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#LessonsLearned - A Blog Series From the 2013 ShareASale Blog by Brian Littleton


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Table of Contents Lessons Learned ......................................................................................................................................... 3 Lessons Learned: How Groups Turned Into Tags ................................................................................. 4 Lessons Learned: Conference Planning ................................................................................................. 7 Lessons Learned: Featured Programs ................................................................................................... 12 Lessons Learned: New Programs & Trademark Bidding ................................................................... 14 Lessons Learned: Affiliate Partnership ................................................................................................. 17 #Lessons Learned: A Guest Post from the Harvard Homemaker .................................................... 19 #LessonsLearned: A Guest Post from Tricia Meyer ............................................................................ 23 #Lessons Learned: A Guest Post from Legend Award Winner Tim Storm ..................................... 26 #LessonsLearned: A Guest Post from Shawn and Missy .................................................................... 28 #LessonsLearned: A Guest Post from Legend Award Winner Todd Farmer .................................. 31 Lessons Learned: Tips for Trademark Policy ........................................................................................ 37 Lessons Learned: Don't recreate the wheel, bend it. ......................................................................... 40 Lessons Learned - How to Prepare for Affiliate Summit East ............................................................ 43 Lessons from a Failed Startup ................................................................................................................ 46 Lessons Learned w/ Coupon and Deal sites ......................................................................................... 48 Lessons Learned Working w/ Search Affiliates .................................................................................... 52 Lessons Learned: Content Is King ........................................................................................................ 54 Lessons on Learning ShareASale ........................................................................................................... 56 5 Habits of Successful Agencies ............................................................................................................. 58 Broadening Your Partner Selection Process to Find the DITR ........................................................... 60 Lessons Learned: Provide Clients with Good Experiences ................................................................ 63


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Lessons Learned

For the month of August, we'll be going over things that we've learned in the past - and how those experiences help prepare us for today's environment in Affiliate Marketing. We'll have posts looking back on lessons we've learned about ... Client Experiences Launching Programs Creating Affiliate Partnerships Conference Planning Featured Program Strategy Habits of Successful Agencies Working with Search and Coupon Affiliates and more! Stay tuned for a whole month of knowledge gleaned from 13 years in the industry!


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Lessons Learned: How Groups Turned Into Tags One of ShareASale’s unique features is the ability to segment the Affiliate base in a program. Doing this allows for more customization and enables a Merchant to truly create a unique Affiliate Program. ShareASale has gone through a few “versions” of segmentations and has developed upon these. "Grouping" Affiliates had been available for quite a few years going back on ShareASale, but in 2012, at ShareASale’s ThinkTank, we openly released the new version of “Groups” called “Tags”. "Tags" allows Merchants to segment their Affiliate base with much more ease of use and encourages organization and motivation. Below, is a quick comparison of each:

The new “tagging” feature allows Merchants to create new tags for an affiliate in only three clicks. Likewise, if they decide an Affiliate no longer belongs to a particular tag, it takes one click to remove the label. Each Tag can be color coordinated for a visual affect when Merchants browse their affiliate list or report. Along with the release of “tags”, we also launched our advanced commission rules (this is a definite “MUST READ”). When combined, tags and advanced commissions rules can help Merchants focus on things that are more important; like Affiliate recruitment. Merchants can set tags for affiliates from a number of places, though; the most common is probably in the Affiliate list. Once an Affiliate is associated with the particular tag, it is ONLY visible to the Merchant. With Groups, both the Merchant and Affiliate saw the name.


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Organization is crucial to any marketing mix. Within an Affiliate program, it is important for Merchants to see exactly what is happening at any given time. In addition to ShareASale’s Real-Time reporting, our segmenting abilities allow Merchants to fine-tune their reports so that they are seeing EXACTLY what they are looking for. In almost every report, Merchants can filter the results based on a particular segment – group or tag. Sometimes, though, an Affiliate will fit into multiple labels (for example, a Content Affiliate who was at Affiliate Summit East). “Tags” allow Merchants to do this. It can be a daunting task to find all of the Affiliates in a program and assign a label to them, though. Within the Affiliate List, Merchants can select the “Mass Actions” tab to assign a tag or group to the Affiliates shown in a given search. Another method that could tie into the above section (Ease of Use) is the ability to automatically tag Affiliates if they apply to the Merchant’s program through a particular source. For example, if an Affiliate signs up through a conference, automatically set a tag for this Affiliate (more can be read on that here: Organize and Motivate Signups). Aside from auto-tagging, it is also possible to have different creatives for the particular segment. This can actually be completed via Groups and Tags. When uploading a creative, select it to be private. Then more options will appear asking for whom it should be private.

Last, but not least, is motivation. Groups and tags are both great tools to use when looking


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for creative ways to motivate Affiliates. The differences between the two are vast, though, both features have great benefits. One of the main benefits (in terms of motivating Affiliates) of groups is the efficiency of setting up bonus campaigns. Here, a Merchant can set bonus campaigns based on performance metrics. When the bonus is issued, a separate transaction is created in the Transaction Detail report. From there, a Merchant is able to sort the transactions and easily find all bonus transactions. Additionally, Merchants are able to set Group-Level commission rates that will supersede the default commission rate. Tags, on the other hand, offer more depth and may at times require assistance from our Client Services team. In a ShareASale post from last month, Building Blocks to Motivate Affiliates, Merchants can learn the different ways that Tags can be used to motivate Affiliates. One of the features mentioned there are the Advanced Commission rules. Unlike “Groups�, tags can be implemented in all of the various commission rule options. A merchant can set a rule that, for example, doubles a commission when a tagged Affiliate sends a customer to the site to purchase X item in the month of December. Currently, 21 conditions can be combined, tweaked, and implemented with the assigned Tag for an Affiliate. Advanced Commission rules are the highest level of authority in a program’s commission structure.

As a program manager, are you using tags, groups, or both? Feel free to share how they have helped!


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Lessons Learned: Conference Planning I am the first to admit that I am Type A, slightly OCD and very detail oriented. I plan everything. I organize everything. I create lists, crossing each thing one at a time. And if I completed something that is not on the list, then I write it down and immediately cross it off anyways. You know the type. The thing is – I love organizing. I love planning, scheduling, looking at all those details. Even though I do tend to be so detail oriented, sometimes I learn the hard way.

Lesson #1 When exhibiting, ALWAYS order double padded carpeting. This was a lesson learned by ShareASale way before I entered the picture. However, I didn’t believe it until it I experienced it myself. After being at a booth from 9am to about 5pm, your feet hurt. And they don’t hurt just a little, they hurt a lot! The double padded carpeting helps so much, it is remarkable! The difference between it and carpet with no padding whatsoever is significant. As much as I scoffed at first, there is no amount of money I wouldn’t pay for that extra relief for my feet.


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Lesson #2 Always print and bring contracts to events. Any contract, any tracking number, any confirmation number. All important things should be on hand. I had prepaid a transportation ride to the airport for one of our shows at Affiliate Summit. I had received a confirmation number and a receipt saying that the ride was paid for. When we were getting out of our ride, the driver insisted that I had not paid. I did not have it printed and therefore, wasted time


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calling their office to verify. I never again get in the car, limo or bus unless I have that receipt printed and ready to go with any discrepancy from the driver about payment. Along with contracts, make a list of important contacts for the conference. Instead of fishing around for phone numbers or searching the web for contact info, why not make a list, print it or email it and eliminate wasted time. (This is why I have Ole Blue.)

Lesson #3 Make a Conference Emergency Kit for your group. Blisters need Band-Aids. Headaches need


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ibuprofen. Hunger needs snacks. Coffee breath needs mints. Long nights need 5-hour energy. You get the picture. Being at a conference with any of the above makes it miserable for you and for those around you. As an Event Planner, you are expected to be prepared for anything. Having this little kit available at your booth or on hand can remedy any potentially awful situation.

Lesson #4 Always make the times on your agenda a little earlier for people in your group who are notoriously late. Not everyone is Type A. There are certain people at ShareASale (not saying names) who are rarely on time. I provide detailed schedules for everyone and certain people come waltzing into the lobby 10 minutes after everyone else. I have learned to just plan everything with extra time to spare. You could always create “special schedules" just for those late people, having their timetable to be 5 minutes ahead of everyone else. Although I’ve never done this, I’ve thought about it.

Lesson #5 Plan for stress followed by flexibility. I am queen of getting flustered and freaking out. It is so important to take a step back sometimes. In one of my earlier posts, I included the following: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Plan for things to go wrong – as they will. I guarantee you that. I could come up with oodles of little moments when I had minor panic attacks – such as when our driver was 45 minutes late to pick us up, when one of our entertainers was late, when the weather prevented anyone to showing up to an event or when our electric outlets were placed in the absolute wrong


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places within our booth. However, it is important not focus on what is going wrong and think about how you are going to fix it. Find out what you need and where you can get it. Then, get it done or delegate someone else to do it. Plan on being stressed, but also plan to be flexible. Mentally prepare yourself for any potentially stressful situation.

