Why Affiliate Marketing Is the Best Way to Start an Online Business

If you’ve educated yourself enough with the information available to us via the internet, then you should have realized by now that your pursuit of a career in the corporate ladder is futile at best. Basically, the idea is to start as an intern, then a regular employee, then move up to a supervisory and/or managerial position and finally up to the executive levels of the corporate business that you’re in. Personally, I have nothing against this kind of aspiration as I too once dreamt of such things myself; however, the toll it takes to get to EXACTLY where you want to be could at least take 30 years; 20 if you’re exceptionally good at it.

The problem is we all can’t be exceptional and aside from the fierce competition in play, you’ll also have to face the insurmountable amount of bureaucracy, racism, favoritism, gender inequalities and other negative things in order to literally move up the ladder. The trade-off is not an ideal payoff even from an optimistically assessed standpoint. Therefore I would advocate that you start your own business and the cheapest way to do it is by building an affiliate marketing blog or website.

Defining Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is an easy income-generating business method where you take the role of the promoter and help the manufacturers and sellers connect with the end consumers. It should be clear that whether you take a passive or active role in this business, you are by no means the originator or creator of the products/services you promote. But you will get a small portion of the sales as compensation nevertheless. It’s basically a 3-way relationship between you, the seller and the customer.

What Affiliate Marketing is NOT

If you get an unsolicited email inviting you to join an affiliate network and it’s asking for an upfront payment, then you definitely have to scrutinize them and find out whether or not they’re scam or legit. Go to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and find out about the company, if you can’t find any, then go to affiliate marketing forums and discussion boards. They would know a lot about these scam sites as news spreads fast in social media and forums. Another thing to look for is if these people are selling you unrelated products or something that you will never be able to use, like the $350 “Secrets to Affiliate Marketing Success” book or some other catchy titles; although a few are genuine but they don’t charge you that high.

The truth is you can learn basic affiliate marketing from top ranking websites and blogs. In fact, they can teach you more useful information than all those specialized books and DVDs that other people are selling. Becoming an affiliate is free when you sign up to affiliate marketing programs and the only thing that will really cost you money is web hosting, which is around $70 – $100 a year for your affiliate marketing blog. A few other expenses may include a unique website/blog logo (optional), your electric bill; hire a blog writer (optional because you can write the blogs yourself) and probably paid advertising to promote your website or blog (optional).

Types of Affiliate Marketing

What’s interesting about affiliate marketing is that you can earn commissions in more ways than most people think. Allow me to explain the 3 different types of affiliate marketing and how you can earn through them.

1. Unattached Affiliate Marketing – This type of affiliate marketing will not require too much work from you, you don’t even have to setup an affiliate marketing blog like those for Amazon Affiliate Programs. This is more like a PPC marketing (pay-per-click) where you just show affiliate ads on sites that allow this kind of marketing and then get a commission for each click through that web users make on the ads.

2. Related Affiliate Marketing – This type of marketing is where you are required to have some level of involvement and this is where you create an affiliate marketing blog or website and always show affiliate links on almost all of your website/blog pages. You also earn a commission for each time a web user clicks through the affiliate links.

3. Involved Affiliate Marketing – This kind of marketing may require you to actually use the products/services before you write a review about them and you should be able to write a more comprehensive and honest reviews.

You can choose from these 3 types of affiliate marketing methods, but most affiliate marketing programs uses the Type 2 affiliate marketing, which has some level of involvement and online presence from your end.

Putting the Cogs and Wheels Together

Now that you have an idea of what affiliate marketing is all about and what its common pitfalls are, you are ready to start your journey to financial freedom and a wealthy lifestyle! Affiliate marketing is just like any other type of business and you’ll have to plan a strategy months or even years ahead before you begin, so I will give you the basic strategy of how to become an affiliate marketer, signing up for affiliate programs, setting up your affiliate marketing blog and all the other important details about it.

