Are You Being Ripped Off By Clickbank Merchants?

I see affiliates from two perspectives.

Firstly as an affiliate, I see myself as a business partner to those merchants that I promote. I send them traffic, and if I make sales for them, I expect to be paid for my efforts in the form of a predefined percentage or lump sum.

As a merchant, I see my affiliates as partners and value the traffic they send me. My utmost priority is to make sure that any sales that are made are credited to the affiliate that sends me the traffic. This is essential if my affiliates are going to trust me and put effort into promoting my products. This is essential if I want my business to grow!

Most of my own products are related to internet marketing and webmaster tools. Because of the nature of these products, those visitors are likely to be knowledgeable of affiliate programs and probably Clickbank as well.

Imagine this scenario:

Joe goes to Google and searches for “webmaster tools”. Something caught his attention over in the Pay Per Click ads, an affiliate link to a product that promises to make link exchanges easier.

“Hmmm” thought Joe. “That looks like a great tool”.

Joe clicks on the PPC link and is redirected to a sales page. Scrolling to the bottom of the page, Joe sees that the product is $97.

“I want this”, thought Joe, “but $97 is a bit steep”.

Joe searches the webpage for that magic link, and he finds it easily.

“Great” says Joe out loud. “A link to a Clickbank affiliate program, and this program pays 50%”.

After a few minutes, Joe has signed up for the affiliate program, created his own affiliate link, typed it into his browser, and revisits the sales page.

Joe’s mouse clicks the buy link. He fills in his credit card details and clicks the purchase button. Closing his browser, he checks his e-mail. He watches as two e-mails are downloaded to his machine. The first is the download information for the new software he purchased, the second one is an e-mail with the Subject “Congratulations Joe, you have made a sale”.

Joe checks his stats online for this new affiliate program and sure enough, he has made $48.50 commission on this purchase. In other words, he only paid $48.50 for the product.

OK, what is wrong with this scenario?

Is it fair that Joe used his own affiliate link to make a

purchase?

What about the affiliate who advertised this affiliate program at Google? That affiliate paid for the click that started the sale process, yet did not get the commission.

What is going through the minds of merchants who place links to their affiliate programs on their sales page?

I would imagine that some merchants think about these points:

* I want to make $48.50 per sale minimum.

* If I offer it for $97 and give 50% commission to affiliates I will make my goal of $48.50 per sale.

* By adding an affiliate sign up link to the sales page, I can encourage people to sign up for my affiliate program, buy through their own link and get the software for the real price of $48.50, but the customer will be happy thinking they saved $48.50.

*Great plan!

I am sure that a lot of merchants don’t see things this way – they just don’t think hard enough about their affiliates.

A merchant that uses a link to his/her affiliate program on the sales page is using affiliate traffic as free traffic (whether they intend to or not). After all, the merchant does not need to spend time optimising pages or buying traffic – their affiliates will do that and send the traffic to the sales page for free. If an affiliate sends someone who becomes a customer, the merchant will make their money.

The big problem here is that being an affiliate is hard work. You do have to create content, buy and review products, possibly even pay for advertising. If YOU are doing these things as an affiliate, is your merchant doing their bit to protect your you? Unfortunately the majority of Clickbank merchants don’t, and affiliates waste their time building pages and buying advertising to promote merchants who don’t deserve it.

The bottom line

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If you are promoting products aimed at webmasters, the traffic you send will likely know how to “steal” your commission. In this situation it is vital to only promote merchants without the affiliate sign up link.

If on the other hand you are promoting products to the general public, e.g. weight loss products, dog training eBooks etc, this affiliate sign up link poses less of a problem since most of the traffic you generate wont be affiliates themselves (most wont even know what an affiliate is) and wont have the necessary skills to sign up at Clickbank, create a link and purchase through their link just to get a commission.

What can you do?

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If you find a merchant that you want to promote and they have an affiliate sign up link on the sales page, contact them. Tell them about your concerns and that they should treat you as a partner, not the source of free traffic. Suggest that they remove this affiliate sign up link.

The usual reaction I get

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Merchant: “I get a lot of affiliate sign ups from this link,

there is no way I am removing it!”

Ask the merchant how many of those affiliates ever make a sale or ever send any traffic. This is exactly my point. The merchant is getting a lot of sign ups purely to get a discount. For every person who signs up as an affiliate to get a discount, there is one affiliate somewhere being robbed of his/her rightful commission.