Final Note Event Planning should be fun! Therefore, if you are not having fun, then perhaps you should start looking for a different job/position.


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Lessons Learned: Featured Programs Superbowl Sunday commercials are the most watched, most anticipated, and most expensive advertisements of the year. In return, many of the sponsors receive a huge brand lift, which may depend on their previous recognition and how appealing their advertisement is to consumers. The goal of any advertisement, whether on TV or online, is to gain new customers and create brand awareness. There are four key elements that make an effective Super Bowl commercial: attention-grabbing, entertaining, brand promotion, and brand recall Featured Programs in ShareASale are somewhat similar, although definitely not in price, as the goal is to generate attention, promote the program and recruit new partners. Just as the effectiveness of Superbowl ads depend on the creativity, relevance, and information, Featured Programs will rely on similar methods in order to achieve the best results. I have included a few tips on how to create the most appealing Featured Program in order to engage and activate Affiliates in your program: Use an image that is appealing, product or lifestyle oriented - not just the company logo Create Attention - To some surprise, this does not need to be done through animation, blinding colors or flash banners that might create a headache instead; use a subtle approach. Do not try to hide - ensure the Affiliate knows exactly what program the ad is for, intrigue might not be the best route Brief description of the company and products for Affiliates to gain a better understanding Basics of the program; commission, cookie duration, average order size are all good pieces of information but don't make them the focus of the ad! Remember, it is an ad designed to be clicked for more information... you don't need every single piece of information on there to start. Competitive Advantage - add program highlights such as a regularly updated product datafeed, monthly newsletters, coupons/deals, compelling banners/text links, etc. Incentives and bonuses to activate and motivate Affiliates in your program TIP: Use the Advanced Commission Rules to create join incentives – double commission for the first 30 days or first sale bonus! A call to action for Affiliates to participate immediately and join the program. This is the single greatest difference maker between featured ads that do well, and those that do not! Additional information – demographics, seasonal best sellers, top products, selling opportunities Utilize numbers and stats instead of more text for an attention-grabbing placement A call to action for Affiliates to participate immediately and join the program. This is the single greatest difference maker between featured ads that do well, and those that do not!


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ShareASale offers a number of Featured Programs that are designed to target a large number of Affiliates (Featured Program of the Week) or a select group (Affiliate Invitations). Depending on the placement, the strategy may differ as for some you may be targeting a larger audience while others may be more category, or niche, specific. To view a listing of the ShareASale Featured Programs, view the "Become A Featured Program" page under the Tools tab, or follow the link HERE. As is the case with investing, you do not want to put all of your eggs in one basket. Spread your advertising dollars around by choosing a variety of suitable media for your audience and budget. While Featured Programs can be very effective, be sure to create a marketing plan that includes an advertising budget for both placements and Affiliate incentives. Recruiting new Affiliates through Featured Programs is important, but it is equally as imperative to motivate your current base and keep them active in the program! TIP:Use Affiliate Tags to segment and organize Affiliates to provide incentives, offer creatives, send newsletters, assign a commission, etc.


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Lessons Learned: New Programs & Trademark Bidding Your new ShareASale affiliate program just launched, Hooray! What an exciting feeling it is to anticipate all the new relationships that will begin and the new customers that these relationships will bring. Affiliate Marketing is the greatest! I love the enthusiasm and while I don't disagree with any of it, I do like to caution new accounts to make sure they have all their metaphorical ducks in a row before opening the flood gates to every Affiliate. This is your brand after all, and you've worked hard to establish a great name for your business. Just like you carefully and meticulously grew your online business, you will want to do the same due diligence with your affiliate program. The due diligence I am referring to is taking the time to lay out a few program guidelines for your Affiliates. Think about what kinds of marketing and advertising you want to allow your Affiliates to do. These guidelines or rules will be laid out in your program agreement which is your legally binding contract with Affiliates. Without an agreement, your program technically and legally speaking has no restrictions. If you launch a program without specific terms or restrictions in place, it is likely that one of the first types of sales you see coming through the program will be generated from PPC Affiliates who have taken out paid search ads on your brand name. Why? Well, often times this is a type of a sale that converts really well for Affiliates because shopper may already be looking for your brand name on search engines. Also, if your brand is smaller or lesser know, chances are the ads are inexpensive. When Affiliates take out paid search ads on a Merchant's URL or brand name, this is commonly referred to as trademark bidding.


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How do you know if Affiliates are generating sales through trademark bidding? 1. Check the Page Banner was Clicked From Info. In your transaction detail report, take a look at the URL listed with the "Page Banner was Clicked From". If we're able to capture the data, the website address listed here will be where the consumer was prior to clicking over to your site. Let's assume my website is www.ILoveHighFives.com. If an Affiliate has paid ads for my site, I would see something like: http://www.bing.com/search?q=I+Love+Highfives in the Page Banner was Clicked From field. 2. Extremely high conversion rates. Keep an eye on the Affiliate Timespan report for any uncharacteristically high conversion rate percentages. If you notice an Affiliate with a percentage rate above 40% for example, maybe an indication of trademark bidding or trademark plus bidding (your domain name plus a phrase like coupon or deal). 3. Perform a Search. When you search your domain name in the search engines, are there any ads that appear in the sponsored spots that don't belong to you? Is trademark bidding something you want to allow every Affiliate in your program to do? That's something for each Merchant to decide and consider when planning what is best for their program. There are certain cases or circumstances were it makes sense for Merchants to harness the power of their Affiliates to leverage paid search efforts, but there are also many cases where trademark bidding is abused and an unnecessary expense for the Merchant. Pros: Affiliates become paid search team. If you are not currently working with an in-house paid search team some Merchants welcome their Affiliate partners to take on the cost of paid search where the ad owner, or Affiliate in this case, is taking on the cost per click of the ad. Whereas the Merchant is only paying the Affiliate when someone makes a purchase after clicking on the Affiliate link. Dominate ad space. This is especially true if the Merchant has competing retailers bidding on the brand as well. The theory of thought here is that a Merchant would rather have their own Affiliates in the sponsored ad space directing traffic to their site, rather than having competitor bidding on their brand name and driving traffic to a competing site. Cons: Drives up the cost of the term. If the Merchant is already paying for search ads on their brand name, allowing Affiliates to do the same can drive the cost of the ad up. The Merchant then is essentially competing with themselves for a trademarked term. Brand confusion. If a merchant is not closely monitoring the ads, you may run into cases where the Affiliate's ad message is not in alignment with what Merchant wants. For example, does the ad reference a sale that doesn't actually exist, or are there multiple ads claiming to be the "Official" site. Should you decide to allow Affiliates to bid on your brand name, here a few tips to consider:


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Select just a few trusted Affiliates the exclusive right to conduct in PPC bidding. This will help you monitor the relationship and maintain some level of control over ad strategy. Work together with the Affiliate on ad copy to ensure that the display ad is in line with your message and consistent with branding. You may even consider providing Affiliates with sample ad copy for their use. Maintain your URL. Have your Affiliate use their own site for the display URL in the ad. This way if you do your own paid search ads, you can maintain a top position. Speaking of top positions, consider placing bid limits on terms you also purchase. This way your Affiliates are not outbidding you or driving the cost of the ad up. Drive the ad to a special landing page rather than direct linking. You can use the new ShareASale Storefront feature to make this really easy for your Affiliate if they don't have a site created already for your specific product or service. With the Storefront feature, you can easily build a nice looking landing page for your Affiliates. All they need is to host the URL and you're good to go. Which ever decision you decide is best for your program in regards to trademark bidding, be sure to always outline your program's policy in your agreement. Go to the “My Account” menu item and click on the “Edit Settings” icon (https://shareasale.com/m-account.cfm). The link to your program agreement is located just below the Program Bio and above the Search Keywords. Please keep in mind that when you make edits to your agreement, there is a 7 day minimum before the new terms will become effective. This gives your affiliates time to agree to the new terms that will be put into place. Also, an automatic email will be sent to all current affiliates in the program whenever there are changes made to the program agreement.


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Lessons Learned: Affiliate Partnership A mistake we see commonly repeated is simply joining too many programs. It is just natural, when presented with so many options (ShareASale hosts nearly 4,000 programs) to "bite off more than you can chew" and end up joining 100s of programs. While this isn't the end of the world, we recommend a different approach if you are getting started in Affiliate Marketing or with ShareASale. Join five to ten successful Merchants within the network

Why should I select 5-10 Merchants instead of 100 Merchants? 1. 2. 3. 4.