Steps to become an affiliate marketer:

1. Decide what niche topic you want to use for your blog or website. It’s better to write reviews or general information about products/services that you’re passionate about, because you will write better articles for them compared to those that you don’t like. For instance, if you’re mad about crochet or kids bicycles, then that is the niche you should pick for your blog! Affiliate programs have a huge inventory of items for sale and they do include crochets and bicycles for a fact. If you’re more of the business-minded individual and you think you can write just about on anything, then by all means pick the niche that’s most profitable among the lot.

2. Create your website and purchase a cheap but reliable web hosting. You don’t need a web designer to build a website or a blog. You can use WordPress, Weebly, Web.com, Blogger, eHost and others to do that. Using their user-friendly “click & drag” features you can create your blog/website in 5 – 10 minutes!

3. Learn basic SEO and use it on your blog or website. Search engine optimization or SEO is a very good marketing strategy to allow your website to be known throughout the entire internet or at least the majority of it. If your website is easier to find in search engines, then it is more convenient for people to visit it, and more visitors means more money for you.

4. Learn social media marketing to extend your presence online. In reality social media marketing or SMM is also a part of the grand scheme of SEO and without it, your SEO campaign would not be as successful as you’d expect it to be. There are literally billions of people hanging around the web on a daily basis and much of them are in social media sites. It would be a logical choice to get visitors there for your website and increase your income potential.

5. Learn about paid advertising and consider it deeply on whether you need to use it or not. Paid ads help because they target the right kind of people who are already looking for products that you promote. Meaning there is a good chance that they will buy. Wouldn’t you want them to buy products through your affiliate links? I would!

6. Start filling up your website with content. In case you plan to write boring and unimpressive blogs and articles, then I’d advise you to no longer continue in your pursuit of creating an affiliate marketing blog, because I promise you people will not want to read your blogs or visit your site. Write articles that will impress you first. This will let you know whether or not people will want to read about what you have to say. If you can find an extremely critical person to judge your writing, then that would be better as it will help you greatly improve on your writing style. Reader engagement is absolute in affiliate marketing. It will determine your income capacity, so do your best in writing content for your site above all else.

How you earn in affiliate marketing:

• The manufacturer/seller signs a partnership deal with the affiliate network or program and in turn, when you sign up with the affiliate network as an affiliate, the partner affiliate network will give you a small percentage share on every item you helped sold.

• You’ll need to embed or display affiliate links on your website or affiliate marketing blog about the products you’re promoting. The purpose of these links is to guide your blog readers to the seller’s webpage (which is usually in the affiliate network’s site) so that they can make purchases of the items they like.

• The percentage commission on each sale range from 1% – 10% (some give more than 10% but rarely) and this is how you generate income. For example, a web user happens by your blog about coffee machines and he/she read your blog review or informative article. The reader was impressed by your blog and decided to click on the affiliate link, then make a purchase of 1 coffee machine worth $350. If the affiliate network allowed 7% of that amount to be your commission, therefore your income for that sale alone will be $24.50.

• You may notice that $24.50 is a small amount and not enough to convince you to become an affiliate; however, if you were able to bring 10,000 visitors to your blog in the span of 30 days and about 4,382 people bought coffee machines for themselves, then your income for that particular month should be $107,359! If you’re able to bring as much visitors to your website on a regular basis, then you can bet that your monthly income should be around these numbers. Now you can appreciate the value that SEO and SMM can do for your affiliate marketing business.

How Much can you Make?

The straight answer to this question is… there is NO LIMIT to how much you can earn. The website called Pickmyshaver.com around October or November 2013 and then 8 months later its regular monthly income became $8,446! If it had continued as is it would earn over $50,000 a month by now, except that it was purchased in Flippa by an anonymous buyer for $60,100 around June 2014. That’s just 1 website and I’m pretty sure on your best day you can manage 2 – 3 sites for affiliate marketing.

At this point I will let you use your imagination as to how much you can earn; or is it how hard you desire to earn. It’s entirely up to you. I am confident that this article should help you get started in creating your own affiliate marketing blog and earn not just money, but your freedom from the everyday worries of life. Once you start earning over $8,000 a month, then you can buy more time to spend it with the people that matters to you most – your family. I wish you all the best and don’t forget to drop a comment below and tell me how affiliate marketing has changed your life like it has changed mine.

