Affiliate Marketing, affiliate program manager performance marketing, commision junction, DGM

Affiliate Marketing- The Tip of an Iceberg

Amazon are the pioneers of Affiliate marketing, and have more than 500K affiliates. and Travelocity spend very little time in acquiring traffic through Google and other expensive online media, they too have a good network of affiliates. In India, the affiliate boom is still to come. Few of us realise that it is the best eCommerce Marketing tool that one can invest in.

Simply put, in affiliate marketing ecosystem there is a merchant along with an affiliate. Affiliate runs program to send traffic to the merchant and if that traffic
converts, merchant compensates the affiliate by paying him an agreed sum. Since in this equation merchant confirms a cost, the net outcome is high and positive ROI. Better still, you don’t have to consider affiliate as a marketing arm, but a sales
channel. This channel needs to be nurtured with equal enthusiasm and zest as the

Affiliate marketing requires a huge investment in technology and manpower. You may
decide to develop a program internally, in which case you will have to go in for ready solutions available in the marketplace. This also means you need to have a dedicated technology maintainence team and also an affiliate manager, who is very critical to the success (and on whom we will touch upon later). However, you might want to outsource the whole program and enroll in an affiliate channel, like commission junction or linkshare. In India, this is provided by Deal Group Media or DGM. Here the situation is almost like a Google Marketplace, where the affiliate will enroll in program of only that merchant who will bring profit to affiliates business. None the less effort and dedication is required in both the approaches and the sooner you start the better will it be for the business.

You might ask So why do we need affiliate marketing, my SEO ranking is high, my Google SEM is ROI positive and I’m running a good email marketing program. So why should I invest in technology and infrastructure? The answer lies in the plethora of genre that exists out there.

1. SEO Optimised domains and Pay Per Click Websites
2. Review sites
3. Shopping comparison websites
4. Niche content websites (parenting golfing etc)
5. Personal Websites and Blogs
6. Loyalty websites
7. Emailer websites
8. Unutilised domains

As an e-marketer it will be very difficult to focus exclusively on these websites, run campaign and optimise them. Advertising network do that, but most of them are blind, hence you will never know about the performance. Affiliate marketing enables
management of these websites, where the agreement is to pay on performance. Hence the
optmisation and making money is not the marketer onus, it is the prerogative of the
affiliate website owner. Affiliate marketing ideally can empower every single user on
the website to start earning, and the initial cost can be as low as Rs.5000 (registering fees for a domain). One of our affiliate partners, Shoogloo, which is
started by LD Sharma has 500 domains.

The affiliate program manager is key to such program. He is more like a relationship
manager and looks at different ways and means to increase the traffic and therefore
sales from these channels. One of the most common problems in affiliate marketing is
the wayward means to credit sales wich could be through any of these means

1. Forced click
2. False advertisement
3. URL Masking (where you can see the changing url, with the click
4. Adware
5. Mature and Adult content
6. EMail Spam
7. Brand and Trademark bidding

The affiliate program manager needs to ensure that the liberties extended to the
affiliate is not misused.

Technology is the backbone of a good affiliate program. In short the technology should ensure

1. Ad serving
2. Tracking and Conversion rule: whether it is last click first click or equal distribution of profit across all the clicks.
3. Sales tracking
4. Integration with Finance, so that the sales get validated and payment is ensured to the affiliate
5. Affiliate login, so that he can see the amount that is credited to him. This is the most important aspect of the infrastructure, as there isn’t a motivator like money.

Whatever solution that you may decide on, please stick to one platform, as you don’t want to pay the same affiliate multiple times over for the same conversion.

Affiliate marketing has to go a long way in India. As there are very few eCommerce players, dominated by Travel. Hence most of the affiliate are structured around this line of business. Also, we haven’t seen much genre coming up. It is the same staple English content, news and Social Networking sites. The development of vernacular sites, special content sites, blogs and reviews, will definitely propel this fledgling industry.

Affiliate Marketing is truly the “Performance Marketing”.



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Affiliate Marketing, bottom line, brands, business goals, data, David Aaker, Future Brands, marketing performance, Sachin Bhatia, sales, Santosh Desai, Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence

Marketing and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence

As I was driving back home today and cruising through the chain of thoughts, I was reminded of a few regular comments in my organisation, which my marketing folks will not find irregular- Where are the numbers? Marketing can never get their numbers right? Marketing never backs up data. etc etc.

The war between between sales and marketing lingers on; numbers and leads and conversion. These are eternal debates and has been a discussion point for many research papers and conferences.

However the truth is and the fact remains that at the end of the day and the quarter and the year end, sales is the only factor which has a direct impact on the organisation’s bottomline and it is these numbers that builds CFO’s confidence (and therefore CEOs). Marketing on the other hand, and till this point this would be still contesting and justifying, which gets me thinking- Is marketing an exact science?

Let me elaborate a little on what I’m talking about. I happen to attend a session on ROI marketing organised by ZenithOptimedia, where panel included Mr.Santosh Desai (Future Brands), Mr.Sachin Bhatia ( and a gentleman from new Walmart team. Mr Desai’s thought were very provoking, he said- Numbers are handled very loosely and sometimes we measure for the sake of measuring. Remember, when we made graphs for science lab test. The line in the graph would come first and then would the figures. Results and targets would come first, then the numbers. All of us would have encountered this situation.