Quality over quantity is key - and gives you a base from which to grow. You can build a close relationship with those select Merchants. You can take the time to create quality ads/posts/sites for those Merchants. You can stay up-to-date with the Merchant's new offers and products

There are several things to look for when choosing your Merchant partners but remember that every blogger will be looking for something different. I recommend paying attention to these details when choosing Merchants: 1. Most importantly - find Merchants that match your audience. 2. Check out their Reversal Rate to see how many sales are typically voided due to returns, etc... 3. Avg. Commission and Avg. Sale in the past 30 days - specifically, how do they relate to your audience! 4. 7 day and 30 day EPC (Earnings averaged on the network per every 100 clicks) 5. Auto-Deposit activated - This is important. 6. Recently updated creatives

You can view all of this information when you Search for Merchants inside your ShareASale Affiliate account.


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If you have questions regarding what type of Merchants would work best with your blog or website, please do not hesitate to contact us!


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#Lessons Learned: A Guest Post from the Harvard Homemaker

Editors note: The following is a guest post from the HarvardHomemaker, one of the many bloggers and affiliates on the ShareASale Network. For more information, and to read more from the HarvardHomemaker - make sure to visit her website at http://www.harvardhomemaker.com/ Enjoy! When I first started blogging last October, I literally knew nothing about affiliate marketing. I didn't understand what it was, and I certainly didn't expect my brand new blog to be of any value to merchants. I remember almost falling off my chair when I was accepted into my first program. And that was nothing compared to my reaction when I saw my first sale come through! It was a party around here, that's for sure! It's been a steep learning curve, but 10 months later, I now have a decent handle on it all. Read below for five lessons I've learned during my first year in affiliate marketing:

#1. Content First; Affiliate Links Second While it can be so exciting to start monetizing your blog immediately, make sure that you aren't writing for the sole purpose of selling to your readers. That will be completely transparent, and you will probably lose your readers along the way. Be true to yourself and your interests, and let the affiliate marketing come second. While there are times when I might center a post around some affiliate links, most often, I write first and work the affiliate links in second. I have learned to search not only for merchants that seem to fit well with my site, but I often search under "products" as well. When writing a post, if I mention a product I use, a good majority of the time I can find that product (or something similar) within the ShareASale database. I can then apply to that merchant's program, and if accepted, I simply plug in that


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affiliate link. While there are times when I might center a post around some affiliate links, most often, I write first and work the affiliate links in second. I feel like that method has helped me to build my blog simply because my content is authentic, and so when I do link to something, my readers will know that I must feel that there is true value in whatever I'm sharing.

#2. Make It Personal I have found that when I can say, "I have this exact product, and I love it!", my conversion rate is much higher. I always try to place banners and links carefully so they fit with my content, but being able to point your readers to a specific item that you have yourself, and can recommend personally, goes a long way. I have gotten to the point where I actually use ShareASale to do my own shopping! If I am in need of something, I will search for what I'm looking for within ShareASale or at sites that I know are in their network. If I find it, I'm always hopeful that I will be happy with the product so then I know I can use an affiliate link to recommend it someday, and I could even use a picture of my own item. (Images go a long way--use pictures whenever possible on your site!)

#3. Be Persistent When you apply to a program, you may not be accepted the first time--or the second time, or the third time either! I have applied many, many times to various programs until I was finally accepted. Occasionally, I have had to reach out via email to the merchant to explain why I think my blog would be a good fit for them. Making contact like that can really make a difference. Making contact like that can really make a difference.


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With that said, keep in mind that some merchants don't work with affiliates who live in various states due to nexus tax laws passed there. (NY, IL, AR, CT, NC, PA and RI). Unfortunately, I happen to live in one of those states, so occasionally merchants turn me down solely because of my address.

#4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Things Over time, if you feel like you are being undervalued by a merchant, don't be afraid to reach out. Perhaps your conversion rate is really high, but you are only making a 5% commission. (If you joined a program at a 5% commission rate, that doesn't mean the merchant can't change that rate solely for you. If you are a valuable affiliate, the merchant would like to keep you happy, just as you'd like to do for them.) Maybe you earn twice the commission from a competitor, and you ask a merchant to consider matching that. You could also ask for products to review, or inquire about special coupon codes for use on your site. The least they can do is say, "No." And if your request is declined, maybe you just start directing your attention toward other merchants who are willing to give you a bit more. Just remember that there really are no "rules" here. It doesn't hurt to ask, especially as your site grows and you see more and more conversion. The back-and-forth via email or even over the phone helps you to establish a relationship with your merchants, too. Maybe that connection will lead to them thinking about you the next time they want to send out a new product for review, or they might contact you to write a sponsored post.

#5. Don't Undervalue Yourself Never forget that you are in the driver's seat as an affiliate. As excited as I was to be accepted into my first program (someone actually wanted to work with me!!), I now realize that merchants need people like me. They are seeking out people who can not only point potential customers their way, but do so with a recommendation. I was approached by a merchant a few months ago because I was sending a lot of traffic to their site, and they were wondering if I'd consider doing a sponsored post. Of course I was thrilled, and a part of me


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wanted to accept whatever terms they threw my way. But I had to remind myself that those clicks were all potential sales for this merchant. I had suddenly become quite valuable to them, and I had to make sure I didn't sell myself short. After many emails and a phone conversation, we came to an agreement that worked for both of us, and that included a special coupon code I requested to protect me from having readers leave my site to go find a coupon code--and then I'd lose the commission. The merchant was more than happy to work with me on that. That experience was a good one for me. I felt like they treated me well and vice versa, and I now find myself linking back to that merchant whenever I can simply because I like them. Affiliate marketing is business, yes; but you can still make friends along the way.


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#LessonsLearned: A Guest Post from Tricia Meyer Editors note: The following is a guest post from Tricia Meyer, longtime Affiliate and friend of ShareASale, she shares extremely valuable lessons from years of experience in the industry! Check out more from Tricia at http://www.tricia.me/ As marketers we are always looking to build long-term value while also leveraging on-the-spot opportunities. Sometimes our goals of being fast and first in the market end up impacting our long-term success. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that taking shortcuts in your work almost always results in having to redo the work or missing possible opportunities.

Not Branding Your Graphics I’m not great at making graphics, but I sure do give it my best effort. Sometimes I spend hours in Photoshop trying to make something that I think has a chance at going viral. And yet often I forget one of the most important things—including my URL on it. How exciting is it when you upload a great image to your Facebook page or pin it on Pinterest and you see it getting a lot of shares? And then how disappointing is it to realize that no one has any idea where it came from?

Adding a little bit of branding to your images, graphics, and memes takes only a minute and the exposure can be great. It’s actually less about having someone steal your work and more about generating interest in your brand. The newest version of Chrome is going to allow you to right click on images and see where else they appear online (you can also do it now with a Chrome extension or tineye.com). Imagine doing that for one of your images and being able to reach out to everyone who has your branded graphics on their sites to see if they would add a backlink to you. There is no disputing your ownership of an image when it has your name on it.


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Using Direct Links Instead of Redirects I am a terrible offender of this even though I keep getting burned over and over. You pull an affiliate link and put it directly on your site in less than a minute. But what happens a year from now when that merchant is gone or has changed their products or landing pages? You may end up having a lot of great old content that is no longer being monetized. This is especially the case when you use the same merchant links or landing page links over and over. Just recently I noticed that CafePress had a whole section of Percy Jackson merchandise. That seems totally random, right? It was actually pretty important to me because years ago I made a link to the search results on CafePress for their Percy Jackson merchandise. I’ve used that link over and over in posts on my site for years. Now there’s a landing page that I think will convert better and I have to go through and change the link in every single blog post. If I had used a redirect plugin like Pretty Links, I would only be changing the link one time (with a redirected link, of course!).

Failing to Collect Data ShareASale gives us the perfect opportunity to better track our data and most of us fail to use it on a daily basis. How often do you bother to append a consistent value to the “afftrack=” parameter in your affiliate links? It’s so easy to just grab a link and drop it into a post. But six months from now when you are trying to figure out which post types made you the most money or which newsletters yielded the most sales, you will be missing out on key data that you could have used. Taking the time to set up proper data collection mechanisms on every link, page, and website can be the difference between being profitable and wasting your time. Not collecting data can result in missed opportunities. If someone were to offer to buy one of your sites, would you be able to substantiate your price with solid financial data? When deciding whether a site is profitable and you should keep working on it, are you just guessing at how much it makes or do you know exactly? Do you install analytics on a site as soon as you launch it or is it an afterthought after the site has gotten going? Taking the time to set up proper data collection mechanisms on every link, page, and website can be the difference between being profitable and wasting your time.

