Why I Proudly Ditched My Affiliate Program

Chances are, you know I sell skins for the Thesis Theme. Like any other “good” WordPress theme vendor out there, I offered an affiliate program. Just because it’s something that seemed… normal.

You know about affiliate programs I’m sure. They give people incentives (cuts of commissions) to promote a company’s product. I think affiliate programs are great (and I do participate in a few), and I am not trying to bash the idea of having one.

I just don’t think they’re for me. But my most important realization: I don’t think they add much value to my business as it is today.

I gave a lot of thought to creating my affiliate programs in the past. I was starting a new business, and figured that having something like an affiliate program would bring in a lot of extra money and get even more exposure to my site.

After all, when you see stats like this from others, you can’t help but be amazed at what affiliate programs can offer your business:

So clearly, these things can work. But, it’s all dependent on your business and how you maintain it.

Affiliate programs are not an easy way to magically sell thousands and dollars worth of products, but something (like anything else online) that requires a lot of time and effort to manage with the potential for great results.

After about a year of using one myself, I just had to call it quits. The results were just not what I would have liked, and forced me to close it down with the relaunch of Kolakube.

Sales Speak For Themselves

When I was only paying affiliates out a few hundred dollars a month (sometimes less), I had to be honest and ask: how much was this truly improving my business?

When you sell a product, you’re always tracking your sales and where they’re coming from. You want to know how people are buying your stuff, and where they heard about you.

Nearly any affiliate program script out there will give you some kind of analytics. In its most basic form, that software will tell you how many sales an affiliate has made, and how much money they brought in.

When I was only paying affiliates out a few hundred dollars a month (sometimes less), I had to be honest and ask: how much was this truly improving my business?

Sure, there were sales being made that may not have happened without users participating in the program. But when your affiliates account for less than 0-5% of your business’ total sales for the month, you really need to step back and ask yourself “is it worth the time and effort right now?”

The Theme Foundry, a company I have a ton of respect for, posted about the same sales results as I did in their explanation of closing their affiliate program:

Our affiliate revenue percentage has averaged somewhere in the 5% range, which obviously makes it much easier for us to shut down the program.

Couldn’t you be putting more effort into improving your products and customer support? This was one of the biggest reasons I made the switch, it just wasn’t worth the effort I was giving it compared to the things that really needed my attention.

Affiliate Marketing Scam

I see through your BS, guy.

The Spammy Snowball Effect

Apart from vicious spam email marketing, I am convinced there is no spam greater on the web than overboard affiliate marketing.

Apart from vicious spam email marketing, I am convinced there is no spam greater on the web than overboard affiliate marketing.

Seriously, there are sites on the web dedicated to just promoting affiliate products. They have banner ads everywhere, they review whatever they can find on Clickbank, and they try to cheat you out of a quality sale.

When I saw my products being promoted on sites like these, I was appalled.

I hate spam, I hate “get rich quick schemes,” and I hate when people take advantage (in a bad way) of something great.

When your products are promoted by spammers and drive sales, I’ve found a few things to happen in a sort of snowball effect kind of thing.

1. Creates Unrealistic Expectations

Some of the spammers I saw put in a little extra effort in their quest to spammify the web, and wrote reviews about my products straight from their cold, empty hearts.

And by that, I mean they overhyped the hell out of my products and promised things that were just unrealistic. Whatever made them a few extra dollars at the end of the month, right? It’s not their business they’re f*cking over, anyway.

A few other things I’ve seen, that just make me laugh:

  • My skins being displayed in galleries of other themes. All affiliate links.
  • Auto-linking the word “Kolakube” to some random affiliate link in every single blog post
  • Affiliate banners in the header, content, sidebar, about page, contact page, etc.

These, in my opinion, are not quality promotions and all that space being taken up on a website can go towards something more beneficial.


A Note About Affiliate Banners…

I hate banner ads. So, it was to my amazement that I offered a program that supported using banners ads. That was absolutely crazy to me, and I’m almost ashamed it took me a year to realize what the hell I was doing.

2. Frustration Rates At All-Time Highs

It’s pretty obvious that with a promotion ‘strategy’ like that, you will drive a few sales. So in turn, I had people buying what they thought was one thing, and turned out to be something a lot different than what was promised by the spammer.

This led to plenty of frustration, and left many users asking me where all these ‘promised’ features were. And me, totally in the dark.

3. …Leading to Higher Refund Rates

With people being conned into buying something they didn’t expect, and the product not doing what they thought — I received more refund requests than I probably should have. It’s kind of a shame, but looking back, I can easily connect some of the refunds I issued through a spam promotion of my products.

It’s Not All Bad

Of course, I didn’t have a 100% negative experience with my affiliate program. It did do good things for my business, no doubt about that.