Most of the “affiliates” you get via a sign up link on the sales page are only signing up to get a discount, they are unlikely to ever try to sell that product.

The only affiliates who will promote the product, are those that buy the software, use it and like it. They see the benefits and can sell it well to their visitors. These are the only affiliates worth getting, and you wont get them from an affiliate sign up link on the sales page.

The best way of getting hard working affiliates is to protect your affiliates from this type of link hijacking, gain their trust and do everything you can to help them out. Build a relationship with your affiliates and most of all, make sure they are rewarded for the traffic they send. To this end, remove that affiliate sign up link, and when someone buys your product, send them an e-mail outlining the benefits of your affiliate program. Active affiliates respond well to knowing their merchants are protecting their interests.

A final thought

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If there are two similar products, similar price, similar commission, one sales page with an affiliate sign up link, one without, which would you prefer to promote? If you want to make money online with affiliate programs, take it seriously and start contacting merchants.

Online Credit Card Processing – What Are The Steps Involved In Accepting Payments?

Most of us use credit cards – on e-commerce websites as well as physical stores. However, not many people understand the working of a credit card and the elements involved in moving funds from their account to the merchant’s. In this article, we explain that process (for online transactions specifically).

Types of transactions

Credit card processing includes a set of transactions. These are explained below:

  • Preauth transactions: In a preauth, the validity of the credit card is verified. The charge for preauth is typically around $1.
  • Postauth transactions: In these transactions customers place an order and the product is shipped at a later date. At the time of order, a card hold is applied on the customer’s card. The merchant applies a postauth to transfer the funds after the order has been shipped, also releasing the card hold.
  • Credit transaction: This is the transfer of funds from the merchant’s account to the customer’s.
  • Sales transaction: In a sale transaction, the customer makes a purchase and uses the card to transfer funds from their account to the merchant’s.
  • Chargeback transaction: Chargebacks are cases where the customer disclaims a charge to her card. In such a dispute, the bank withdraws the amount from the merchant’s account and deposits it in the customer’s account till the issue is resolved. The merchant is given some days to prove their case. If they can satisfy the bank with evidence, the amount is transferred back to the merchant. Each chargeback costs the merchant as banks levy a charge for the time and effort involved.

Prerequisites for accepting online credit card payments

You need to have the infrastructure to accept credit card payments on your business website. The requirements are:

  • a Card Not Present merchant account
  • an account with a gateway such as AuthorizeNet, CyberSource, WorldPay, etc.
  • a Vital Tear Sheet to submit to the gateway (provided by the bank)
  • a relationship with credit card types such as American Express; to be informed to the gateway
  • a SSL enabled server

Steps in online processing of credit card transactions

We focus on the processing of a sales transaction. This is how it works:

  1. The customer places an order by filling a form that collects the card details. On submitting the form, the details are sent to the server.
  2. The server processes the information received and directs it to the appropriate software installed on it for card verification.
  3. The software verifies the details provided by the customer. If it is valid, it sends the information to the gateway for further checks.
  4. The gateway validates the card and the availability of funds. Based on the result, it sends an “approved” or “declined” message back to the software. The gateway charges the merchant a fee for this service which can be a fixed monthly rate or a per transaction rate.
  5. Gateways route the transactions to designated clearinghouses (selected by the bank for a credit card type) in batches.
  6. The clearinghouse receives transactions from multiple gateways, batches them for various banks and transfers funds accordingly. Again, this service comes at a fee that ranges between 2%-5% of the cumulative sale.
  7. The clearinghouse transfers funds from the customer’s bank to the merchant’s bank.
  8. On receiving the transaction, the merchant’s bank transfers the amount from the customer’s account to the merchant account. Again, the bank or card issuing company will charge a set of fees for various services – setting up the merchant account, discount rate, chargeback fee, etc.

As you can see, credit card processing isn’t so baffling after all. However, because of the various roundabouts involved in the process, businesses prefer to pay a credit processing company to manage the services instead of taking on the task themselves. With the fall in processor rates, this also makes sense financially.