SEO Shortcuts Back in “the day,” many of us started our SEO campaigns by building some backlink spokes, spinning up a lot of articles to drop anywhere we could, and submitting to directories. Those may have been effective for awhile, but now they are just a way to gain negative attention from Google. We’ve been learning over time that not only do SEO shortcuts not help, but they might even hurt. In fact, Wil Reynolds did an entire Affiliate Summit keynote in 2011 titled “No


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More F’ing Shortcuts.” And yet some of us still don’t learn and are trying the same old tricks. Google catches up with SEO shortcuts and always will.

Wil Reynolds - No more ****ing Shortcuts Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive, delivered a keynote address (No more ****ing Shortcuts) at Affiliate Summit East 2011 on Monday, August 22, 2011. via: www.affiliatesummit.com If you don’t believe it, just ask the affiliate marketers who lost their businesses after Penguin. If your business is dependent upon Google for traffic, you can’t afford to take SEO shortcuts and risk your entire business model collapsing. I was lucky that the sites of mine that were hit were mainly low revenue producers anyway. If it had hit my bigger sites, I would probably be looking for a job today.

Social Media Shortcuts Along with the SEO shortcuts, you will likely find that taking shortcuts through your social media accounts can hurt. The first is not sufficiently researching your possible names on different sites. You may have a great domain name but someone else has the Twitter and Facebook accounts that correspond to it. Do your homework across the board for what names you want to use for your sites. I love that I secured the “hungergamesfan” domain but hate that my Twitter account has to be “hungergamefan.” Slight difference but enough to cause problems. In addition, buying followers is a shortcut that throws up a big red flag on your accounts. Twitter and Facebook look for engagement. What kind of engagement are you going to get from thousands of random fake followers? You can actually do your account more harm than good when you inflate your follower counts and then they do not engage with you. I have a page where I didn’t buy followers but I did incent them to like the page as part of a contest. As a result of a lack of engagement, only about 5% of my fans of that site even see my updates. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

Beverly Sills once said “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Without a doubt that applies to us in affiliate marketing. If you want to build a strong, profitable business, take the advice of someone who has learned the lessons of shortcuts the hard way.


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#Lessons Learned: A Guest Post from Legend Award Winner Tim Storm Editors note: The below is a guest post from Tim Storm, Founder and former CEO of FatWallet.com. Enjoy! I didn't have any real grand vision for success when I started FatWallet - I simply started a site that I would want to use myself. The next 12 years would take me on a journey of non-traditional education that I wouldn't trade for any number of university degrees. The lesson that I didn't expect, but something that sat at the core of how I would do business was an emphasis on People. I'm not talking about the generic "Customer Service is our #1 Priority!" lip service branding on the wall. I'm talking about the "there are really great people in this world, hire them, give them the tools to do their job and let them do it". FatWallet started when there were already a number of coupon sites to be found on the internet (and hundreds more yet to be started). One of the great differentiators early on was that I hired employees to help build and operate the site, where many of my competitors clung fiercely to going it alone. Along the way, the combined efforts of really great people built a great business. The business was one that became far greater than what I had envisioned when I started FatWallet, and what would ultimately put me in a position to be able to sell the company and walk away in to the next chapter of my life. Through my journey at FatWallet, we piled up a number of industry awards - and they were great recognitions of the combined efforts of the team we had assembled. We displayed them with pride. For a long time, I didn't have the "Affiliate Marketing Legend" award out on display, simply because it said "Tim Storm" rather than "FatWallet" - I was proud of it, yet I knew that I shouldn't take credit as "ME", for what "WE" had accomplished. One day, an employee asked why it wasn't on display, and basically let me know that while it did have my name on it, they knew it was a recognition for all that we had accomplished. I put the award out on display that very day. Of all the awards and recognitions, the one that meant the most to me, and I never would have foreseen when first starting the company was when we were recognized nationally as one of the best small businesses to work for in the country. #20 in 2010, and #13 in 2011. One day, an employee asked why it wasn't on display, and basically let me know that while it did have my name on it, they knew it was a recognition for all that we had accomplished. I put the award out on display that very day.


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FatWallet | Best Small Businesses to Work for 2011 | Entrepreneur.com This online coupon site pays homage to its Midwest roots by taking the cow as its mascot. "Corey," the revered life-size purple cow statue who is stationed in the company's main lobby, is FatWallet's core values representative. via: www.entrepreneur.com For many people, success is measured in finances. I can assure you that having reached financial "success", it does indeed feel way better than the lack thereof - BUT... The lesson that I want to share with you is this... Hire Great people, Give them the tools to let them be at their best. Don't tolerate less than great. The financial rewards that you seek should be an indicator that you've done all the rest right, but don't let it be the reason for being. One day, you may realize that the greatest reward of the whole journey is looking around you, seeing great people doing great things. Hire Great people, Give them the tools to let them be at their best. Don't tolerate less than great.


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#LessonsLearned: A Guest Post from Shawn and Missy Editors note: This is a guest post from Shawn Collins and Missy Ward, co-founders of the Affiliate Summit event which twice-annually brings together 5,000+ in the industry. They are also probably the only two people in the industry who enjoy Madonna-like "First name only" status... to learn more about Affiliate Summit visit http://www.AffiliateSummit.com - Enjoy!

The Affiliate Summit conference turned 10 years old this year, and there have been many lessons learned over the years, as the events have evolved. The beginnings of Affiliate Summit trace back to the Affiliate Force cruises that ran through 2003. Both of us were helping out with them, and when we tried to share suggestions on improving it, we were rebuffed.

Open your ears and close your mouth We thought we had some great ideas, but they were not well received. So, we took our ball and went home. Or rather, we started our own company, and built it on those ideas. We also made it a practice from the beginning to constantly solicit advice and whenever possible, we have taken action on suggestions we’ve received. We also made it a practice from the beginning to constantly solicit advice and whenever possible

The current way isn’t always the right way After the first year, Affiliate Force took place on cruise ships out of Miami. Affiliate marketing


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conferences took place on cruise ships in the minds of many. We fell into the same trap early and tried it on a ship, and we quickly realized that it didn’t work for many reasons, not the least of which were the inability to scale, expense and low speed of Internet, and that many companies saw cruises as boondoggles and wouldn’t send their employees on one.

Slow and steady wins the race The first Affiliate Force took place on land in the Miami Beach Convention Center. It was a huge space with a small crowd. They tried to be too big out of the gate, and it looked bad when they fell way short. We decided to start modestly and scale as the market demanded, and it has worked for a decade.

Affiliate Summit West 2014 - Affiliate Summit We’re heading back to Las Vegas for Affiliate Summit West 2014 on January 12-14, 2014. This will be the 25th Affiliate Summit.... via: www.affiliatesummit.com

Tap into the wisdom of the crowds Sometimes the crowds are not right, but they are a great resource to avoid tunnel vision. That was something we saw with Affiliate Force, as they had many of the same speakers over the years. Early on, we picked each of our speakers, but we were concerned that we were being biased towards the people and topics we preferred. So, we formed an advisory board to vote on the speaker proposals, and also opened the voting to the public. We’ve seen a wider variety of content and have “discovered” many speakers we probably would not have considered.


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Under promise and over deliver The last Affiliate Force took place in 2003. There was another one scheduled for 2004, but it never happened, and many companies were left hanging with travel plans and paid sponsorships and registrations that were not returned to them. While this was unfortunate, it reinforced to us that we should never overextend what we can do, but rather to make realistic promises, and then strive to exceed them. We should never overextend what we can do, but rather to make realistic promises, and then strive to exceed them.

Work for the community, not your bottom line Affiliate Force was nothing more than a conference and tradeshow -- an annual event in which the attendees shelled out dollars for a few days of networking. Our goal was much loftier in that not only did we want to eventually run a profitable business, but we also wanted to foster the growth of the industry that we chose to make our living in. By building a vibrant affiliate marketing community that interacts with each other throughout the year to facilitate the achievement their goals; providing an avenue in which they could share and receive free affiliate marketing knowledge; offering leadership opportunities to support the community; and creating a culture that gives back by championing important causes, it reinforced to us that no business can thrive when the relationship is one-sided. Those were some of the lessons we learned from a business that we tried to help, but one that ended up failing.


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#LessonsLearned: A Guest Post from Legend Award Winner Todd Farmer Editors note: The following is a guest post from Todd Farmer, one of the legends in the Affiliate Marketing Industry Todd shares with us his lessons learned founding, running, and selling businesses. Enjoy! Lessons Learned from Starting and Selling an Affiliate Marketing Technology and Services Company Back in 1996, I started my first Internet Marketing Technology and Services company, "Kowabunga! Technologies".