I know people were using the affiliate program genuinely, and I have all the respect in the world for those people. In fact, the people who used it right outweighed the people using it bad my margins.

But I found a better, more “real” (yet still incentivized) way to get people to promote your product is this:

Provide A Damn Good Product

Affiliate marketing scam

Hi again. Take your Photoshopped money, and GTFO

If you provide a good enough product to the point where your users are constantly praising you for it, then the promotion will just come naturally.

People will be compelled to promote your stuff for nothing if it has actually impacted their lives for the better and made something easier on them.

You should make people proud to admit they are associated with your company though the use of your product on their site.

Think of it as a “mini cult following” without the special fruit punch.

These are things that I’m all about, and the passion I have for creating amazing things keeps me believing that my business can survive without the use of an affiliate program. Simply for the fact that I’m going to make the best product possible, and have the happiest people around.

And that, my friend, is something affiliate marketers really won’t teach you about. πŸ˜€

Featured post image by Darwin Bell

23 comments add yours

  1. Well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

    I am seriously considering your awesome new child theme “Marketers Delight 2” I’m putting together some questions but my number 1 question is:

    Does it override any of the Thesis?

    I purchased another theme while you were MIA (I wanted your original Marketer Delight) but don’t use it because it conflicts with Thesis perks and it’s a pain in the neck figuring what’s what.


    • Damn straight!

      Nope, everything is built to work with Thesis seamlessly. It doesn’t make sense to build a skin on top of something that breaks the original platforms functionality.

  2. I agree! Personally, I’ve never had a product for anyone to promote, but for two years I’ve been an affiliate for several digital products as well as some physical products and I find that most of the tactics being taught by the so called gurus are just shady (at best) and it leads to a sh** load of marketers out there following the same horrible strategies that you were talking about. Of course there are some courses out there that are actually on point, like the course offered by Glen from Viperchill. And that last statement is really to your point. I think Glen has an affiliate program for that product, but I’m not signed up for it, and I recommend it to people all the time. I might be leaving money on the table, but the way I look at it, Glens course changed my life and the least I can do is send a little business his way. And who know’s maybe you’ll feel differently in a year or so. I think if you have 1 or 2 affiliates using their actual live sites as their “affiliate banner” for your design service, that’s better and way less intrusive than any banner could ever be. I mean, I have MD2 set up (as you know) and it’s on a brand new blog which I’m still developing and I’ve already had someone ask me who designed it. I simply told them it was a wp skin and proudly sent theme to kolakube. They thought it was a custom design that I paid a couple of stacks for. So I’m pretty sure that if you had two of your private design clients working as affiliates for your design business, you’d feel better about affiliate programs because it would be more controlled. Anyway…this comment might be way too long. Ha.

    • Great thoughts Ray!

      Loved how you put this:

      I think if you have 1 or 2 affiliates using their actual live sites as their β€œaffiliate banner” for your design service, that’s better and way less intrusive than any banner could ever be.

      …and it’s 100% true, because the best way to promote anything is by showing that you use it and use it well.

      I’m glad that people are reacting to MD2 so well. πŸ™‚ And you contacted my good friend Derek J for a logo right? Thought that was cool you two are in touch haha.

      Was a great comment, enjoyed reading it. πŸ˜€ See you around dude.

  3. As someone who helps manage affiliate/partner programs and customer acquisition in general I totally get where you are coming from. The ratio of crappy and worthless (from a business perspective) affiliates to those who can actually move the needle is surprising once you get handson experience.

    However, one solution I have found that seems to work well and keep your options open is an invite only affiliate program. This allows you to keep the tracking system etc in place but only use it as a tracking tool for bigger joint venture style promotions.

    For instance – I could see DIYthemes adding your themes as a follow-up email to their customer base etc as it’s extremely complimentary and it would keep them financially incentivized to keep the flood gates of high quality traffic coming your way.

    Either way though, you make a killer product and that will serve you well. Just don’t cut yourself short when it comes to using the affiliate infrastructure to make the big deals that make a material difference.

    Just my (unsolicited) two cents.

    • Hey Travis,

      I think you make excellent points. If I was to ever reopen my affiliate program, I would absolutely make it invite only. Never thought about doing something like that, but it does make people in both worlds happy.

      Appreciate you leaving your two cents. πŸ˜€ Gave me plenty to think about, especially hearing it from somebody more experienced than me in that field!

  4. haha, well nevermind then cuz I asked earlier where I could find my affiliate link.

    I’ll still highly recommend your themes. I’ve never been more excited to share something with others since I did P90X back in 2007. You’re doing yourself a huge favor for your business – because a lot of companies who go the affiliate route, end up acquiring ‘customers’ who just end up saturating the internet.

