I’ve been managing affiliate programs as an outsource program manager since 1999 and I’ve used a number of ‘systems’ to help me be effective at my job. Whether it’s running a program through one of the major networks or using a basic shopping cart plug-in, I’ve been in the trenches with most of them and there are pros and cons to each. Unfortunately, Infusionsoft, one of the most popular CRM platforms, provides an affiliate program management tool that is a challenge to use effectively, to put it mildly.
Infusionsoft’s Affiliate Module does have One Major Advantage Over Network Tracking
Before I enumerate what I believe are shortcomings of the Infusionsoft affiliate program management module, I want to point out that there is one major advantage when a merchant uses Infusionsoft to manage their affiliate channel — and it’s a BIG advantage…
Merchants who use the Infusionsoft platform to manage their affiliate program are running their entire Customer Relationship Management (CRM) using the Infusionsoft, therefore all the purchase data is readily available to utilize in tracking and crediting affiliate commissions. This allows the system to tie the customer directly to the affiliate who referred them. Often referred to as ‘database tracking’ this method is far more accurate than cookie-based tracking. In most situations, especially with Affiliate Networks, transaction data must be transmitted/transferred to the network in order for the affiliate to receive credit for referred sales.
Having accurate, readily available purchase data is especially beneficial for merchants who sell continuity or subscription-type products (requiring ongoing payments from the customer), offer installment payment plans, and/or who want to offer their affiliates accurate commissions on follow-up purchases — even lifetime commissions years after the initial referred purchase. These are great selling points you can use to attract desirable affiliate partners to your program. After all, as I enumerated in the article, Running a Private Label or In-house Affiliate Program vs. an Affiliate Network Program, it can be quite challenging to get good affiliates to participate in a non-network or private affiliate program.
The Infusionsoft Affiliate Backoffice Can be Customized to Help Deal with Confusion
When an affiliate logs into their account on Infusionsoft they land on the Welcome page and are met with a number of menu choices and as I will describe shortly, even when they go to one of these areas it is far from clear what they should do when they get there.
To help avoid this confusion, I created the content below to display on the Welcome page. This content directs the affiliate to watch a screen capture video in which I walk them through the process of getting various creatives and links. And since I found that even this step-by-step video was not enough to address the confusion, I created my own resource pages outside of Infusionsoft where my affiliates could go to get banners, articles, videos, program news and much more.
Here’s the special content I provide on the Affiliate Welcome page:
Welcome to Your Affiliate Resource Center!
This is where you’ll find all the tools you need to successfully promote our products. You can use the Tracking Tools links on the left menu to check your stats and view your commissions.
Infusionsoft’s back end is certainly confusing so I created a little video to show you how to navigate, get the resources your need and maximize all the capabilities of our program. Go here to watch the video. (This link, as well as the links to the resources listed below have been removed from this article.)
Below are some additional links to affiliate resources that you will find very helpful:
Affiliate Artwork Website – On these pages you’ll find a large collection of banners and images you can use to promote our products and earn referral commissions. If you need additional sizes of any of these banners in order to fit your website, please don’t hesitate to contact our Program Manager.
Product Related Articles – You can link to any of these articles. Many of these links are already set up in Inufusionsoft. If you need a link to any article, notify the Program Manager to set up an affiliate link for you. You are free to re-publish these articles provided that you adapt/edit them to fit your audience and do not promote any competing products on the same page that you publish the article.
Product Videos – You can get links to any of these videos, just notify the Program Manager to set up an affiliate link for you.
‘Embeddable’ Product Videos – You can embed these YouTube videos right onto your website or blog.
Company Blog – You are free to re-publish these articles provided that you adapt/edit them to fit your audience and do not promote any competing products on the same page that you publish the article.
Affiliate Program Description – Here’s where I’ve published a full description of our Affiliate Program opportunity.
Affiliate Commissions by Product – This page also lists all products in order by highest popularity first.
Affiliate Program Blog – Get the latest program news, tips and other goodies!
