As you may know, we’re currently working hard on a responsive refresh of our website here at The Theme Foundry. Part of that refresh is a shiny new backend, powered by our upcoming Memberful product.
Change is exciting, and it provides an opportunity to re-evaluate all aspects of your customer experience. On that note, we’ll be officially shutting down our affiliate program on January 31st. Let me tell you why.
Why we had an affiliate program in the first place
When we first started selling themes we added an affiliate program for two reasons:
- Everybody else was doing it.
- The software we were using had the feature built in.
Two really bad reasons. On top of that, an affiliate program always felt a bit slimy to me (we’ll get to that in a minute). On the positive side, it does generate revenue for us almost every day, and we do have a few honest members of the program who do a great job.
Wait, you hate money?!
I was surprised last year when Brian Gardner of StudioPress mentioned on a panel we both participated in that their affiliate program generates somewhere between 30% – 50% of theme sales (24:23 in this video) in any given month. Our affiliate revenue percentage has averaged somewhere in the 5% range, which obviously makes it much easier for us to shut down the program.
To make this clear, we don’t hate money, but we do hate the fake endorsement, toxic sludge, and miscreant behavior that we’ve seen generated by the affiliate program. Let’s dive a little deeper.
My number one problem with affiliate programs and affiliate marketing is what I call “fake endorsement”. Plain and simple, we prefer our customers to do the talking when they aren’t getting paid for it, and plenty of our customers do just that.
When I’m making a purchasing decision, I want real reviews from real people, not endorsements from company shills. Not only that, it’s refreshing to buy from a business you know isn’t paying people to pitch their products. When you read a review or a positive tweet, you know it’s genuine, no research required.
Jennifer is in charge of managing our affiliates, and she’s spent quite a bit of time chasing down spam generated by the program. This really bothers me. Our affiliate program is generating toxic sludge that’s polluting the interwebs. We don’t want to be part of that, even if it means a little less cash in our pocket.
If you’re in the business of selling digital products, you know what chargebacks are. They’re a thorn in your side, because you almost always lose. Losing means refunding the money and paying a penalty of anywhere from $15 – 40 per incident. The credit card company will never side with you, because you’re selling a digital product. Even when it’s just a jerk who feels like stealing your hard work. But, you chalk it up to “the cost of doing business”, it’s a good problem to have right?
Jennifer’s the accounting wiz around here, and according to her, over 50% of our chargebacks originate from the affiliate program. The worst of the worst really. Someone trying to steal twice!
Strike three affiliate program, I don’t think we’ll miss you.