Affiliate Marketing Tips For the Advertiser

Many businesses miss out on the true benefits of affiliate marketing. As an advertiser (the business looking to obtain affiliates) you really need to understand the extremely delicate balance that needs to be achieved in order to hit that sweet spot of unbelievable business success.

So, What is This Sweet Spot Exactly?

First, this depends on the goal of your affiliate marketing campaign. For most companies there are 2 main targets that are zeroed in on:

1. Building Your Brand

2. Making a Ton of Profits

However, many businesses forget about old #3, Making a Ton of Profits for your Affiliates.

Hitting the sweet spot involves all three of these targets. I’ve seen a lot of companies start an affiliate program and generate a bunch of leads, and just dump their affiliates without even a care. If you do this you will miss out on a ton of money that could have been made.

You have to understand what affiliate marketing is really all about, and having been on both sides of the table (meaning I have ran affiliate programs for my business, and have also been a publisher selling affiliate products) I know exactly what needs to be achieved for both to have success.

You see, affiliate marketing is about much more than just you (the advertiser) making a great business decision to pay for only advertising that results in sales and therefore profits, it’s also about building your company brand while building strategic partnerships with individuals who can literally make your business explode.

It’s fine and dandy to use affiliate programs to have individuals throw up a few banner ads to make some extra money and generate leads for your business, but that’s what most companies do, so why stop there? You don’t want to be like everyone else, you want to be better than them. You do want to be better than them don’t you? I sure hope your answer is yes, because if not you can stop reading now. You don’t have to know these strategies if you don’t want to, but for those who do, pay extremely close attention to the rest of this article.

Your goal with your affiliate program from this point on should be to aim for the 3 targets I mentioned earlier: Building your brand, Making a ton of profits for yourself, and Making a ton of profits for your affiliates. Helping your affiliates will help you, I can guarantee that, and this will come down to how you ultimately structure your affiliate program.

So How Do You Structure an Affiliate Program?

First, it’s all about the commission. You have to give people a great incentive to advertise for you. Your goal is not just about making that quick sale (quick sales are good, but there is a lot more to this), it’s about the lifetime value of the customer and building that strong brand image with them. If you don’t know what the average lifetime value of your customer is, you’re going to have to go through your records, do some research, and probably do a little math. You at the very least want to know how much they spend, and for how long they remain an active customer.

Typically a good commission to start with for physical products is 6-8%, and once an affiliate shows good sales volume you can increase the commission amount to 12% or even 15% if it is feasible. Keep in mind at this point, whatever commission you decide on, make sure you’re still making a profit. I know that sounds like common sense to you, but later on after you’ve tested your campaign for a while you make actually find it more affordable to take a loss up front on the first sale. Don’t worry, I’m going to cover this in a little bit, so just keep reading, but first I want to cover informational / digital product affiliate commissions.

For informational / digital download affiliate programs, you want to at least offer a 50% commission. Statistics show that programs that don’t offer 50% or higher do pretty miserably. There have been a few exceptions with products I worked with that did well, but that was only because they had extremely high conversion rates. So use this as your baseline, test it, and see if you can afford to go higher. With downloadable products it’s usually not the first sale that will make your business, but it’s the backend products and the upsells that come later on. So just like with physical products, you want to know what the average lifetime value of a customer is, and from there, you can assess how much of a commission you can afford to give out.

Second, is cookie duration. This is very important to your affiliates because most sales do not occur on the first visit. Studies show customers on average come back between 4-7 times before a sale is actually made depending on the product that is being sold. I advise companies to use at least a 60 day cookie. Why 60? because everyone else uses 30, 30 days is the standard. Even though most sales do occur within that time period, you’ll attract a ton of more affiliates with a 60 day (or greater) cookie duration.