Affiliates Face Several Choices and Dropdown Menus Just to Get a Banner
Below is a screenshot of the Banners page. Before affiliates generate the code for the desired banner, they need to first be sure the three dropdown menu options at the top of the page are set properly. Unfortunately, the affiliate cannot even see what the banner looks like until they click on Generate Banner button. This can be quite tedious when you offer a large number of banners. For one program I managed, we had approximately 20 products, each with their own banners and possible landing pages.
The first dropdown choice is there in case the affiliate has any sub-affiliates they have recruited into the program. If they want to create banners to use themselves, they need to first be sure their name is showing here as my name is in the screenshot below.
Then they need to decide on the proper landing page for the banner they want to use. In the case of this program, since we had over 100 landing pages, you can imagine the confusion this might cause. To address this concern, I utilized the individual banner description text to instruct them on the correct landing page to use.
The third dropdown menu choice asks: “Which ad are you using to drive the traffic:” Most of the time affiliates don’t have to make any choices here. This dropdown controls the affiliate-defined ad variable which most affiliate do not use. For those that want to try some A/B testing or want to further break down their ad stats, they can utilize this additional variable. It’s a nice feature, but since most affiliates don’t use it, it often results in more confusion than it’s worth.
Since affiliates can’t generate sales and earn commissions until they post your links, it’s critical that this process be as simple as possible. Besides putting in place the extra help, guidance and resources to make this process straight-forward, I also used Infusionsofts’ email follow up campaigns to reach out to my affiliates as soon as they join with more step-by-step getting started instructions.
Infusionsoft’s Reports Section Generates Lots of Questions from Affiliates
Turning now to the Reports section where it’s not surprising that a lot of head scratching goes on. As I mentioned, since the Infusionsoft affiliate module pulls real purchase data from the CRM side, it’s possible to generate a number of reports and metrics that affiliates don’t typically see in other interfaces.
I used to get so many of the same questions about these reports, especially when it was time to calculate earnings, that I took the time to write out the following explanation and posted it right on the Welcome page of the affiliate interface. Unfortunately, as clear as I tried to make it, it’s one of those ‘clarifications’ that you probably have to read a couple of times:
‘Good to Know’ info about your Ledger and Link Tracking Stats
First, it’s important to understand, your earned commissions is the ‘Net Commission’ number. The ‘pending commission’ number is a number we wish Infusionsoft wouldn’t show as it does not help anyone and it causes confusion. Its purpose is to essentially show you all the commissions that you will receive upon 2nd/3rd installment payment and if someone’s credit card does not go through, it shows what is to be rebilled. Infusionsoft creates an order but if payment fails, it leaves the amount here showing as a pending commission. Unfortunately, it’s an amount that we may never collect and you may never earn commission on.
We cut checks or make PayPal payments for the Net Commissions earned in the date range. The minimum payment is $__. The amount is slightly lower than the one you my see in your report because it takes into accounts clawbacks from previous months due to refunds, etc.. Checks are mailed around the __ day of the month following when commissions are earned. Paypal payments are sent on the __ day of the month. Email me if you want to be paid via Paypal.
Regarding Link Tracking Stats, the number of orders that shows up for a certain redirect inside of Link Tracking Stats does not mean that the order that took place was for the product that was on that page. The person could have wandered off to any of our other pages from the landing page the affiliate used in the referral link. Link Tracking stats is they saying that an order took place during that browser visit of the initial click, not necessarily for example that a customer used a Product A redirect and that the order was a Product A order.
So that’s the shortcomings from the affiliates’ perspective…I’ve not even touched on what it took for me to get up to speed as an Affiliate Program Manager in order to be able to manage a program through Infusionsoft. Keep in mind, I’ve been managing affiliate programs for over a decade and have worked with numerous systems. Typically, I’ve been able to take over programs and work with new systems without any special training. Yet with Infusionsoft, it took intensive training over a period of weeks and hands on work for a couple months before I mastered the system and was able to make it easier for my affiliates to use it.
If you are currently using Infusionsoft for CRM and are interested in launching an affiliate program or need some assistance with your current one, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to provide some guidance or we can discuss an outsource management role.