The Wild Wild West of Affiliate Marketing

In the Digital Marketing/Online Advertising world, when an old industry vet talks about some aspect of the industry as being the “Wild, Wild West” they are generally speaking in terms of a new promotional method or vertical that was emerging at the time without regulation and everyone entering it was in a land grab. This individual that probably started in the industry when he/she was in their 20s, is now in their late 30s or early 40s, and feels like they are well into their late 60s or 70s will be overhead at affiliate conferences saying: “I remember when you could send tens of millions of emails a day”, “I had the best free iPod site out there”, “Remember when you could run an EDU campaign without the government breathing down your neck”, or one of my favorites “I made all my money during the PayDay loan surge…hell, it got me my first Lambo”. These stories and anecdotes come with the cautionary tale of the unregulated times being part of the Wild, Wild West and inevitably the good times came to pass. In order to continue running with the method and vertical that made these individuals so successful, they had to adapt and bring their methods from sometimes dubious means to being above the board and more transparent.

Well, we are now in that phase with Pay Per Call. Pay Per Call is probably the best affiliate commission method because in the end all be all, the end clients are trying to get the consumer on the phone to close the deal on their service or product either by having the lead posted to them for their internal reps/agents to contact the consumer by phone or having the consumer call their reps/agents directly. It has been a boon for affiliate marketers because generally the payouts are higher on call campaigns and up until the recent past they haven’t had to provide as much transparency because, “hey the client is just looking for the phone to ring, do they really care how the call got to them?”. Well to answer that question…YES, the client definitely does care how the call got to them. The client has to answer to their agents on the floor answering the calls that get unqualified calls that won’t move toward a sale (what those agents are judged on and make their commission on). They have to answer to their CFO and the marketing budgets that see higher and higher Return on Ad Spends. Furthermore, they are 1 answered call away from an FTC fine that could cost them $10K per occurrence and they just can’t take on that risk unless they have a comfortable feeling with how an affiliate is promoting the campaign and that the consumer isn’t coming to them under shady means.

In essence, Pay Per Call end clients, agencies, and brokers are having to ask the tough questions at the start of a campaign to make sure that their risk levels are minimized to the best of their abilities and so that they can ensure a long lasting campaign that is beneficial to them and also to all that run the campaign. If those clients want a long lasting campaign for themselves they shouldn’t be asking affiliates for opt-in information, ad content, transfer scripts, landing page links, and any other placement information so they can circumvent you, they should be asking that information so that they can ensure that the affiliate and themselves stay compliant, that their agents/reps know how to work the call and address the consumer properly, and that the campaign will be around for the long run. Nobody is looking for the next cautionary Pay Per Call story to be talked about in 5 years at an affiliate conference when we refer to the Wild, Wild West of Pay Per Call…we should all strive to be the Pat Garrett or Wyatt Earp of the industry for the sake of all of us!