New Look at Affiliate Motivation – By Geno Prussakov

by Shawn Collins on June 1, 2010

A year ago I came across an article on motivation in a January 2003 issue of Harvard Business Review. It was authored by Frederick Herzberg, a famous management psychologist. As I was reading through it, it struck me that making all things go right within any given affiliate program — i.e. having a 100% affiliate-friendly Web site (without “leaks”, with well-converting wisely-formatted landing pages, etc), running ongoing bonus campaigns, providing performance-based commission increases, satisfying every possible creative need affiliates may have, providing a well-categorized detailed product data feed, and so on — has little to do with real motivation of affiliates to perform for an affiliate program.

Herzberg wrote that “things that make people satisfied and motivated on the job are different in kind from the things that make them dissatisfied”. Additionally, at one point extrinsic motivators (your bonuses and prizes) stop being motivating unless they are replaced by more profound sources.

This is because true and lasting motivation always comes from “interesting work, challenge and increasing responsibility” as “these intrinsic factors answer people’s deep-seated need for growth and achievement.”

Herzberg also emphasized that a manager “can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again,” but “it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation” (italics mine).

Super affiliates inevitably come to mind. They do not need much outside stimulation. They are not joining an affiliate program because of activation or even performance bonuses, but because they have a plan on how to succeed with it. They are intrinsically prone to growth, learning, continuous advancement, and internal recognition.

With novice, or unconfident affiliates, you do want to be the “battery charger” in the beginning; but gradually lead them to a point where they are mainly motivated from within — by interesting opportunities in the affiliate campaigns you run, and growth potential.

Another article that comes to mind is Bronwyn Fryer’s “Moving Mountains” (Harvard Business Review, 2003) article. Fryer wrote: “There’s no trick to motivating others. It requires a clear, unbiased understanding of the situation at hand, deep insight into the vagaries of human nature at individual and the group levels, the establishment of appropriate and reasonable expectations and goals, and the construction of a balanced set of tangible and intangible incentives.”

Do you, as an affiliate manager have (i) a clear and truly unbiased understanding of the situation, and (ii) deep insight into what your affiliates want/need both individually, and cooperatively as an industry? Do you (iii) set realistic goals, and (iv) continuously motivate by a bouquet of tangible and intangible incentives?

Fryer also proposed several practical techniques that make one a better motivator. I have hand-picked those immediately relevant for us:

• Start with the truth
• Appeal to greatness (once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, etc)
• Make them proud
• Stick to your values
• Provide constant and consistent communication channel
• Build trust
• Care for the little guy
• Set different incentive levels

Best of luck becoming a better/deeper motivator!

Geno Prussakov is the Founder of AM Navigator, and author of “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing” and “Online Shopping Through Consumers’ Eyes.”

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