The Rebill, Compliance & Why You Should Care
To Flog Or Not To Flog

The Rebill, Compliance & Why You Should Care

Now is one of the hardest possible times to be getting in to affiliate marketing. I consider myself at an automatic disadvantage being relatively new to the business. Disadvantaged by joining the party when the days of being able to promote an offer aggressively are coming to an end.

I can’t stress highly enough how important it is that affiliates start paying greater attention to the pages that they’re publishing online. The industry has been allowed to get away with some outrageous liberties in the way that we promote offers. I can’t see it lasting much longer. At the heart of the CPA industry we have the rebill offer.

While the rebill offer has been around forever, it’s also true that we haven’t seen it promoted or taken to the mainstream in the same way that we do today. The reason we have jobs as affiliates pretty much comes down to the volume of leads and sales we can generate. No company’s internal marketing department can compete with the volume driven by hundreds of Internet marketers.

I don’t care what the industry says. Affiliate marketing may get a bad name, but we have some of the greatest marketers in the world operating amongst us. It’s no longer a niche industry though.

Affiliate marketing is getting more and more exposure, and with a huge rise in network sign-ups, we can expect to see more Acai offers finding their way on to the web. More Google bizopps on the Content Network. More idiots using Oprah as a marketing wheel.

The rise in exposure is going to lead to an increase in scrutiny from the FTC and government agencies. I can see some affiliates getting hit hard and hit where it hurts. The rebill is already causing a much louder chorus of complaints than it was 6 months ago.

To get things straight, I think the rebill is a totally legitimate method of running a business. There’s nothing wrong with offering a free trial to a customer and a contracted payment plan afterwards. That’s if you do it fairly and explain the terms clearly.

But of course, not many of these shady companies are actually explaining those terms. The customer is utterly blind to the payments that they’ve just committed to and the resulting complaints are quite understandable.

For this kind of marketing to work on such a scale that we’re seeing in 2009, two things need to happen.

1. The companies selling these products need to get their shit together and be more upfront about the T&Cs.

I don’t care if it decreases my EPC by a few cents, I’d rather be safe in the knowledge that the customers know what they’re getting themselves in to. Charging the ass out of a rebill is one thing, upselling a bunch of products the customer isn’t even aware of – that’s a bunch of crap. It needs to be explained.

Super small white text hidden on a grey footer of a page is not good enough. It might be now, but when the crackdown comes, these companies are going to have to offer a lot more disclosure and transparency.

2. Affiliates need to pre-sell the facts, not the fiction.

The market has become so fierce that it’s no wonder we see so many flogs popping up. They produce the greatest EPCs and the greatest conversion rates.

Again, I think the flog is a perfectly legitimate marketing method – if it sticks to the facts and steers well clear of any suggestion that the product is an amazing “freebie”.

Have you noticed how some of the hottest converting offers in CPA actually reveal very little on their merchant landing pages? We get a bunch of testimonials and a bloated promise, but not much else.

This is because the companies selling the products KNOW that they can rely on their increasingly sophisticated affiliates to pre-sell the living shit out of their products for them. Their sites often act as no more than a payment page. The responsibility is falling on the affiliate to explain what the product does, what it is, and this is dangerous. Dangerous because so very little is revealed to us in the first place.

Most of the time I have two lines of description to work with. Offer accepted in USA/CAN…converts on 2nd page, etc.

The bizopp market in particular is absolutely hideous for explaining what actually comes with a purchase. We, as affiliates, are marketing in to the unknown and that’s part of the problem with these flogs. They’re inaccurate and misleading. They shouldn’t have to be.

I’ve had to deal with customers calling me on the phone, emailing me and adding me to instant messengers. Why? Well I fucked up with one of my WHOIS records for a start. But also because my affiliate landing pages are typically where the customer has read about the offer. The affiliate is revealing more information than the merchant, and the customers are pinning the blame on us when they don’t like what they find.

The responsibility is firmly on the affiliate to presell an offer. That’s why direct linking results in a much lower conversion rate.

If we’re going to be the ones doing the main presell, we need to be even more diligent than the merchant when it comes to making sure that nobody is posting their credit card details under false pretenses.

I don’t think we need to explain the exact financial aspect of the rebill. But we DO need to mention that a rebill applies with the offer.

Affiliates are becoming so hyper-focused on making that sale, they’ll often throw the T&Cs out the window. Calling it a “no risk, free trial” might increase conversions, but it won’t sit pretty with the FTC for much longer.

