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DirectDial Affiliate Program: Can It Work For Your Consulting Firm?

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I’m always looking for ways to make this site work better and at the same time create a bit of a revenue stream. Right now there are two ways that I make money. First, is the obvious use of ads – I try to keep this as unobtrusive as possible by putting no more than a few ads on the page. The second way I make money here is by donation. It’s simple, but it’s a link to donate $2.00 (or buy me a coffee). One thing I have thought about though, is the idea of an affiliate situation. If I were to talk about a product (and link to somewhere you might buy it), I have thought about how I might do it. While I’m not currently doing it, I have thought of working with DirectDial for that purpose. Here are my impressions of their offering.

This post has been updated to reflect DirectDial’s recent changes. Some of them have been quite nice. Read on for more details. They appear to be responding well to suggestions of the community, including reaching out to me personally to highlight some of those changes.

The idea behind DirectDial’s affiliate program is to direct potential customers to a site branded with your company’s name. Once user’s get to that site, presumably they will purchase a product and your company earns “up to” 2% commissions on those sales.

Some advantages to the smaller IT consulting firm:
1. The eCommerce site of things are taken care of by DirectDial
2. Products that can’t be otherwise offered by you because of low sales volume (like HP) can be offered in the store
3. Parts of the customer service process are taken care of by DirectDial (also, presumably support – though I would expect that to fall on the manufacturer)
4. Leveraging (though clearly not transparently) DirectDial’s inventory and large base of products.

I’ll let them explain in this video:

With me still? Though this looks like a great idea, there are several clear issues with what DirectDial offers. I have a feeling that those involved in this process thought this was a great idea but hadn’t clearly fleshed out the execution.
Here’s what they offer:
1. The above video references an “Online Marketing Toolkit“, but this was nowhere to be found on DirectDial’s site. Requesting more information from DirectDial (in the beginning of my account setup) yielded little information.
Update: This section of the “Affiliate Portal” is now useful, and includes links and instructions on how to market your eStore on social media or the web (by way of links and instructions).

DirectDialUpd-1 The tools are fairly basic, but if you’re new to social media – they will likely be useful.

2. Direct links are not now possible. Let me explain:
Probably the biggest update, DirectDial now lets you link directly into a product by way of an “i=” reference. When inside the store, you see a direct link address below the price:

DirectDialUpd-2 The previous lack of being able to do this was a serious barrier to adoption, and this change is welcome. Moreover, this can be improved more by adding the following features:

a) Include “http://” in the beginning of your link. Many applications and social media sites require it to parse the text as a link.
b) Offer the option to create a short link (using your own short linking service. Look, is available!).
c) Add a button to copy the link into the clipboard. It’s useful.

3. The commission structure is not clear. This is still the case. The stated percentage is “up to” 2%, but logging into your company’s commissions page doesn’t explain what products earn what commissions. The page explains what you’ve earned – but the lack of information makes it impossible to target products for higher commissions. While it is important to know what you’ve earned, it’s also helpful to know what can be earned.

One simple suggestion would be exposing, on a per product basis in the affiliate portal, the exact dollar amount of commissions that would be earned if that product were purchased.

Final Thoughts
Recent changes have improved the prospects of this service. Indeed, it is smart for DirectDial to leverage it’s systems for those of us who talk about products online. In Canada, we lack the kinds of tool and options that could be be used to direct possible customers to products (while creating earnings potential). Here, on Blogging Calwell we tested this in our review of the Brother MFC-8910DW printer to decidedly mixed results.