I use a special email service that lets me create a unique email address every time I sign up for a mailing list. I sign up for Amazon as “amazon@specialdomain.com.” Bill’s Bait Shop knows me as billsbaitshop@specialdomain.com. If one day, ads for body part enlargement powder starts arriving in my amazon@specialdomain.com mailbox, I know that either Amazon sold my email address or their list was stolen.

A few months ago, a friend of mine whose newsletter I subscribe to did an affiliate deal with a company we’ll call TalkTalk, Inc. I don’t even remember what joint product they were pitching, but at the end of the day, I was supporting my friend by being part of his program.

Unfortunately, TalkTalk, Inc. is run by professional marketers. Or at least, by people who believe themselves to be professional marketers. They’ve flooded my inbox with missive after annoying missive. Each one has arrived at the inbox previously reserved for my friend’s materials.

TalkTalk sends so many messages that my friend’s messages get buried beneath TalkTalk’s, and his decision to partner with TalkTalk would have me doubting his judgment and the judgment of his affiliates. Since I know him, I know he would never do this to his own list, but still… TalkTalk’s behavior reflects on him.

And therein lies the lesson: if you have an affiliate marketing arrangement with a partner, make sure you know how each of you will present yourselves to the other’s list. Affiliate relationships can be very powerful, but they tie your brands together in a way where your brand is now affected by their actions. You may wish to negotiate up front how many messages your partner can send to your list. Have your partner invite people to sign up for their list, but don’t let them simply piggy-back on yours. Your subscribers didn’t sign up for TalkTalk, they signed up for you. Honor them and feed your own sense of self-worth by giving them you, you, and only you.

Affiliates piggy-back on your brand! Beware!

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