Third, besides the cookie duration, something for you to consider is the attribution of the sale. Attribution basically means deciding on who to credit the sale to. If you have a customer who goes to one affiliate, and then doesn’t buy, but a day or 2 later manages to land on a different site and then buys, who do you want to credit the sale to? Most companies prefer a last click attribute, meaning the last site to get the click that results in the sale gets the credit. This is the most common method, but there are other companies that prefer the opposite which is a first click attribute, which means even if someone bought from the second site in the above example, the site that got that first click will get the sale. Choose which rationale works for you, for me I tend to favor the last click attribute as well.

Fourth, pay your commissions on time. If you do not pay your affiliates on time they will venture somewhere else, even if it’s for a lower %. Your affiliates are working hard for you and many times are paying to send traffic to their sites for the possibility of making commissions for advertising your products, and most of the time those advertising bills come in way before they get paid, and I know because I’ve been there. Nothing would get me more ticked off than the affiliate company not paying on time, and even worse than that, some will even wait till the next paying cycle. You need to feel your affiliates pain and know what they go through. There’s nothing more agitating then spending a few hundred or thousand dollars on advertising and having to wait 2 months to get paid on it.

More Advanced Affiliate Marketing Tips For The Advertiser

So what’s the point of making sure all this happens? Why is it important to make sure your affiliates are happy? Well here’s some stuff that will really put you above the competition. I’m all about giving great content in my articles, so here’s some juicy stuff for you.

Making Outstanding Affiliate Offers

Anyone can recruit a bunch of affiliate marketers, slap up a good offer following the basics that i listed above and you’ll make a bunch of sales, but will they make your business explode overnight? Probably not. It’s where you take it from here that will depend on how much success your affiliate program will be. After you (or your affiliate manager) has started generating affiliates, contact them. Send a message to your affiliates and ask them if any of them would want to take advantage of a special offer, and how you’d love to work with them personally. You see many companies will give their affiliates coupon codes for shopping discounts like 5, 10, 15% off, or offer free shipping for people that buy through affiliate links. Now these work pretty decent from time to time, they do help people to buy through affiliates, but there is always a way to take things one step above the competition, and that’s what I’m going to teach you here.

Typical Multi-Product Website Affiliate Offers

You want to work closely with a few select individuals that responded to that email that you sent to them about working with them personally. Depending on your business structure, there are a few directions you can go from here. First I want to talk about your standard multi-product website. Let’s say you sell furniture online and really want to get your business to explode. Instead of just giving coupons to your affiliates you want to try to get your affiliates to promote different categories or even a specific product in ways that aren’t possible through your site.

Let me explain, a typical product website can only do so much. You have a product picture, a description, maybe a bit of ad copy, and a price. The only factors that you can really change to increase sales are Price, Free or Reduced Shipping, tweak the Copy, and Brand Image. This is pretty standard stuff, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but there is a whole other level that you can hit with your affiliates, but will not be able to fly on your site. Since we’re talking about furniture, let’s say you have a product that you want to work with an affiliate to sell. The product is called the Super Deluxe Bed. With your chosen affiliate there are a lot more things you can work on to get this product sold. An affiliate (with your supervision) can create copy for the product that will be able to incorporate so many other sales triggers to get it sold.

Example: Your affiliate is promoting the Super Deluxe Bed. For his customers you allow him to have an exclusive offer (or allow him to say it’s exclusive) for this bed, and that the only way they’ll get this exclusive offer is if their customers buy through him. However, that’s just the beginning. Allow your affiliate to inject some scarcity into his customers veins. Make it an “Extremely Limited” offer that’s only available for a limited time, or that you’re only allowing a certain # of these beds to be sold at this price. You can also allow your affiliate to offer a bonus to the customers that buy the Super Deluxe Bed. The bonus can either be a physical product like a “limited edition lamp”, or a Free “How to Get an Amazing Nights Sleep” Special Report. Salesmanship like this will get a ton of more products sold for you.

