We got this question today via our Contact Form and decided it would be a good idea to start a section for these. Shawn Collins answers questions like this on his video blog, but for now, I’ll be posting text posts with the questions and answers so that all our site visitors can learn from them. I won’t be using real names, just the questions and our answer.
Now for our first question:
Is it possible to have an affiliate that refers leads to your site by word of mouth. Example: Lets say I email a person a promo flyer (they own a store) they print it out (it has a code on it) and when a potential customer comes in that they think they could use the product/service, they hand them the flyer. They go home and go to the site and they buy the product and they enter their unique code. Will that track?
This is a great question, and one with one of those answers people hate – It depends. Can it be done? Yes. The merchant needs to be on a network that can capture that code, there are a couple that do. Also the merchant cart (or lead form) needs to have a place for that code to be entered. There are more affiliates that are using offline methods of promotion so it isn’t uncommon for affiliates to ask for a special code that tracks uniquely to them.
If the network can’t track it, but the cart has a place for the code, then the merchant can manually credit the affiliate for the sale. This is becoming more important because there are more companies that are creating b2b affiliate programs, and in those cases the person doing the research might not be the person that makes the purchase and there may be phone calls involved. The transaction may not even be “closed” online but may be closed via a purchase order. So that code needs to be transmitted somewhere along the line for the affiliate to get the credit for the sale.
If affiliates don’t trust the tracking, then manual tracking or offline via a code won’t be viable for them. This is where oversight by a network (instead of an in-house program) can become very valuable. Since the affiliates know the networks get paid (usually) based on whether a sale tracks or not, the network is going to be checking to be sure all is working as intended.