We started our business by producing some very popular email marketing software -- one of the first of its kind. We were cutting edge. We were young. We had a lot of fun. (And we made a lot of money.) In 1998, as part of a growth and diversification plan, we developed and launched one of the first Affiliate Tracking and Management solutions for "in house" affiliate programs, called 'My Affiliate Program'. By 2000, we had completely repositioned the company from Email Marketing Technology to Affiliate Marketing Technology and had further expanded into Affiliate Management Services for our clients. Kowabunga was a total bootstrap start up that began with zero outside investment, a geeky passion for building killer technology and a massive hunger to grow a successful business. Kowabunga was a total bootstrap start up that began with zero outside investment, a geeky passion for building killer technology and a massive hunger to grow a successful business. By many accounts, we did just that. However, I sold my Kowabunga! in 2005 to a small, publicly traded company, with the intent to "grow through integration". So, instead of growing by acquiring other companies, I found an opportunity to integrate with other companies, and grow together. At the time I sold, a number of companies had approached me to merge with them, or otherwise acquire my company. None of them felt right, until I got a call from a small company that sounded perfect. The idea was my company would be one of a dozen or so other nimble, smart, aggressive companies in my space. We'd all have complimentary products, services and skills. By combining forces, we'd all be stronger and could grow faster and better than we could ever do alone, or by simply "partnering". I was contractually obligated to stay on for 3 years. At the end of that term, in 2008, I left to start a new life, a new business - and finally get a chance to spend more time with my young kids. Those 3 years taught me a lot about business, politics, people and companies. I learned a lot about myself and what I had, before I sold Kowabunga.


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These are a few of my #lessons learned.

Lifestyle Business or a Jar of Pickles? Almost 20 years ago, I met an owner of a night club in Padre Island, Texas. One night over many, many drinks, he told me his philosophy on buying and selling businesses, like the night club we were sitting in. He said, "Todd, this nightclub is like a jar of pickles. "Before me," he said, "someone bought the raw materials and combined them to make pickles. Then, someone bought those pickles and put them into a jar. "I bought this jar of pickles and intend to sell it after I've added some more ingredients and made the label more attractive. "It's a jar of pickles". It made a lot of sense at the time. (‌Maybe that's what he said. As I mentioned, it was almost 20 years ago and over a lot of free drinks.) So, I got to thinking about businesses as more than just "the product it sells" or "the services it provides". It was this discussion that really made me recognize that a business is a product, too. (It's a product that can be sold.) On the flip side‌ If you're not looking to sell your business, but rather want your business to fit within your life, support your lifestyle or ultimately become embedded and integrated into your life, what kind of business is that? In my opinion, I consider that a "lifestyle" business. So. What was I building with Kowabunga? Was it a lifestyle business or a jar of pickles to sell? Well, I often found my identity directly connected to my business. I wasn't just Todd Farmer. I was Todd, the Kowabunga guy. I enjoyed many freedoms that this business provided me. I also enjoyed the obligations and responsibilities that business required of me. I loved that business. In hindsight, it is clear that Kowabunga was more of a lifestyle business than a business created and built to sell. My business was no jar of pickles.


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Culture Matters. I hired great, smart, talented people. We had an amazing culture. We thoroughly enjoyed working together, and on occasion, playing together. In addition to the business battles we fought together, challenges we faced head on and the successes we shared -- we really did have a lot of fun. We'd have goofy nerf gun battles, weekend in-office movie nights, margarita Fridays, holiday parties and tons of little pranks that we'll never forget. Bowling leagues, backyard barbecues and random nights out were part of the norm. I hired great, smart, talented people. We had an amazing culture.

Over the years of starting, building and running Kowabunga, I left with some great memories and lifelong friends. Looking back, there will be many specific moments forgotten or lost. There will be many memories that will fade away and blend in with others. But the general feeling of the wonderful culture of those days will live on forever. When you're building your business, take time to pay attention to the people. Hire the best. Enjoy your time together. Make the most of it.

Balance Emotions with Being a Machine. I like to think that I was a hard-nosed executive who built a business based on metrics and making tough decisions without remorse. However, in hindsight, with more experience and insight into how others operate: I was definitely not an emotionless machine. To use a scale


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of 1 to 10 with Emotion on the Left (as a 1) and Emotionless Machine on the right (as a 10), I like to think that I was a 5, right in the middle. A perfect balance. ‌But if I'm going to be honest with myself, looking back, I was clearly more of a 3. (Some may argue I was closer to a 2.) There is a time and place for emotions and for charity. Likewise, there is a place and a time for hard-line, machine-like decision making. But if you're trying to build a business, you need to balance the two. It's up to you to decide the best blend of the two for you, your business and your goals.

Mark Milestones. Enjoy the Journey. In my personal life, I find myself documenting as much as possible. My kids sarcastically joke with me about my proclivity to photograph or video record their every move. I love looking back on my excessive collection of videos and photos. And, I love recording them. Why? Because I want to remember those moments. When it came to my business, however, I never stopped to "take pictures and video". I found myself always looking forward. Always looking ahead, for the next thing. Instead of recognizing the journey I was on, I was always looking for the next destination. I simply found myself neglecting the accomplishments of the day (both large and small). After a few years, I looked back and realized that a lot of goals had been achieved. Many amazing moments had gone unnoticed, unrecognized. Take pictures. Take breaks. Don't take time for granted. Like everything in life, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.


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Sell for the right reasons. If you've decided that your business is not a lifestyle business, and you're operating in a way to grow and maximize profits over several years, then you're in a strong position to sell. When I sold Kowabunga, I sold for the wrong reasons. I thought I was going to be "plugging in" to a team of like-minded individuals, each seeking the camaraderie, partnership and desire to help the group as me. These new "partners" would have had similar war stories, similar startup growth and kick-ass culture, and would work in non-competing, yet complimentary spaces. They would be my perfect corporate soul mates. That's why I selected the company I sold to. …and that's a mistake. When you sell your company, understand that the company you sell will be gone. It will no longer be yours. Regardless of the promises, stories, plans or hopes. They all mean nothing. If the growth plan you expected when selling doesn't execute as intended -- the company is still sold. Once the papers are signed, the company is no longer yours. Period. So, sell for the right reasons.

If you accept any stock, be prepared to lose it all.

If you accept any stock, be prepared to lose it all. If a company offers you stock as part of the purchase package, there are a few things to take into consideration. Sure, stock can go up in value and the concept of "getting in while it's undervalued" and riding it up can be true. Sometimes. Your stock can go up from $5.50 when you're purchased to well over $20 in a span of a couple of years if all plans are executed properly and all goes as planned. …or, your stock can drop from $5.50 to $4.00 within 3 months of your acquisition. It can further drop to $1.25 within a year. It can ultimately drop to below 5 cents within 3 years. Yes, stock can lose its value. (Trust me. I know.) So when you're selling your company and considering stock as part of the package, remember this: Stock is less risky if the company offering the stock has a long history of stable value and the stock is traded at high volumes, on a large exchange. The more risky a company's stock, the less emphasis and value you should place on it. In my case, I should have considered it icing on the cake -- not a key ingredient within the cake. Regardless of these considerations, stock is not cash. Recognize the risks. Don't minimize them. So many lessons learned so little time.


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Those are a few highlights of the lessons I've learned from starting and selling my company. If you're ever looking for some consulting on how NOT to sell a business, I'm your man. (Or if you want to learn affiliate marketing or want wine, I can point you in the right direction.)


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Lessons Learned: Tips for Trademark Policy In the article "New Programs & Trademark Bidding", we discussed the pros and cons of allowing Affiliates to bid on trademark terms and offered some tips to consider should a program allow Affiliates to bid on their brand name. Today I'd like to expand a bit on this conversation and discuss the importance of the Merchant's program agreement as it relates to trademark bidding. The program agreement is a legal contract set up by the Merchants for their Affiliates. If a Merchant would like to create guidlines or restrictions for Affiliates in regards to the use of their trademark term(s) in paid search, these will need to be clearly listed and explained in the program agreement. As the Affiliate Network, we are not in the position to offer any legal advice to our Merchants which is why we do not provide specific advice on language or agreement templates. Each document should be reviewed by the Merchant’s own legal team. However, I am able to give you a few tips that could be taken into consideration and used as a starting point for Merchants who would like implement some restrictions for PPC Affiliates.