Exploding Your Business With Affiliate Marketing

These are things that will get your business to literally explode but something you can’t do alone. If you did this on your site for every product or category you would come off as too salesy, or too pushy. I mean think about it, if every product bought got the same special bonus it wouldn’t be special any more, or if everything is listed as “limited quantities available” you’d seem more like a business that can’t manage it’s stock rather than one that’s giving people an “exclusive limited offer”.

Really take a few minutes to picture the 2 different sales processes I just described, and put yourself in the customers shoes to feel the experience they would have in each situation. Which do you think would be more likely to make the sale: Your site listing the product with free shipping, or an affiliate site listing the product with an “exclusive limited time free shipping offer”, with a bonus (only for the next 10 orders) Free “How to Get an Amazing Nights Sleep” Special Report (a $37 value), along with some longer more compelling copy?

See you can’t do that with every product on your own site, but with the power of affiliate marketing you can drive highly targeted traffic to amazing offers like this without tarnishing your brand. It’s really just unbelievable with how doing this with multiple affiliates with several different products or categories can blow away the competition and make you and your affiliates a lot of money, and I’m just talking about visitors coming to your site via advertising, don’t even let me get started with what this process can do for you in a product or business launch or relaunch sequence. Ever want to know what it’s like to make a years worth of sales in a few days? You just try this in a launch or relaunch and the results will surely make your eyes plunge out of their sockets.

Information Product Website Affiliate Offers

For an Information / Digital Download type of site, you can use the same techniques as above. Work with your affiliates to allow them to offer something unique specifically for their customers. Either you can create it for them or let them do it with your supervision of course. The point is to make it so that your affiliate is giving them something exclusive for ordering through them. Also, just like with the physical products above, If you do a well coordinated product launch with your affiliates you can expect to make a lot of cash quickly.

Why You Need to Keep Your Affiliates For the Long Term

So why do you want your affiliates to succeed so badly? What do you need them for after the sale is made? I mean you got your money your leads, what else can they possibly be good for? Because your affiliates, if you work with them and help train them with the example techniques I mentioned in this report, they will always continue to bring you high quality leads. You always want to allow them to make available to their customers “highly exclusive” offers on a continuous basis. Don’t forget, affiliates one way or another through using their time or cold hard cash, that they are covering your advertising expenses.

Making a Profit Selling at a Loss

Remember way up at the top of this article when I mentioned sometimes you can have an affiliate program where you can actually take a loss up front on the first sale? Well I want to get into that here a bit like I promised. You see, making that first sale is what is crucial to your affiliate marketers, it’s what gets their motor going. If you can afford to take a loss up front then do it and you’ll see more affiliates then you can handle sign up for your program, but only if you have an awesome backend to sell those customers, and this is something that requires testing. If you’re not making a profit, don’t do it. Your backend, whether digital download or physical product, has to make you a nice profit. I’m not talking nickles and dimes, I mean a hefty profit. I know the bulk of this article talks about being good to your affiliates, but you’re in this to make money and they understand that. They may be taking on the bulk of your advertising expenses, but you’re here to make a profit too. If you’re going to go for a loss on the front end, you don’t give your affiliates backend commissions unless you’re making huge profits yourself, but if you structure it so that you can make some good money on the front end, there’s no problem with thanking your affiliates with a nice commission on that as well.

Building Your Brand With Affiliate Marketing

Throughout this whole affiliate program process remember your targets. You now know how to make a ton of money for yourself and your affiliates, but don’t you dare forget about that brand! You must build your companies brand in with the affiliate marketing process. Even though the link of the product will be redirecting to your site, your sites name needs to be on that page. Those customers need to know that those Super Deluxe Bed “exclusive offers” are going to Squiggly Doo’s Furniture Store before the link sends them there. It really helps the credibility of the switch from one site to the next. Take note however, that you are not endorsing any bonuses (anything separate from your sites offers) that may be offered through your affiliates, you’re just privately approving them. It’s just a matter of protecting your brand, and guarding yourself legally. If you find yourself getting complaints about the bonuses being offered, look into the matter immediately and notify the affiliate to stop offering it because your brand is your #1 long term asset.

