Getting your affiliate program off the ground isn’t always easy, especially if you aren’t promoting a brand that everyone knows. Here are a few easy steps to help get things going.
1. What are you offering?
The first thing you need to decide is what you’re going to offer affiliates to encourage them to join and continue to promote your program.
Don’t rush this. You need to ensure your offering is cost-effective for you but is also significant enough to get affiliates to promote it. After all, if the offering isn’t going to give enough back to the affiliate then they won’t bother.
Don’t forget, any commission you offer will be subject to an override (generally 30%) to the ‘network’. An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and (merchant) affiliate programs. It allows publishers to find affiliate programs, which are suitable for their website and it helps websites offering affiliate programs reach their target audience.
2. Lay down the law
Set your program’s terms and conditions, particularly in relation to pay per click (PPC), and be sure to make them as watertight as possible. Loopholes WILL be discovered and taken advantage of!
For example, if you’re already running a successful PPC campaign, you don’t want affiliates claiming commission on sales that you would have already made. This won’t add any value to your online marketing. Don’t be afraid to specify exactly what affiliates are allowed to bid on and what they’re not.
But if you’re not running a PPC campaign, why not let the affiliates take it? It won’t cost you a penny unless they make you money, and generally PPC affiliates are great at what they do, so everyone’s a winner!
3. All aboard
Next you’ll need to find your affiliates. Let’s face it, there’s no program without them. (It’s very important to remember that, as we’ll see later on.)
Write a page of information on the program. Not too long; a bit about your company and what you do, and more importantly what the affiliates have to do to earn their commission and how much they can expect to earn.
The network will (in most cases) ask you to do this anyway. Once its done, ask the network to show it, persuade them to put it in their newsletter to affiliates. And create a page on your website for this information, and place a link to allow people to join directly from your site.
Now for your most deadly weapon as an affiliate marketer: The Affiliates4U forum. A4U is the biggest gathering of affiliates and merchants on the web. Most (if not all) your affiliates will be registered members. So make sure you post all of your communications there as well.
If you’re still not getting enough affiliates, why not try an incentive? Again don’t rush, think about your offering. Giveaways work well, but you want to make sure you get a return. Perhaps offer an incentive on an affiliate’s first sale, rather than just from signing up to your program.
4. Attracting attention
You need to give your affiliates the creative they will use to advertise your site. The network will have restraints in place on file size; they will also suggest a list of banner sizes. Make sure you offer ALL of the banner sizes the network suggests, and if you have the resources make a couple of banner sets in different styles.
You want to make it as easy as possible for affiliates to get your banners and put them on their site, not offering the right sizes will just get on everyone’s nerves!
5. What do affiliates want?
Money! At the risk of making affiliates sound shallow, they want money. The easier it is to make money on your program, the quicker your program will take off!
Incentives are a great way to not only increase the sales that affiliates are already generating, but will also persuade other affiliates to start working with your program as well.
Get your thinking cap on and be creative. Cash prizes work very well, but don’t underestimate the power of consumer electronics for cheap and desirable prizes!
Avoid rewards based on “most sales from an affiliate” as this will almost certainly be the same person every month.
A general rule of thumb: 80% of sales are made by 10% of affiliates.
6. What about the consumer?
As stated earlier, you want to make it as easy as possible for affiliates to make sales on your website. So give consumers something that will encourage them to buy through an affiliate.
7. Special offers and discounts
Discount codes work well. People love getting something for nothing so offering a free X when you buy Y will work very well.
Special offers are good as well. Try giving sales from affiliates a discount or something similar, again BE CREATIVE! There’s no limit (other than the law) to what you can do…
8. Keep a watchful eye on sales!
Bear in mind orders get cancelled. For whatever reasons, some orders get returned and some credit cards get declined, but you don’t want to pay out commission to affiliates when you haven’t got the revenue for the sale.
Take a look through the sales once a week and cancel any commission that hasn’t produced revenue for you.
Unfortunately, as in most industries, there are some unpleasant characters out there. This is the main reason to check your sales. If an order looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
9. Be harsh but fair
If you’re not happy with an affiliate, or the way they are producing sales then don’t be afraid to approach them and ask them to stop what they’re doing. The network should also support you and if the affiliate doesn’t stop what they’re doing, suspend them from the program until they change their ways.
Don’t let the network call the shots. As the merchant, it’s your program; without you, there’d be no program. The networks want to make money too, and I have known them (on very rare occasions) to take the affiliates side on breaches in program terms purely because if these sales get cancelled they’ll lose their commission too!
10. One last nugget of information
So that basically wraps up my guide, but there’s one last point: Communicate.
Communication with affiliates is key, even if it’s just to let them know about a new product on your site, or an update on the month’s competition. Make them feel loved, and they will work harder to make you the sales.