Penalty. Merchants may want to explicitly state what action will be taken against Affiliates who violate their terms. Example: Immediate termination, reversed sales, reset commission to zero, etc. One point to think about here – if a Merchant removes an Affiliate from the program but the Affiliate continues to run the ad on the search engines, the ad will appear when a consumer searches for the Merchant's brand but the link to the site will not work. Affiliate links will break once an Affiliate is removed from a program. This is the reason some Merchants choose to reverse sales or zero out commission until an Affiliate removes the ad. So that the consumer will have a flawless experience but the Merchant is not paying for traffic that generated by the Affiliate in violation. Are terms off limits or restricted? Merchants have the option to either forbid the use of their trademark or they can set limits on the bidding. In some cases, a Merchant may decide to simply restrict the terms so that Affiliates are taking up the retail space in the search engine while at the same time the Merchant is not competing for the use of their own trademark. A Merchant is able to set bid limits from the PPC Bidding Rules. List of trademark terms. Merchants will want to explicitly lay out exactly what terms are either off limits or restricted. I have listed a few examples below. Any phrases or keywords that you list in your agreement be sure to also include in the PPC Bidding Rules. For example, let's suppose the Merchant's site is ILoveHighfives.com. Some examples of terms they might consider restricting would include: ILoveHighfives.com www.ILoveHighfives.com


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ILoveHighfives ILoveHighfives.com Coupon(s) Any Common Misspellings/ Variations Once the terms are laid out in the program agreement, Merchants will want to keep on eye on their Affiliate's activity. Below are a few tools that can help Merchants police and monitor compliance from PPC Affiliates.

Monitor Ads I like using an add-on for Mozilla called Live HTTP Headers. This tool allows the user to see all the redirect information when a link is clicked. So if a Merchants sees an ad on a browser, they can open the add-on, then click through the link to see if there is an Affiliate link behind the ad. via: addons.mozilla.org

Third Party Assistance BrandVerity offers trademark protection and monitoring services for search ads. PoachMark provides a best in industry solution for monitoring the search activity of your Affiliates.Subscriptions come with access to the PoachMark Pool and the Affiliate Watchlist. The Affiliate Watchlist, a list of the most abusive Affiliates found violating the policies of PoachMark Pool participants. Contact me to find out about exclusive pricing available to ShareASale Merchants! via: www.brandverity.com

Submit a PPC Violation If a Merchant finds an Affiliate who is in violation of their terms, we encourage them to file a violation report to ShareASale. The violation may result in a strike against the Affiliate imposed by the Network. Any Affiliate who receives 3 strikes is removed from the Network. via: blog.shareasale.com

Contact the Search Engine - AdWords Trademark Policy If a trademark owner files a complaint with Google about the use of their trademark in AdWords ads, Google will investigate and may enforce certain restrictions on the use of that trademark in AdWords ads. More help for trademark owners via: support.google.com


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Contact Bing Intellectual Property Guidelines - As an advertiser, you are responsible for ensuring that your use of keywords and ad content, including trademarks and logos, does not infringe or violate the intellectual property rights of others. via: advertise.bingads.microsoft.com


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Lessons Learned: Don't recreate the wheel, bend it. Writing unique content, creating exciting bonus campaigns, producing marketing material... all can be time consuming. Everyone wants to create the next great thing, but you don't have to. Take interesting ideas that already exist, ones that capture your attention, and bend them to suit your needs. #LessonsLearned Take interesting ideas that already exist, ones that capture your attention, and bend them to suit your needs.

1. Catalogs & Magazines Are you looking for a more visual way to show off your products or services? Use the idea of a catalog or magazine. There is a reason every office, living room and bathroom is equipped with a magazine racks - people love to flip through them! Affiliates/Bloggers can utilize catalogs as a different, unique way to put out content (eh hem - gift guides!). Merchants could create catalogs or magazines specifically targeted towards bloggers. Merchants could add new banners, products, deals, etc -- like a more robust newsletter.

2. Postcards Yes, postcards are great for vacations and quick direct mail. But how could you bend the postcard idea into something you can utilize? Could you create a number of different postcards dedicated to each product or service you sell and group them together on a key chain? You could then provide a custom marketing piece on the fly for clients. Or - take the idea below and create a custom marketing piece using postcards and a small binder.


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3. Layouts & Window Displays Have you walked passed a window display or flipped through a magazine that made you stop and stare? Take a picture, and bend it to your needs. You could use pieces of that layout or display for banner ads, website layouts, landing pages, marketing materials, etc...the ideas are endless! I stumbled across the window display below...this could certainly be bent to inspire a full page spread in a spring catalog!

4. In-Store Deals & Promotions


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What will get you in a store? Is it a huge one-day blowout sale or smaller discounts every Wednesday? Use these ideas to inspire Affiliate Bonus Campaigns, Affiliate Deals/Coupons or On-Site Promotions. For example, if you love Banana Republic's 40% One Item Sale Every Wednesday in June...create a similar Affiliate Bonus Campaign.


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Lessons Learned - How to Prepare for Affiliate Summit East I have learned many important lessons since my very first Affiliate Summit - Affiliate Summit East 2009. And as it is right around the corner, literally, I wanted to share a few on this very fun Friday! 1. Shutdown and Restart Laptops 2+ Times Beforehand! Without fail, at every conference, at least one of our laptops insists on installing upwards of 33 windows updates. It is slightly embarrassing to have an exhibit hall open and your laptops are still installing updates...

2. Come Prepared with a Go-To Karaoke Song Karaoke was one of my favourite events at Affiliate Summit. Even though it is not in the schedule this year, we still seem to find our way to a bar with karaoke. Take a page from Eric & Trisha - they have "Summer Lovin'" down pat.


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3. Your Booth Breaks - Be Prepared. We have yet to setup a booth without some sort of minor disaster. Last year our jeans left a blue tint on the white booth (tip: vinegar will clean it!), two years ago we kept tripping on cords and one year the panels on our booth wouldn't stay magnetized! Come prepared. Our survival kit includes the following...

4. Bring a Costume. For my first Affiliate Summit with ShareASale, I didn't take the whole 'costume theme' very


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seriously. Well, let me tell you, a costume makes the party that much more fun. I ended up running to the store during lunch to find, what I think was, a pair of cowboy boots. This year the theme is "Rock 'n' Roll" - so come as your favourite rock star!

5. Use the Map! The Wynn, Caesar's Palace, The Hilton New York...all of these hotels are massive. I'm sure the conference center in Philadelphia will be similar. There are numerous times where I have found out, days later, that I had been taking the wrong elevator. One elevator would literally drop you off in front of the exhibit hall, and one would drop you off about a mile away (that might be an exaggeration).

Affiliate Summit East 2013 Agenda - Affiliate Summit Affiliate Summit East 2013 is taking place August 18-20, 2013 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. via: www.affiliatesummit.com


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Lessons from a Failed Startup Prior to joining ShareASale in 2010, I worked at a start-up called UWantSavings.com. It was an incredible learning experience, not to mention fun and challenging. Unfortunately, this little four person start-up only survived for about two years. So as it is the month of #LessonsLearned, I have put together the top five lessons I learned from a failed start-up.

1. Timing IS Important. There is a sweet spot with any start-up. You can be before your time, or way too late. Do your research. If the market is saturated, determine what will make you different. Or, if you are starting a in a new space, how can you reach the early adopters?

2. It's Not About You. Start-ups are hard. The budget is limited and the resources required are seemingly endless. Budgets should be put towards the happiness of your employees and the happiness of your customers. Start-ups need a dedicated team and loyal customers. So if you need go without a salary, or take a pay cut -- you do it.

3. Lose the Ego. You will make mistakes. Other people will have better ideas. Deal with it. Take feedback with open arms, ask for help and don't be afraid to admit you were wrong.

4. Get Your Hands Dirty. Not in a bad, corrupt way. I mean literally. You might have to step out of your comfort zone at


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some point to pack boxes in the warehouse, learn how to create a PPC campaign, restock shelves, order supplies, network with clients or mop the floors. Whatever it is, use it as a learning experience.

5. Low Cost or Customer Service. It's hard to be both. In the case of UWantSavings, we tried to wear both hats with a small team. We priced products to be the lowest on the internet, period. Yet, we also tried to handle returns, customer service calls and even shipping with the caliber of a Zappos. We couldn't handle both. Be sure to analyze your strategy carefully.

