Smack in the Face: Commission Decreases and Program Pauses

This post contains affiliate links. Because this is an affiliate marketing blog, so, #duh. This means I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post.

Recently, Target announced that they're pausing their registry programs and a collective sigh of frustration was heard across Wedding Blog Land.

It's still Engagement Season and now is the time when we start promoting registry programs super hardcore — because now is when newly engaged couples start building their registries. It's kind of a #duh, no brainer. And while the bounty for Target's wedding registry isn't astronomical by any means — like, $6, I think — it still adds up and it's pretty shitty when they halt the ability to collect said bounties, especially when they are pretty much the only thing that tends to convert on the regs.

Similarly, many of us saw a few major retailers knock the top off commissions over the holiday — also one of the ultimate moves in shitty program management. It kind of says to us: Hey, I know you're going to promote the shit out of this stuff because it's Q4 and everyone's shopping, but we don't want you to make as much money as we want to make ourselves though we still want you to promote us. 

As an affiliate, especially a super-niche blogger affiliate, it can feel a bit like a personal insult: But I've been a good affiliate! I follow the rules and drive traffic and have made conversions. What in the actual shit would make them do this to me?

First, it's not personal it's business — and often bad business. As Greg Hoffman told me, the reason why this may happen may include:

Financial troubles, bad budgeting or most likely just poor understanding of the affiliate channel. Then of course there are those managers that drop commissions and take part for themselves. But that’s another story.

So, it's not about us. But there are a few things we can do to make the situation a bit more bearable.

  • Reach out to your affiliate manager. Because they're s'posed to be your BFF, and they should be able to provide you with a (hopefully) logical explanation. Ask them what — if anything — they can do to make this a more mutually beneficial situation. 
  • Get whiny (note: this is not popular opinion, but you know what they say about the squeaky wheel). If you have a good relationship with your AM (this won't work as well if you hardly ever communicate with this person), don't be afraid to bend their ear but be ready to back your shit up: Have the stats to prove you drive traffic and conversions. Without solid data, whininess is just whininess.
  • Wait it out. Take a step back on actively promoting the merchant to see if this is just a temporary deal — there have been cases of merchants not budgeting wisely enough for the affiliate channel and getting surprised by the success (oh, such a problem) and the amount of payouts they have to pony up.
  • Cut and run. Quit the program, hit the pavement and find a competitor to work with instead.

Mike Nunez of suggests:

I’d always start with the affiliate manager. Few want to drop commissions, it’s usually a mandate [from the merchant]. Explain the difference in value, if they’re any good, they’ll go to bat for you. You could even ask for an alternative relationship, maybe tracked by Google Analytics or equivalent. If that fails, you can go above their head and talk to the director of marketing who does not share the AM’s myopic view, they’ll care about the value the affiliate channel brings and how it’s “success” can be misleading. … sometimes you have to vote with your feet. I know it’s hard sometimes to walk away from an income stream, but there is always a competitor, hopefully they’re wiser.

Similar to when a direct advertiser decides not to renew, it sucks, but it's not the end of the world. It just takes a little bit of refocusing (mourn for a minute if you want to) and a little more elbow grease, but it's possible that if you do turn tail, you'll find another merchant who is just as good, if not better.


Author: Christen