    I still think you can do an affiliate program though. But this time you get to chose your affiliates (maybe a like a closed mastermind group or something who can promote it to their list). I don’t know if this is true, but I heard some of the ‘guru’s’ out there like jeff johnson, frank kern, jeff walker…do that kind of stuff.

    yea soo….anyways

    in any case, you have my respect man. I’ve looked around for awesome themes for over a year and half now, and I finally found something I know I’ll stick to for a loooong time.


    P.S. you should just remove the ‘attribution removal’ feature πŸ™‚ jk

    • Hah, I approved your comment right before I replied to your support thread. Good timing. πŸ˜€

      Dude, I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying the skin and want to share it. To even compare to P90X makes me feel pretty good. πŸ˜‰

      But it’s definitely something I’ll think about in the longrun. I mean, my goal for the time being isn’t to have this affiliate program (for the reasons listed, since the benefits aren’t there yet), but to keep creating a ton of awesome skins!

      Maybe then, is when an affiliate program would better suit my business.

      Thanks for stopping by dude.

      PS: You should quit wasting your time and check out the support forum. Got a good answer waiting for you there. πŸ˜‰

  5. Hey Alex,

    I So LOVE the new site!. Holy cow it’s beautiful! I love all of it.. I’m new to blogging (about 3 months) so I’m just learning..and I DO follow that guy on twitter already haha I liked your post and like I said learning about all this stuff now so this , to me was really helpful. πŸ™‚ don’t be too hard on yourself for not seeing it wasn’t right for you sooner.. We all would like things to work so we sometimes give it more time than it deserves but you have a great new site and now you know better whats best for you, and it.. Congrats on such a great job. I like the way you post.. Even this the reply box, black ! how cool!

    • Thanks a ton Colleen, really appreciate that!

      It’s a lot of fun to learn about all this stuff. You can never stop learning it.

      The black post box always has been a nice touch that everyone loves. πŸ˜€

      See you around!

  6. “I am convinced there is no spam greater on the web than overboard affiliate marketing.”

    I agree with this sentiment, Alex.

    I’m sure like myself, you and plenty of others out there follow our keep up with a lot of people in a variety of industries.

    You see a product launch and then getting bombarded with 20 emails about that same launch (all having their own affiliate link attached).

    Like you mentioned, I understand the premise and the good behind an affiliate program, but I’m a big proponent of quality and value, too. If the creator of said program or product is delivering it, then I’m going to try my best to go straight through them – great write up and insight, man. I’m lovin’ MD2!

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Yes, it all gets overwhelming sometimes. There are good affiliate marketers, and there are more bad ones.

      I feel like if I ever reopened the affiliate program, it would have to be invite only and go through some sort of review system. Could be a lot of work, but with a lot of positive benefits of having GOOD promotions.

      Glad you like MD2 man. πŸ™‚

  7. “When your work just seems to not be doing anything for the progress of your brand or you’ve created something and it just hasn’t gone anywhere with your audience you need to know when to hit delete.

    Don’t bother sending out a rescue rope. If it’s meant to be it will return some other time. Time and focus is too valuable.”

    I support this decision. Good and smart move. πŸ™‚

    • That’s totally how I feel dude. And that can be said about a ton of other things. Like I know so many people who create and sell WP themes create a lot of themes, but don’t really take time to make them great.

      Glad you got my back. πŸ˜€

  8. I was sad when hearing that you closed your aff program. I did not think it was true but it was πŸ™‚ Reading through the post I understood the rationale and you were right to close aff that only accounts for less 5% of total sales. It is not worth investing in managing it.

    MD2 is really a cool one even I have some troubles dealing with mailchimp and still tweaking it and its logo too. It seems the header tiltle/logo loads slower than other part of my site. I will seek for help at the forum.

    Thanks, Tinh

  9. First of all, the new KolaKube is beyond words. So, so awesome. Second of all, this blogging thing is a wild ride, and the learning curve is steep. Live and learn…and hopefully grow. Which clearly you have. We can’t be all things to all people – best to focus where our passions lie, and it sounds like you are circling straight back to the core of your true passion. Bravo!

    • So, so glad to hear you like everything Ruth! πŸ˜€ Means a ton.

      I don’t think anyone could say they “know it all” or have “done it all” when it comes to this blogging and online business thing. Like honestly, you learn one new thing and then up comes 10 other things that stem off from that.

      You make progress, you take step backwards, but if you do these things: then you’re REALLY learning something!

  10. Im contemplating doing some sort of affiliation offer with my business/site in the local area and was researching pro’s and cons. Your post has been extremely useful, though I think my offer will be on a much smaller scale.

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