ClickBank's Product Approval Process Sucks

 

NOTE: Though I initially wrote this article on ClickBank's product approval process in March 2017, in subsequent months I have updated it at the bottom.)

Over the last several months I had a hellish time going through ClickBank's product approval process. Justin Atlan of ClickBank University was supportive and as helpful to me as he could be. He even gave me contacts in ClickBank. So I worked with them and it was still an awful, months-long process to get my product approved.

Another ClickBank University member recently started a discussion in the ClickBank University Forum about their terrible experience trying to get their product approved by ClickBank. I and others responded with our own ClickBank product approval experiences, none of which were great and most of which were awful.

ClickBank rejected the member's product. So they asked the ClickBank rep Moustapha Abdou what they could do or what they could change to get it approved. And Moustapha gave this same email rejection four separate times:

Hello,

Thank you for reaching out to us.

I have reviewed your product with our product manager. After a full evaluation we have decided we cannot accept this product. In the past, we have accepted products very similar to yours. Due to the customer service issues along with the extremely high refund/chargeback rates, we no longer permit them.

Thank you for your understanding and best of luck!

Best Regards,

Moustapha Amadou

Product Specialist 

The member was understandably incensed. I replied:

I don't blame you for being fed up with ClickBank after that nonsense!

You have my full sympathy. As I mentioned in my earlier comment in this discussion, I've been through the ClickBank product approval process a number of times. One of those times was ridiculous and reflected very poorly on ClickBank's integrity, customer service, and competence. It took months of back and forth exchanges in which I got plenty of those preposterous, unhelpful, and maddening form replies like the one you quoted. I also got lots of, "change these things, then we can approve your product," only to be subsequently told, "now change these other things to get your product approved" MANY TIMES. Oh, and I also had my emails ignored by multiple ClickBank personnel for a week or more at a time, sometimes with no explanation or apology. There were definitely times where I got the impression that certain personnel were taunting, scolding, or messing with me. Though I stuck it out and after several months got that product approved, the whole experience led me to draw a few conclusions:

  1. ClickBank's product approval process sucks.
  2. The company does not grasp the fundamentals of good customer service.
  3. ClickBank does not appreciate or respect its vendors and affiliates—the very people who keep ClickBank in business and making money!
  4. ClickBank needs to overhaul its customer service and in particular its product approval protocol to ensure that each individual customer service matter such as a product approval is tracked and resolved in a timely fashion, not allowed to linger over weeks or months; each message from a ClickBank staffer truly addresses the customer's questions and requests (no more bullshit form replies like you and I both got); product rejections are accompanied by a specific, clear list of things for the vendor to change which would qualify the product for approval; once those changes are made, the product MUST be approved with no further delay or rejection; each ClickBank employee should be taught and regularly reminded that we vendors and affiliates are their customer, their employer, and their wage-provider and that without us they'd be out of a job; their customer service feedback system where we're asked "were you satisfied with the customer service you received?" should actually WORK rather than be ignored; there should also be a supplementary customer service feedback flow for us to anonymously rank ClickBank personnel's each and every communication so that ClickBank can see which personnel are serving us well (and thereby keeping ClickBank in business) and which personnel are not serving us well (and thereby ruining ClickBank).
  5. Instead of remaining oblivious like it currently is, ClickBank should solicit and act on legitimate criticism and suggestions like these.
  6. The bullshit form replies like the one you quoted should be stopped. I received those, too, with that exact wording. Only months later in the process did a rep admit that my product rejection was not, in fact, "Due to the customer service issues along with the extremely high refund/chargeback rates." That was just a lie that reps spit at us in their form replies to reject our products.  

For the time being, for those who encounter this sort of product approval resistance and unhelpful response from ClickBank, I'll offer a couple of suggestions:

1. JVZoo.com is another affiliate network like ClickBank and their product approval process is far superior if you want to use that. There's also amazon.com. They do have an affiliate program, though it is quite different than ClickBank's and jvzoo's.

A quick, related note about JVZoo.com: I've had a much better experience getting products approved on JVZoo. It's a well-developed affiliate network like ClickBank and its product approval process is a bit complex like ClickBank's is. But its product approval process is much faster, more efficient, and more sensible than ClickBank's currently is. So for those of you interested in using JVZoo for your products, I put together an instructional video series for that purpose. Click here to learn more about it and get it for cheap on this site.