Now, consider marketing, where the greatest tool/invention is the concept of “Brand”. Ironically, it never features in the balance sheet. But it is a brand which drives the consumer mindspace, preferences to use the product and therefore sales and market. Organisations spend huge time and money to build a strong brand. An ideal stage would be something like Google, where one doesn’t have to spend any money, but before one gets to this situation, one has to do a lot of board meetings and meet quarter end sales pressures.

And if I were to ask, how big the brand should be, what is the measure of a big brand and how can it drive business goals, to what extent does it effect the bottomline and will shareholders buy it? Well, it is very debatable, but surely, it is not as easy as to have a future projection for sales. It is like defining the “Quality”, which might empirically precedes any intellectual constructions. Deriving formula for numbers and projection is easy, but creating a brand isn’t. Sales is easy, Marketing isn’t. Thats why there are few marketing guys and very few of them become CEOs 🙂

Let me elaborate a little more and dwell on the realm of philosophy. World’s fastest growing company, Google didn’t know what it would become when it launched “Adwords”. Best of the discoveries were not planned. It happened with a mixture of conscious effort and magic (call it hands of god, stoke of luck, belief etc). Robert R Prisig’s book “Lila” (he also wrote “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence”) has a very insightful story. P wanted to reach Newfoundland, and prepared well for it. He trained himself as a sailor, gained proficiency in reading stars and maps. And so one day, he started on his journey to Newfoundland. There was a terrible storm and he lost his map, but then his inspiration kept him going. He used his instincts to guide him towards coast. He saw an island and he remembered that newfoundland was 10 kms to the right. Though he could not measure 10 km, he went further and saw some people. In order to ensure that his calculation was right, he asked these people how far was newfoundland. To his surprise he found that he was in Newfoundland!

In the process to get the right numbers, right target, right stretch target we seem to suppress our instincts and loose the feel for numbers (read business) and can’t look beyond. If we can’t differentiate between business goals and targets, the numbers become useless to reach goals. We loose the bigger picture. We measure for the sake of measuring and we make numbers to defend our options and resort to precision and more precision. The qualification of success would be how precise we are. And so would be the bonuses!

Marketing is philanthropic in its construction and all about hopes, dreams and aspiration and philosophy, which may not follow a polynomial regression equation and extends beyond the number business. Marketing is an inexact science and a creative profession. It is laidback, but performs, we should try to force fit its statistic correlation with bottomline.

Or shall we? I would love to hear from you 🙂



Affiliate Marketing, e-Commerce, Email Marketing, Internet Audience Measurement

Internet- A Sales Channel or a Branding Medium?

A food for thought, it didn’t strike me even when Google was making a presentation on Branding strategy. Spends more on building brands, as the cost of conversions on a brand keyword would be the least (roughly 5-10 times more than your average conversion). So invest in brand and reap benefits, increase your ROI and lower the cost of conversion. Perfect theory, instantly buyable. Another large part of their presentation was on how the brands will be built online- Content, display ads, RIAs video ads. You name it and it is on the internet. As a marketer and a category leader what would you do? Where would you put the money and how much.

Lets go a little deeper, and recall the definition of brands (a difficult one and to my mind one of the very misued terms). A brand is a sum total of Product’s Physical attributes and its experience and has a name. A strong brand should be able to conjure images and experience (good/bad) in your mind. It is the holy grail of marketing, and in an ideal state, if your brand is big enough, you don’t need to advertise and waste monies (but you do that till you get there). All our B-school course, our strategy is around how to build great brands (Mr Aarker has written 4 books on this theme and Mr Kotler tome must be in its 11th edition by now). However, we marketers are still pondering over on how to do it. More so, how to do it online. Or should we not?

Lets consider this small example, TV has 70 million households, and more than 500 channels. The black box has been the greatest invention for marketing so far (in my opinion and have no hard feeling with my other online loving folk). Experiments have proven that a communication has a greater impact and lasting impression when sound and Vision are in tandem. And then came the other inventions Computers and Mobiles (also with screens). And so it happened that someone (and followed by a number of whitepapers) announced the birth of second and third screen (please note that the first screen was television). And marketing was to be dominated by this genre.

In US it started about 20 years back and now they have 50% internet penetration, Singapore is 60% and Taiwan is 90%. For India, I only know the number of users and it also varies greatly, 25 Mln as per comScore, 35Mln as per IAMAI and 45 Mln as per NASSCOM. In short, though our sheer number is high, our penetration is very poor (I’ll update the penetration figures as soon I get it). In India, internet is still not a mass medium. Please consider the time spend by todays youth on each medium (Source Business World Youth Report 2006, IAMAI 2006)

TV: 124 minutes/day
Newspaper: 30 Minutes/day
Radio: 84 minutes/day
Internet:61 Minutes/day

People do spend time online, where does the communication stick and occupy that little space, which creates a brand. Video ads, Social community, RIA, Viral, Flash Movies and webisodes are the answers. Huge engagement, huge interaction and best of all it is by choice and recommendation (by search engine). But is this good enough to create brands? Good enough to create recall and not to use the search engine to come to the website? Will it be a talking point?

Lot of brands have done it, and have been hugely successful. Google didn’t do any advertising (and maximised PR to its advantage). eBay utilised the online community and so did YouTube and MySpace. Orkut is very popular in India and they did it with 0 advertising.

And the most differentiating factor of our medium is the measurability. Internet is one of the few mediums that can define ROI (Direct Marketing is the other). So now we can use it to define goals and plan backwards to derive the ROI. The campaign have set goals and marketers can now be smarter and more accountable. However, this brings us back again to our moot point, can it create brands. At least in India can it replace TV. And will an emarketer choose Internet whole heartedly to drive the strategy to build brands?