and gussy up what you are doing effectively online to create an epic, money-making experience offline.
About Alexia Vernon
Branded a “Moxie Maven” by the White House, Alexia supports visionary leaders to use public speaking and live events to spread their ideas, grow their tribes, and add meaningful revenue to their businesses. Alexia is a contributor to media such as CNN, NBC, Forbes, Inc. and Women’s Health.
This checklist for building your email list using Facebook ads for small business covers everything you need to know before you spend your first dollar on Facebook.
The big question you might have is…
“Should I be marketing my business with Facebook ads? Can they actually work for me?”