2. A very helpful product specialist in ClickBank once told me, "Please keep in mind, that you can always send us an email to compliance@clickbank.com if you have any questions on what products we accept or what the guidelines for certain products are." 

Another member replied: Mike, thanks! Oh god, this is what is in store for all of us, is it? And we have to pay for the privilege of being ignored and then rejected!  

I replied: You're welcome! And yes, what the first member related is typical for ClickBank and what I related was all true—as awful as that is. In fact, after writing that lengthy critique of ClickBank's product approval process, I submitted a new product for approval to ClickBank and JVZoo. I got two very different product rejections from each of them, despite the sales pages and products being essentially identical.

JVZoo's product rejection email listed and clearly articulates the reasons for the product rejection. In my and others' experience, ClickBank has regularly failed to provide this when rejecting products.

JVZoo's product rejection message also clearly explained what steps to take to resolve the issues; exactly how to resubmit the product for approval; and assurance that the product will be approved if those steps are completed. In my and others' experience, ClickBank has regularly failed to provide any of that when rejecting products.

When I clicked the link in JVZoo's email to resubmit the product, the Web page displayed a list of the reasons for rejection of my specific product and enabled me to check off or certify that I had fixed each one. ClickBank's product approval process doesn't include anything as clear, simple, easy, or efficient as that to get a rejected product approved.

JVZoo reviewed my product and sales page and sent me that product rejection email the same day I submitted the product. I then fixed all those issues the same day and resubmitted it that same day. JVZoo then approved my product that same day. ClickBank typically takes weeks or even months to do that!

In its product rejection message of my ebook, ClickBank referred to "FDA" and "FTC" regulations as reasons for rejecting my ebook. The FDA is the Food & Drug Administration and that agency regulates drugs and medical devices, not ebooks! In my experience ClickBank is ignorant and overly aggressive in interpreting and applying regulatory restrictions when approving or rejecting products. I have not encountered this overzealousness from JVZoo. ClickBank's requests for re-titling my ebook and making changes to the sales page were so ridiculous compared to JVZoo's more sensible approach that I decided to not even bother re-submitting my product to ClickBank. ClickBank even states it uses webmd.com for medical guidance. Are you kidding me? Webmd.com is neither authoritative nor the last word on any medical matter. ClickBank should stop these silly, overzealous attempts at policing such matters. If ClickBank doesn't relax and use a more common sense approach, then good, smart vendors won't even bother submitting products to ClickBank anymore.

Update on May 11 2017: In today's CBU webinar, Justin Atlan mentioned that he had traveled to ClickBank's headquarters last month to pass this feedback to them. He said ClickBank management did take my criticism and suggestions for improving their product approval and customer service processes seriously. So we'll see whether they follow through on that or not.

Update on July 18 2017: Today I submitted a product approval request to ClickBank. I had a better and faster response from ClickBank this time than any of my prior times. But there are still discrepancies in ClickBank's product approval process that need correction. 

This time ClickBank reviewed my product pitch page and responded to me within a few hours of my submitting the product for approval. That's far faster than my prior product approval experiences with ClickBank. And they took a more reasonable approach this time than they did with my prior health related information products. This time they stated:

FDA and FTC rules require that all product claims are accurate and can be substantiated. Please confirm that you possess credible scientific studies to substantiate the claims on your Pitch Page, and that you can provide those studies upon request.

Please confirm that the stories told in your promotional materials are true and can be substantiated in the event of a regulatory agency audit.

This time ClickBank simply asked me to confirm that the statements on my product pitch page are true and can be sustantiated if that's ever requested. That's far more sensible than their prior approach of demanding that I prove and document every claim, testimonial, and statement to them in order for the product to be approved. So they've apparently improved that aspect of the product approval process along the lines of what I suggested.

So I did what they requested and replied to confirm that the statements on my product pitch page can be substantiated and are true. Then ClickBank responded and approved my product within an hour. I was impressed. ClickBank definitely sped up and streamlined their product approval process since I complained to them about it months before. 

And they didn't give me a bullshit form product rejection message like they did before. So perhaps they've learned from my scolding about that.

But ClickBank is still misinterpreting FDA regulations. I informed that they were making that mistake months ago. And they're still making that same mistake now, apparently. They're still failing to differentiate between what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a product with medical effects (such as a drug or medical device, and which the FDA does regulate) and information products like books or videos that don't claim to have medical effects of their own and which the FDA does not regulate!