I’ve become increasingly paranoid about the offers I’m promoting. I think we all have a duty to be. I find it highly unlikely that the FTC is sitting there, legs crossed, with no plan of action for dealing with the kind of misleading marketing that is sweeping the Net.

The affiliate marketing industry is simply growing too fast for this kind of negative publicity to go unaswered for much longer.

Instead of spending your time looking for the next offer, I’d suggest affiliates set aside a day and look over the offers that they’re already promoting. Ask yourself whether they would comply with the FTC regulations now, and the inevitable regulations tomorrow.

Or go one step further. Get yourself hooked up and ask that an FTC representative personally reviews your landing page before you put it online. Better to be safe than sorry.

To Flog Or Not To Flog

It’s rare to read a blog that’s actually informative in this age of rehashed dribble and top ten lists. So props to Jay Weintraub for posting an excellent summary of the notorious flog. This guy knows his stuff.

Anyway, the flog. The fake blog. The “How I Lost 50 lbs Using XXX & Made a Website So You Could Read About It” method of promotion. It’s been around for a while and you’ve probably seen various adaptions of it.

I’ve often said that creating a convincing testimonial is one of the very best ways of persuading somebody to buy a product. Creating a fictional story of success is a brilliant catch to the reader and it’s a proven performer in the market – whether it clashes with your advertising principles or not.

Recently my attention’s been drawn to a number of sketchy lawsuits and legal complaints. First we had the threat of legal action against a bunch of fake acai blogs, and then we had the Texas GA taking non too kindly to a Google offer (which was pretty much a scam by the sounds of it). I’m so confident as to say that jack shit will happen to the affiliates who were involved in these altercations, but that’s not to say that we shouldn’t start thinking about the way that we’re presenting our offers.

I think a lot of the criticism directed at flogs is justified. From a purely moral perspective, it’s hard not to feel just a little bit scummy about endorsing a product that’s as likely to result in miracle weight loss as a Shoemoney breakfast.

I think the key to the continued success of the flog is to treat it as a product recommendation rather than a product testimonial. And of course, to flood that shit in disclaimers.

If you create a fictional story explaining how Mr. X lost XXX lbs using Product X, you’re positioning yourself as a lame duck for the day that the FTC decides to clamp down on false advertising. You’re misleading people. Plain and simple.

If, however, you write a blog by Mr. X, who lost XXX lbs, and wants to help others do the same, AND happens to have heard good things about Product X – it’s a recommendation rather than a testimonial. No worse than any of the thousands of fake review sites out there, and no worse than an infomercial on Channel 5 at 6am.

For a dieting flog, you can still have your personal success story of how Mr. X lost XXX lbs with a bunch of supplements he ordered online. Well, he doesn’t know if that offer is still around anymore but he’s heard that THIS one is even better…

Now, there’s still a degree of lying involved. But fundamentally, you haven’t directly implied that you have any experience of the product that the customer is going to be buying. There’s a fictional story attached, but it’s far too flimsy for serious legal action to be taken. What are they going to pin it on? The fact that you didn’t use to be a fatty?

Hey, if you’re absolutely determined to stay within the letter of the law. Go out and find a former fatty, get them to put their name to your blog, and go nuts.

As with most forms of marketing, there’ll always be some idiots who abuse the system. You’ll get people who don’t stop at false advertising. They’ll steal your berries from you, and your colon kit too.

Since I took up affiliate marketing full-time, I’ve become extremely cautious of the pages I’m sending traffic to. If I’m going to be making five figures from a fake blog, I want to be extra careful that I’m keeping it on the right side of the law. That means I’ve started crafting my sites in a way that they’re persuasive without ever falsely promoting a product. Still full of bullshit, yes. But the beach whale who stocked up on acai pills because of my site can’t come back to me and ask why her bacon drapes are still in tact. It was her choice to start popping them.

I think a lot of guys out there are simply misinformed. Can you really blame so many affiliates from publishing such misleading flogs, when the number one piece of advice for new affiliates is to “go look at existing sites”?

That’s exactly what I did when I started. I saw a bunch of flogs and started marketing aggressively in the same way.

Even when I talk to my affiliate managers, they regularly tell me that Offer XXXX would work great with a flog or a fake newspaper page. I’m actively encouraged to go out and build these things – and I invariably do. The flog is one of the best converting methods of promoting an offer. It doesn’t have to be a breach of advertising standards if you get your shit together and think about what you’re putting online.

Truth be told, whether it belongs here or not, the flog is going to be a prominent part of online marketing for a long time to come. As long as people are stupid enough to believe whatever they read.

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