ShareASale Merchants for the Entrepreneur Virtual Phone System: Grasshopper | Manage Your Calls Online A virtual phone system can help your business stay organized with many calls coming in. Sound professional and stay connected. via: grasshopper.com

Webs - Make a free website, get free hosting Make a free Professional Looking Website Today! Use our easy website builder to put your business, group, or personal website online at no cos via: www.webs.com

Deluxe | Checks and Services for Small Businesses and Financial Institutions Our services are designed to work together to help you achieve your specific business goals. Let us help you get started today. via: ww.deluxe.com

Learn Web Design, Web Development, and More | Treehouse Don't forget you can start a discussion in the Forum. Treehouse teachers and members are actively discussing topics from course material and other general teaching topics. via: teamtreehouse.com


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Lessons Learned w/ Coupon and Deal sites

That is one of the most common questions Merchants ask themselves when it comes to having an Affiliate Program. What type of value will it provide our program? What type of coupon/deal/promotions should we allow? Are there any ‘quality’ coupon sites out there that will drive incremental revenue? How can I avoid sites advertising promotions I didn’t give them? All great questions, and one’s you SHOULD be asking when creating your Affiliate Program. Because there are so many ways for affiliates to participate in coupon advertising, you need to ask all of those questions to come to the best possible solution for your program. The actions you decide to take is totally up to you, but it’s good to know all of your options. First and foremost, a common inquiry from most new merchants who receive many applications upon launching is addressed in a previous post HERE, where Sarah outlines common reasons why coupon affiliates are the first to apply to your program.

The Coupon Application Tidal Wave | ShareASale Blog One of the most common questions I hear from new Merchants during their first few weeks of going live is, “Why are so many of my affiliate applications coming from coupon sites?” via: blog.shareasale.com

This leads me to my next point… All coupon sites are bad!


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A misconception that I hear regularly from Merchants. That’s like saying ‘All carbs are bad’! Not necessarily and some can provide great benefits! The keys are: Knowing which will provide positive results for your program Putting in the time to learn about the benefits they provide Monitoring Creating the right promotions Using them to reach out to a market you wouldn't have otherwise Contrary to popular belief, Coupon and Deal sites can drive new customers to your site. Due to coupon-driven consumer behavior, many consumers are loyal shoppers to their favorite coupon sites and will always be a place these people shop. In stating that, there is a way to keep these coupon sites in your program and reward them for sending you new customers that provide incremental value. We have the option in our Personalized Commission Rules (My Account >> Edit Settings >> Manage Advanced Commission Structures) to set this very rule up!

Another point to make are all of the different types of promotional options you have available to you. You can post: coupons (with or without codes) site wide sales product specific deals/sales


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If you decide to participate in these types of promotional methods, you can list those in the Coupons & Deals section within the interface (My Creatives >> Post Coupons & Deals). Here you can list the exact terms for that promotion you’re offering.

So what to do regarding coupon affiliate participation in your program? The action you decide to take is totally up to you! I would say though, the “best practice” for ALL Merchants who decide to work with coupon & promotional sites would be to establish a program agreement policy for what kind of coupon affiliate action you would like restricted. This is your legally


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binding agreement with affiliates. So any program restrictions that will be enforced will need to be added here. Without an agreement, your program technically and legally speaking has no restrictions.


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Lessons Learned Working w/ Search Affiliates

Lessons on working w/ SEM affiliates Search Engine Marketing (SEM) by affiliate is a marketing effort where affiliates purchase keywords and direct traffic to a merchant website through a search engine. SEM affiliates can be a strong value-add to a merchant’s program, even where a merchant has developed search engine presence, if properly managed. Below are a few lessons I’ve learned about SEM affiliates over the years: It’s important to develop a trademark and keyword policy before actively seeking out a relationship with an SEM policy. SEM affiliates can be a great way of mitigating your search marketing risk. SEM is a pay per click model, so it is possible to spend more in click costs than you take in from sales, generating a negative ROI. SEM affiliates take on this risk for you, as you only pay them when they convert. Work with a small, trusted set of SEM affiliates who are willing to share insight into their strategy. A large set of SEM affiliates will cannibalize each other, causing them to lose interest in promoting your program.


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Provide your SEM affiliates with a datafeed. Many SEM affiliates specialize in creating ad text and keywords for product level links. Your SEM affiliates are almost always working on a smaller budget than your in house SEM team, so your SEM affiliates will have a strong emphasis on high conversion keywords and products. Remember that your SEM affiliates are taking on all of the risk – they are fronting money to the search engines in hopes of obtaining a positive ROI. As such, increasing commission to these affiliates will help obviate their risk and allow them a bigger budget for their SEM efforts. Those are my lessons learned from working with SEM affiliates. As with any affiliate partnership, remember to reward positive results in your SEM affiliate partnership and communication the is key to a successful and long term partnership.


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Lessons Learned: Content Is King The Affiliate Marketing Industry is in a constant state of change. People would laugh in my face if I claimed to know all there is to know! One thing that hasn’t changed is power of content writers. I know its cliche to say, however, I have learned that...

Why? I am fairly new to the whole affiliate marketing industry. When I first joined ShareASale, I had no idea what affiliate marketing is. Even after it being explained to me for the first time, I only barely understood it all. There is a lot to learn when it comes to this industry. Everyday I learn something different that I had been in the dark about before. One thing that I did as part of my training was to create my own blog in an attempt to learn how a new affiliate would begin and how they would use ShareASale to monetize their blog. Let me tell you...the most difficult thing that I had to do was writing the content. With so many other affiliates out there, it is quite the challenge to figure out what niche to focus on. Then, the greater challenge is to actually write the content. I couldn't just copy what others have written. My content needed to be unique to me. It had to be something that was personal, something that I knew a lot about and something I could talk openly and honestly about. The more personal you are, the more trust you will gain from your audience. And the more unique your content is, the more you will grow your audience numbers. Content fosters trust. Content controls the level of trust. Content is also the building block for increased traffic. Readers go to a blog for two reasons – entertainment or education. They go to learn about what the reader has to say or to be amused and entertained. In both instances, the reader is growing a relationship with the author. A good content blogger is writing about something that is important and personal to them. Through their writing, they are showing themselves as human – their true colors show as the writer shares pieces of their life, either amusement or things learned. In the same manner, a good content blogger makes their content unique. What sets apart your blog from every other blogger? How are you entertaining or teaching your audience differently? Why should readers choose your blog over any other blog in your niche? A blog with unique, fresh content will draw in an audience regardless of other blogs, purely on the basis that you are providing something that no other blog is providing. Providing quality content will in return help an affiliate monetize his/her blog. Unique, personal content will help to broaden your audience and gain loyalty with that audience. Having more traffic to your blog and readers who truly listen to your blog will encourage more people to buy something, giving you a commission or they will share your site with friends, giving you an even larger audience. Content is the cornerstone to gaining trust among your audience and the catalyst to growing traffic and the foundation of monetizing your blog.


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Monetizing your website starts with the content!

Need Help with Your Affiliate Site?

ShareASale Education Series We are happy to announce, with the upcoming conclusion of our 1st class in the coming weeks, that we’ll be adding a second session to the ShareASale Education Series: How to Build an Affiliate Site. via: blog.shareasale.com

Best Ways to Value your Blog Bloggers are in high demand in the Affiliate Marketing space. As Retailers look to create high value, high impact relationships – they are looking more closely than ever at bloggers who are delivering high quality content every day. via: blog.shareasale.com

Building Blocks for Content Affiliates Brian Littleton shares 3 tools that he uses as building blocks for online content publishing. via: blog.shareasale.com

Understanding the Affiliate Interface After joining ShareASale, it can be quite overwhelming to sign into our interface for the first time. Here is a helpful list of things you should look at upon signing up for ShareASale. via: blog.shareasale.com


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Lessons on Learning ShareASale One of the common points of concern from ShareASale clients is that they are afraid that they are missing something or are not learning things quickly. As someone who has been around for 3 years, I continually learn new ways to utilize a report or tool. I can honestly tell you that you are right on track in your ShareASale Education. Two of the reports that were particularly vexing for me before I understood the intricacies of our reporting were the Affiliate Timespan and Activity Summary reports. These reports look similar on the surface but are in actuality report different information.

Affiliate Timespan Report

The Affiliate Timespan report provides the user an overall summary of the activity that has occurred for any affiliate over a given time period. I often use this report to get a quick snapshot of the overall performance of a merchant program in a given year. The reason I like this report is that it shows the Sales broken down by type (i.e. Sales, Two Tier, Bonuses, Leapfrogs,etc.) It is also a great way to see the overall commissions paid our less any voids, the conversion rate, and the EPC of the program. It is important to keep in mind when running this report for a given month, such as July, it may contain data from transactions that occurred in a different month. This is because the activity, such as editing or voiding a transaction occurred in the month of July. Therefore, this report will not always match the Transaction Detail or Activity Summary reports in terms of values like the Net Sales amount.

Activity Summary


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The Activity Summary report is my go to report for a quick summary of transactions in a given month. For example, if a merchant wants to know their Total Net Sales for the month of March, I would pull this report. This report is a summary of the Transaction Detail report and as such shows the user specifically only the transactions for a given month and their status. This allows it to be a great report to pull for a quick summary of the Transaction Detail report data. My takeaway from learning about these two reports was that it is tremendously important to think about the information you are seeking and then search for the ShareASale report that includes those details. It has definitely saved me a great deal of time. Curiosity is one of the forms of bravery.