If the product were perhaps a drug or nutritional supplement that made claims about its medical effects, FDA regulations would apply. But my product I submitted for approval was simply an ebook! Apparently ClickBank still doesn't grasp the difference between the two.

Update on August 18, 2017: I submitted some new products for ClickBank's approval this week. Though ClickBank's responses to products submitted for approval is clearly much faster than it was last year, there are still serious problems with the process. 

This time around a particular ClickBank product approval rep responded within a few hours to each of my product approval requests. We quickly and easily worked through a few minor issues and questions. That ClickBank rep approved my products and a PitchPlus upsell flow the same day. So that went quickly and easily.

But then the next day I submitted another product for ClickBank's approval. It was the same product that had just been approved, only at a slightly lower price. I used the same pitch page, only with the different payment link for that new product. I connected it to the same PitchPlus upsell flow that had been approved by ClickBank. So the approval of this new product should have been quick and easy. But it was far from quick and far from easy.

This product approval was difficult for a few reasons. The primary reason was that I had a different ClickBank rep working on this product approval. This rep was incompetent and/or unethical.

This rep refused to approve my product because they claimed that I had to put a product download link on my upsell and downsell pages. Additionally, they said I had to place that link above everything else on my upsell and downsell pages. Neither of those requirements is anywhere in ClickBank's own knowledgebase article on PitchPlus upsell flows. And the better ClickBank rep I had worked with the prior day made no mention of such a requirement. That prior rep approved my upsell flow, upsell and downsell pages, and pitch pages without any product download link having to appear anywhere on my upsell or downsell pages. 

Nevertheless, I made the unreasonable, unjustified changes that this rep demanded. So did he approve the product then? No, he did not. He then changed his demands, requiring me to change my upsell page (that had already been approved by the prior ClickBank rep) into a thank you page—and meet all of a thank you page's different requirements. I could not tell whether he was deranged, trying to make things hard for me, enjoyed violating ClickBank's own written policies, or something else. So to get the product approved, I decided to change that pitch page's payment link from a PitchPlus upsell link to a regular payment link. Then, once that jerk/fool/druggie approved my product, I just put things back to the way they should be.

So ClickBank's product approval process still sucks in some respects. It needs to be fixed in the following ways:

  1. ClickBank reps should not be contradicting each other.
  2. ClickBank reps should not be allowed to make up or enforce product approval requirements that are not stated in ClickBank's publicly accessible support/knowledgebase articles. This is just common sense. That ClickBank currently doesn't grasp this principle is ridiculous. Governments and virtually all other organizations with laws and rules grasp this principle. So why doesn't ClickBank? Why is ClickBank so clueless?
  3. There should be a succinct checklist with ClickBank's product approval requirements. (Not a long-winded article. A bona fide checklist.) This checklist should be publicly accessible and made conspicuous to ClickBank vendors. No ClickBank rep should be allowed to make up or enforce requirements that are not in that checklist. ClickBank vendors should have the prerogative to override a ClickBank rep's product rejection if the rejection is not in accordance with the checklist. 
  4. ClickBank should link each vendor's product rejection override to the specific ClickBank rep whose product rejection was overriden. That way, ClickBank can identify reps who are making up bullshit and failing to comply with ClickBank's checklist.
  5. ClickBank should have a clear process for vendors to provide feedback to ClickBank about that checklist.
  6. Way back in March one of my suggestions for improving ClickBank's product approval and customer service processes was that, "there should also be a supplementary customer service feedback flow for us to anonymously rank ClickBank personnel's each and every communication so that ClickBank can see which personnel are serving us well (and thereby keeping ClickBank in business) and which personnel are not serving us well (and thereby ruining ClickBank)." Clearly, ClickBank has disregarded this suggestion. Other companies understand how critical it is to get customers' feedback on each individual customer service rep's behavior and performance. They consistently solicit such feedback after every interaction with their customers. But ClickBank doesn't do anything like that in their product approval process. ClickBank's policy still seems to be to remain oblivious to such matters. Thus, they continue to employ a mix of competent, helpful product approval reps and incompetent, brazenly unethical ones that should have been fired long ago. So I reiterate my suggestion that ClickBank needs to solicit such feedback on their product approval reps.

Again, if you're not yet familiar with JVZoo but would like to use it to launch your products, there's my complete instructional video series on that. Click here to learn more about it and get it for cheap on this site.

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