Customer Abuse Through Music, 3 Mistakes And 4 Opportunities For Music Played While On Hold

TELEPHONE MUSIC ON HOLD, at one time, was a marvel. To have the technology to create music on the phone was a novel idea at the time. I am not referring to phonograph music for listening, offered to subscribers in 1901, but the music we hear when we wait for customer service or tech support. You mean, the technology for broadcasting music over telephones is over 100 years old? I was pretty surprised, but we are a creative lot. The idea in 1901 was for entertainment purposes and was a subscription service chosen by the customer. The custom that is the center of this article is initiated by the merchant with no permission basis from the customer.

MISTAKES.

1. Marketers know that people engaged in an activity are less likely to hang up while on hold and will maintain acceptance of the modern custom of playing music during hold time. Providing customers with music for listening while waiting assumes that people are sheep. This is the first mistake. We are not sheep. We have different tastes, different values of our own time, different ways of working and being. Any merchant who wants to play music to accomplish the mission of keeping us engaged during hold time should respect us as people and consider our rights when playing unsolicited music.

2. The next mistake is in hiding how inappropriate it is to force music on hold. If a company put a radio in your washing machine that only played one song with no way to adjust the volume, song, duration or style; you wouldn’t buy it. Right? Unless it were the only choice. Yes, I am used to freedom of choice that is afforded me in my country, so I am not happy when a choice is flagrantly removed, as with music on hold. It is inappropriate and resembles a slight form of slavery. Before I do business with a merchant, do I have to check to see what wonderful or abusive music I will be subjected to when I need customer service or tech support? Who needs a new item to factor into the buying process?

3. Choice of music style is the next mistake. We don’t have a choice. Except for one merchant, GoDaddy.com, who should be commended for leading the effort to afford the customer the choice to remove the music and be in silence, we get what we get when we call customer service. And, customer service and tech support agents, worldwide, say, “Do you mind if I put you on hold?” without realizing that they are subjecting the customer to a barrage of non-choice.

OPPORTUNITIES.

1. From error comes great opportunity. From need comes new technology. So, here we are, people. The time is now.

1. Let’s create a non-astronomically priced phone system where we all have the choice of giving our beloved customers the choice of music or silence. Many of us work while on hold, so this opportunity for silence must be standard.

2..Let’s create a non-astronomically priced phone system where we can connect our favorite Pandora station to anyone’s on hold phone system. When we give our personal information or credit card info, there can be an extra field where we input a Pandora station or a specific genre of music, if we are not using this already established radio system. Right next to the drop down box that asks you whether you are using American Express, Visa, Mastercard (which is an unnecessary field because the first digit of each card number delineates which type of card it is) we can have a genre box for music preference including silence.

3. It seems we have lost sight of how personal music is to each of us. As a music therapist, I can discuss how the subtleties of rhythm, melody, tempo, genre, social proof, etc. permeate us and affect us. Let’s create a technology whose phone software is based upon the customer’s emotional state. There would be an additional layer of the familiar voice menu, common to phone systems prior to placing the customer on hold, asking the customer to rate her/his frame of mind, like motivation potpourri, pensive or frazzled, welcoming silence. Option 1 would direct the software to play music that motivates, which could miss the mark more times than not since our motivations are different. Pensive or frazzled would play spa music; and silence would let the customer keep on working, creating, doing whatever s/he was doing before the customer service/tech support phone call.

4. Finally, we could create a productive and creative program that allowed us to do karaoke while we waited. We would be given a choice of 3 songs in the genre that the company knew we liked from the personal information field given in 2. The system would sing one line of the song and then play music only for that one line so that the customer could sing while on hold. The software would then sing the next line and repeat this line with music only so that the customer could continue to learn and sing. The process would continue this way. The customer could repeat the process with the same song until the customer service or tech support person came on. Email and other electronic send options could be made available to send lyrics or a lead sheet (sheet music with melody, rhythm and chord changes) to the customer in anticipation of the call or as an add-on during the hold process.

CONCLUSION. Progress is a wonderful thing. Our inventions are based on our inspired ideas. We all have them. It is our responsibility, though, to cherish our fundamental principles, those of freedom of choice, speech, creativity. Our duty to keep sight of our personal values and protect our personal time and space.

So, let’s create phone software that will stop the abuse and will be far more effective for the marketing team of each merchant than the forced music on hold ever has been. Let’s build our brand by caring for our customer base through respecting the fundamental right to choose. The element of music or the absence of music affect our buying decisions. But, the choice to have or not to have music on hold must be the customer’s.