Affiliate Managers! Get Ready for AMDays

In advance of Website Magazine's upcoming issue on affiliate marketing, we have kept our virtual eyes and ears open for developments in the performance marketing space.

One of the most exciting in my opinion is a new conference for affiliate marketing managers - AMDays. The event is being organized and chaired by Geno Prussakov, a Website Magazine contributor and the author of Affiliate Program Management - An Hour a Day. I had the opportunity recently to speak with Geno about the conference as well as the state of the affiliate marketing industry as a whole and what attendees can expect from AMDays. 

The Affiliate Management Days (AMDays) event focuses on education and discussions for affiliate managers, and will take place on March 8-9, 2012 in San Francisco. I've spent a long time in the industry and this is the first event I am aware of that focuses exclusively on affiliate management.

Website Magazine: For those that are unfamiliar with the practice, explain affiliate management. Is it limited to merchants selling tangible goods?

Geno Prussakov: No, it isn't. Affiliate program management presupposes the management of any affiliate program, campaign, or a number of campaigns. Regardless of whether you're selling tangible or virtual goods, service or anything else, if you have an affiliate program, it must be managed. The key components of affiliate management are recruitment of new affiliates, activation of recruited but stagnant ones, monitoring affiliate activity and policing compliance with your affiliate program's rules, maintaining a constant and consistent communication channel, and optimizing your program (from landing pages to creatives, and from affiliate-geared motivation campaigns to customer-oriented promos... all based on ongoing testing, as well as competitive intelligence).

Website Magazine: Tell Website Magazine readers about the ecommerce industry's need for a conference such as AMDays.

Geno Prussakov: According to the findings of Econsultancy's Affiliate Census 2011, among the main reasons for not promoting merchants after signing up for their affiliate programs affiliates highlighted: poor commission potential (20.7%), poor quality links (18.7%), slow acceptance to program (14.8%), and bad follow-up communication (8.4%). All of these are connected with the larger problem we have in the industry -- abundance of uneducated merchants and, as a result, numerous un- and mis-managed affiliate programs. There is a tremendous need for an ongoing merchant and affiliate manager education, and Affiliate Management Days is here to fill this need.

Website Magazine: So this event is primarily targeting e-business owners and affiliate managers?

Geno Prussakov: Yes, we're we are positioning ourselves in a very targeted way: the event on all things affiliate management. The main goal of the conference is to make more educated merchants and affiliate managers -- equipped to manage and run successful affiliate programs. Hence, also our choice of location here -- San Francisco, CA.

Website Magazine: How has affiliate management changed over the past few years? What challenges and opportunities are present now which affiliate managers may not be aware of that they would discover at an event such as AMDays?

Geno Prussakov: A few years back we didn't have efficient platforms to affiliate-track phone calls, we had no developed (and rapidly-growing!) mobile, social wasn't here, we didn't engage in re-targeting, and didn't have platforms to track multi-channel performance marketing activity (including the offline). The face of affiliate marketing, and conjugated affiliate management, is changing together with the transformations in the surrounding digital marketing landscape. And you're right, the resulting opportunities, as well as challenges, will be the subjects of our discussions at the Affiliate Management Days professional forum.

Website Magazine: Where is fraud most prevalent in the affiliate marketing industry today? Is the fraud issue more about affiliate managers recruitment strategies or their approach to compliance policing and enforcement?

Geno Prussakov: Whether you call it "fraud" of unethical activity (some prefer the latter due to the very specific connotation of the word "fraud"), I'd say that the top five areas for it are: (1) paid search and (2) domains (trademark violations and brand hi-jacking), (3) email and (4) social (lots of spamming), as well as (5) adware.

To answer your second question: you can prevent much on the recruitment/approval stage, but things do slip through the cracks on continuous compliance policing is a must. Thirdly, you also want to stay on top of things by self-educating (via blogs, podcasts, online forums, and events like AMDays), as new threats spring up regularly.

Website Magazine: Is it easier or more difficult now to motivate affiliate marketers than in years past? Should there be different incentive strategies for those just starting out versus the super-affiliates?

Geno Prussakov: Affiliate motivation is one of my favorite topics. There's a whole chapter in my newest book on it. But I'll try to stay brief here... Individualized consideration and affiliate categorization are the two keys to keep in mind when approaching the subject of motivation. Some of your affiliates will be willing, but not able; others -- able, but not willing... yet others, like the "super-affiliates" you've mentioned, know exactly what they want to do with your affiliate program, and don't require much extrinsic motivation at all. So, first, categorize affiliates by the primary method of promotion that they use. Then, segment them by what situational theorists call "maturity level", and tailor your incentives accordingly. Be creative, interesting, contagious and also remember, that your final goal is to develop more super-affiliates -- or go from extrinsically motivated affiliates (which is good for beginning ones) to those who are fully intrinsically-driven, or motivated from within.

Website Magazine: Legislative issues continue to plague the performance marketing industry. What would be one thing that you'd advise merchants to do here?

Geno Prussakov: The "one thing" that I'd advise is comply. There are several legislative challenges that we're dealing with, and the two that cause the widest resonance now are: (i) the affiliate nexus tax laws that have been ratified in some states, and are being considered by others, and (ii) the Federal Trade Commission's rules regarding testimonials and endorsements, which view merchant-affiliate relationship in sponsor-endorser light. With the tax laws, I encourage merchants to be affiliate-friendly, and do everything possible to collect the tax in the affected states, keeping affiliates from those states in their programs; and lobbying in states that are only considering. With the FTC's endorsement rules -- educate your affiliates on the necessity of displaying the necessary disclosures, and then police compliance.