As a tip, there is no real "Right" or "Wrong" way to go about learning the intricacies of ShareASale. However, there are some best practices that should be followed: Attend a Webinar Tinker around in the interface (check out our reports and tools) Explore the Help Center Give us a call or shoot us an email if you need help to shareasale [at] shareasale.com


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5 Habits of Successful Agencies I am often asked what separates one agency from another. This distinction is not based solely on the names of their merchant programs, but instead directly reflects 5 key strategies employed by each.

Develop strong and lasting affiliate relationships 1. Agencies do this by employing various commission incentives (Bonuses, Commission Rules, Giveaways) 2. They also are masters at gathering data on affiliates and storing it to better incentivize affiliates 3. They attend industry shows to meet personally with affiliates and ensure the affiliate can put a face to the name

Masters of Reporting 1. Top Agencies are masters of ShareASale reporting, utilizing reports such as the Year in Review, Notable Affiliates, and Affiliate Timespan report to gather data to improve their merchant programs

Use the Tools 1. The top agencies use every tool available to them to segment, attribute, and incentivize affiliates 2. Some of these tools are Tags, Clickstream Commissions, New Vs. Returning Commissions, datafeed and so many more that really drive the incremental sales that every merchant likes to see If you have not already, feel free to email me at Bethany [at] shareasale.com and we can work together to make your agency stand out.

Utilize Placements 1. Top agencies really strategize to effectively use placements to continually get in front of new affiliates and do so in such a manner to ensure that the impact on the program


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is optimal

ShareASale Resources 1. The Top agencies in our network utilize every ShareASale resource. This includes working with the technical team to ensure the account is set up in a way to ensure growth or reading our blog for promotional opportunities. 2. Most importantly, every great agency in our network has set up monthly calls with the Agency Relationship Manager to ensure they are always in the know on ways to improve their programs.


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Broadening Your Partner Selection Process to Find the DITR Anyone that has spent time in sales or trying to bring in clients has had dreams of landing the big fish. I know I spent a fair share of my time in sales chasing big clients. What I didn't know early on was that while I spent a large portion of time trying to land the big ones, I was overlooking the smaller clients that later proved to be our bread and butter. With this month’s topic of Lessons Learned, I want to share with you a few things I learned over the years through my experiences in sales and how this lesson applies to the two main players in Affiliate Marketing, Merchants and Affiliates. In between chasing the so called big fish, there were also many small to medium-sized retailers that came to us looking to establish an Affiliate Program. I usually didn’t have high expectations for smaller retailers based on perceived limited potential due to a lack of brand recognition or stature in the e-commerce world. Whether it was an established merchant in a very small niche (rubber stamps anyone?), or a small merchant in a very large niche such as pet products, these retailers proved me wrong time and time again. After a while, I learned to not make snap judgments about prospective clients no matter how limited they appeared to be on the surface. The lesson here as it applies to Merchants and Affiliates is simple. When you’re evaluating a potential partnership, be careful not to take any short cuts to thinking. You have to dig a little deeper to discover the hidden value. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.


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Affiliates! When reviewing programs to promote, you should include in the review process: Stats: Review the EPC, most recent commissionable sale, and average order value. Full Commission Structure: There might be very generous commission increases or bonuses based on volume or sales targets. The Target Demographics: The retailer’s products might be geared towards a small subset of consumers. If you target this narrow demographic, you will have a strong advantage over larger affiliates that aren’t the lean mean fighting machine you are. Activity: Check for activity such as newsletters sent and datafeed updates. Actively managed programs are much more likely to produce results no matter how “small” the retailer. Network Ranking: Find out if the program is highly ranked within the network. ShareASale’s Top 100 Power Rank includes a bountiful of unheralded gems. Custom Payouts: In some cases, merchants will reward you with a higher commission for NEW customers vs. existing ones. This allows more nimble content affiliates to compete with the larger established players by focusing on fresh content that engages new visitors, while the larger affiliates end up targeting existing customers with coupons and deals or stale content. Merchants! When reviewing Affiliate applications, you should include in the review process: Main Website: Always do a thorough review of their site. You might have to go beyond the main page to get a true feel for the site and what it provides as far as value to site visitors. Additional Sites: Many Affiliates operate multiple websites so make sure you review the other ones they list in their profile. You might find a site in their portfolio that’s a perfect match for your products. Promotional Methods: Read the provided description to find out how the Affiliate attracts visitors and refers them to you. Affiliates can be very creative, especially the smaller ones that know they have to bring something unique to the table to stand out and compete for attention. Content: Consider the freshness of the content. If it’s a blog with frequent posts, that’s a great sign the site is bringing in new traffic on a regular basis.


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Notoriety/Press: Find out if the Affiliate/blog was mentioned or featured in a major publication or if it won an industry award. This lends credibility to the site which in turn lends credibility to the Merchants and products being promoted. Social Media: Find out how many followers the site or site owner has on outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Social media gives smaller sites a chance to attract a crowd and raise some eyebrows. You wouldn’t mind having a crowd staring at your products would you? Traffic: Sites such as Compete.com and Alexa.com provide insight into the unique visitors, traffic, and rankings of a website. Look beyond overall numbers. Check for trends in traffic (seasonal spikes indicate the Affiliate can target Holiday promotions). Look at the traffic growth. A strong overall climb in traffic is a great sign that the Affiliate is attracting new visitors (this means new customers for you!). If these items aren’t already included in your review process of Merchants or Affiliates (depending on what side of the fence you’re on), make sure you add them to your repertoire. You won’t be sorry when you find out that the modest mommy blog that made you chuckle at first glance turns out to be one of your top Affiliates. Lesson learned!


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Lessons Learned: Provide Clients with Good Experiences There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.

A good customer experience encompasses more than just customer service. It's the entire gamut of a company and its interactions with clients. It's also the extras. It's those experiences you provide to a customer, not because it's required, but because it will eventually help both parties grow in one way or another.

Provide Education that Answers a Question I've learned this lesson, and continue to learn it, but we don't need to rehash it. Instead, let's talk about ways to provide a great customer experience. These can be quick webinars or one page PDFs that speak specifically to a need or question of your client(s). You can also take it a step further by educating clients on industry trends, not just your product or service.


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UberConference - Free Visual Conference Calls UberConference provides a rich visual interface for conference calls. Simple, visual, and free to use, it's audio conferencing done right. Easily set up and join free conference calls, see who is in the conference, who is talking, and use powerful conferencing features. via: www.uberconference.com

Setup Out-of-the-Box Events Meeting a client face-to-face is incredibly valuable. Your entire perception of a client can change just by connecting in person. Setup events that help bring people together - and keep it unique. Have dinner at an amazing restaurant, spend a day on the lake, go to a baseball game, etc... It will pay off in the long run. And don't forget to provide them with something fun to take home!

Order Promotional Products & Apparel | Deluxe.com Promote your business with custom Promotional Products & Apparel from Deluxe. Add your company logo to promotional clothing and build brand awareness. via: www.deluxe.com

Be Thankful & Send a Handwritten 64

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Note Within the epic world of email, a hand written note goes a long way. Even if it was your event, send a thank you note to your client. A thank you for taking time to sign up, go to an event, participate in something, etc...

Tiny Prints Business - Corporate Stationery and Business Holiday Cards We offer a large array of different themes and styles of business cards that you can customize. We have everything from the modern designs to classic contemporary looks that use pre-built templates ready for you to make custom with your slogan, logo, photos or mission statements. via: www.tinyprints.com

Merchant Resources: Provide a Great Experience for Affiliates #20. Recruitment & Promotional Ideas | ShareASale Blog Merchants are always looking for new quality Affiliate to help grow their program, so when you come across a great prospective partner, it is always nice to have something in your back pocket that is unique and makes a compelling argument for that individual to join with you. via: blog.shareasale.com


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Is Your Program Affiliate Friendly? | ShareASale Blog So how exactly do you go about making a program “Affiliate friendly�? Grab the pen and paper my friend, I have 10 easy steps for you below! via: blog.shareasale.com

Building Blocks to Motivate Affiliates | ShareASale Blog It would seem obvious that, as a Merchant, it is important to consistently motivate and encourage Affiliates to participate in an Affiliate program. ShareASale has a number of tools that can help make this a much simpler process and can help make any program unique and stand out from the crowd. via: blog.shareasale.com

Best Ways to Find Newsletter Inspiration | ShareASale Blog Communication with Affiliates is essential in creating a successful program and lasting business relationships. Newsletters are a great way to both engage and activate Affiliates in your program by providing them with program updates, website changes, selling tips, popular products, seasonal deals, new industry trends and sales incentives. via: blog.shareasale.com


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