Your brand is what will keep those customers coming back to you for repeat business and continually buying your products. Another reason why you want to keep your affiliates for the long term is because if they know the right techniques (which you’ll enlighten them with) they will build deep relationships with the people that just bought through their link. So you want to encourage your affiliates to build a list and stay in close contact with your shared customers so they can continually promote for you, and both make a lot of money. So for your benefit, reach out to your affiliates and make sure they can capture leads effectively. It’s much easier to have individual affiliates build those relationships with you’re customers as opposed to having it all on you. With you and your affiliate marketers working as a team you all will make lots of cash, and build a solid brand.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s about all I have for you now. There’s just a ton of information out there that I could write hundreds and even thousands of pages about it, but for now I’m going to have to stop here. I would like to thank you for allowing me to help you in you new affiliate marketing venture. I hope you found these tips helpful, and I’ll be looking to post some more articles soon.

How to Set Up an Affiliate Marketing Program – Small Business Guide

If you are not currently doing affiliate marketing then you are really missing a trick.

Affiliate marketing evolved from the simple concept that if another website sends you a visitor and that person becomes a customer of yours then you should say thanks to the other website by giving them a small piece of the pie.

Affiliate marketing has now become a lot more complex but the basics are still the same. You want as many sites as possible to be shouting about you to their visitors so that they come and see your wares, and then in return you pay a suitable reward to that site based on your business profitability and margins.

In this article I will go through a few of the things that a newcomer should consider when setting up an affiliate marketing programme:

1) The best commission/reward structure for your business

2) The best network/s to work with based on their affiliate base e.g. the kinds of affiliates that are with them and that they tend to attract.

3) How to get visibility on the key affiliates websites and with the affiliate network.

4) Working on new promotions and incentive schemes to motivate affiliates to promote you rather than your competitors.

Deciding on an affiliate reward structure for your business The first thing to look at is your new customer recruitment costs, e.g. If over one month you spend £5000 on marketing and you recruit 100 new customers then your new customer recruitment cost is £50. Cross reference this with your customer lifetime value(if you know it) to work out how much commission you can pay your affiliates.

A Basic explanation of how you could calculate this is as follows: The customer lifetime value will be the average top line profit that each customer brings you over their lifetime.

To calculate a customers life time value the best way maybe to take a group of customers that you recruited within a months date range and to track their spend over a few years, you will lose some of these customers, but others you will maintain so you need to have a good sample size for the calculation to be worthy.

e.g.

1000 customers recruited in June 2008.

  • Over the following 2 years they spent an accumulative 1,000,000GBP therefore you have a customer lifetime value of 1000GBP
  • BUT
  • Cost of goods sold were 700,000GBP
  • Business fixed costs were 100,000GBP
  • Variable business costs were 80,000GBP

Therefore a total profit for these 1000 customers of 120,000GBP over 2 years, and a per customer profit of 120GBP/customer.

This is obviously a very rough fag packet example but it is worth doing this exercise so that you can then determine the profitability of all of your marketing channels through looking at what their cost per new business customer acquired is and comparing it to the customer lifetime value.

Anyway, to keep from steering too wide form the point of the post… From this figure you can then determine how much you are willing to spend per customer on your affiliate marketing.

You now know that if you spend 120GBP per customer acquisition then you will break even on that customer so if you build in that you want to make 50% profit and spend 50% of the customer value then you can spend 60GBP per customer acquired.

Now, if you work out the average number of orders of those 1000 customers over the 2 years then you will know your average order size through dividing total revenue by total orders.

Say for example that the average number of orders was 4 then you will have an average order size of 250GBP.

So based on this if you can spend 60GBP per new customer order then your commission level for “new” customers can be just under 25%.

However, not all orders are from “new” customers so you could do one of 2 things:

1) Decide to average out commission across all sales by saying that every 1 in 4 customers is new therefore you can pay 6% commission overall

2) Decide to have a higher level of commission on new business orders and a lower level on other orders e.g. 10% and 5% respectively (although you will need to have the backend website functionality available to track different customer segments).

