Affiliate marketing has grown in popularity, especially with physicians. Affiliate programs allow individuals to earn a commission by promoting products and services. It can be highly lucrative for those that have a large following. Physicians tend to follow a pack like a school of fish or a flock of birds. Thus, making it easy for some to prey on others by promoting their affiliate links for their own financial gains.
Individuals that participate in affiliate marketing programs are known as “affiliates.” The affiliates can participate in established marketing programs or negotiate their own affiliate arrangements with companies. Most affiliates get a commission based on who clicks on their hyperlink or uses a special code.
What do these affiliate marketing programs look like for physicians? These are some actual affiliate arrangements that have been presented to us:
- A physician coach offers affiliates a 10 percent commission to promote their classes.
- A law firm offers affiliates $200 per referral to recommend their services.
- Retail giant, Target offers affiliates an 8 percent commission on customer purchases.
- A cloud-based EMR offers affiliates a 20 percent commission.
- A scrub company offers affiliates a 5 percent commission on clothing purchases.
Ten commandments of affiliate marketing
Much like the Ten Commandments, we propose that physicians participating in affiliate programs follow a moral code that addresses various aspects of ethical behavior, including respect for God, country, and other physicians.
1. Thou shall disclose which hyperlinks are affiliate links.
2. Thou shall disclose the commissions earned.
3. Thou shall promote only products or services that you have personally tried.
4. Thou shall not promote inferior products or services when better options exist.
5. Thou shall disclose if you receive bonuses based on the number of people who use your affiliate link.
6. Thou shall not promote overpriced products or services.
7. Thou shall not have your affiliate link promoted by others without providing full disclosers.
8. Thou shall allow physicians to purchase products and services without using your affiliate link.
9. Thou shall not promote affiliate links that collect the personal information of physicians.
10. Thou shall not promote affiliate links that offer one-time discounts and then trap individuals into paying full price.
Physicians participating in affiliate programs should ensure that they are honest and transparent with other physicians about their marketing efforts. This includes being truthful about any claims made about products or services and ensuring that any links to the merchant’s website are properly labeled and visible. Additionally, affiliates should avoid participating in any deceptive advertising or marketing practices and respect the privacy of other physicians by not collecting sensitive data without their consent.
Ultimately, those physicians participating in affiliate programs should strive to uphold the high level of integrity and professionalism that is expected of a physician.
Just as it is sinful to break the Ten Commandments, violating the ten commandments of affiliate marketing can lead to negative consequences in one’s personal and social life, such as respect from other physicians.
Aaron Morgenstein is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and founder, FlexMedStaff.com, a fully transparent and free marketplace for physicians to find new clinical and non-clinical opportunities to improve work-life balance. Contact Aaron here.
Amy Bissada is a psychiatrist.