As well as the cost to the end affiliate you will need to figure in a network cost. As a basic guide this is about 25-35% of the commission paid to the affiliates. Therefore if you pay affiliates £1000/month then you will also need to pay your network a fee of around £300/month so this needs to be factored in when determining commission levels.

Always set your commission levels slightly lower than you can afford so that you have the option of increasing commissions for seasonal promotions and for giving high performing affiliates added incentives etc.

What is the best affiliate network for me? The amount that the affiliate networks are willing to disclose to you will depend on your skills as a negotiator and also the potential size of your business for the affiliate networks.

Approach all of the big networks – Tradedoubler, Buyat, Linkshare, Commission Junction, Affiliate Future and Clickbank, explain that you are going to be setting up an affiliate marketing program and that you want as much information as possible on why you should go with them.

Ask them:

  • How many affiliates drove a sale for them last month?
  • So that you can compare their size and reach with others
  • How many affiliates are promoting merchants in your industry?
  • So that you can see their reach in your vertical
  • How much revenue did they drive for your entire industry last month?
  • To judge the level of bottom line success in your vertical. You should also look (if possible) at the % breakdown of the revenue by affiliate e.g. what % of revenue is made up by the top 5 affiliates? Is there a lot of long tail/small affiliate opportunity?
  • How many new affiliates did they recruit last month?
  • To judge how actively they are growing and how proactive they are.
  • How many new merchants did they recruit last month?
  • Ditto, are they an arrogant and lazy network?
  • How many merchants from your industry are with them? (good to go with the bulk as there will be a good affiiate base ready to promote you if they are already promoting your competitors).
  • Who are the biggest 5 affiliates working with them?
  • Who are the biggest 5 affiliates with them for your industry?
  • How much commission will they charge on sales?
  • Can they run multiple commission rates?
  • Can they do lead generation on a fee per lead basis?
  • What does their management fee include? How much support and help can you expect from them with affiliate recruitment/reporting/problem shooting/industry updates?
  • What technology do they offer that is unique to them?

If you can get a fair bit of detail on all of these questions then you should be in a good position to approach the negotiating stage and play them off against each other. Obviously the amount of leverage you have and how far you can go will largely depend on the size of your business and what kind of revenue you will bring the affiliate networks. Make the networks excited about your marketing and growth plans. Explain your past performance and what your plans are for the next year – if they see you as an expanding and growing brand then they will stretch further to meet your needs.

By the time you have got to this stage you will have your preferences, go with the data, the best deal and your gut feel. If you like and get on with the people on a genuine level and trust that they will take your business seriously and will spend time promoting you then go with them, but only if the commercials and their business proposition stack up too. Getting visibility with the key affiliates for your market Once you have your account set up and you are ready to go the first thing to do is to put together a target list of affiliates that you want promoting you. Rank the affiliates on the list by potential and then work with the networks on getting the best real estate possible on the affiliates sites.

Get the affiliate network to give you a list of every affiliate who has driven a sale for any competitor of yours (that is in their network) within the past 6 months. Ask the affiliate network to rank the affiliates in order of revenue driven (obviously without the sensitive data) if they mess up and give you the sensitive data (unlikely) then all the better. Put together a promotional plan for the first 3 months and make sure that your offers blow the competition out of the water. Affiliates are businesses in their own right so are just interested in promoting the merchant who can earn them the most cash, so if you give them a better % commission and your conversion rate is as good as your competitors or better then you will quickly win them over. Check out the top affiliates EPC (earnings per click). You then need to work out how you can give them the opportunity to earn over this with you – basically calculate: (site conversion rate x (commission rate per sale X Average order size).

Ensure that the affiliate network have agreed to give you featured merchant status for the first month and that you are featured all over their website/blog/twitter/facebook etc and emails.

Email all of the other affiliates straight away introducing yourself as their support at your company, explain your proposition, affiliate program terms (commission rate etc) and explain that you have an unbeatable offer for the first month that is going to have sky high conversion rates.

Save some fat in the promotional spend plan for the top affiliates so that you can offer them something special for a great location on their site.

Once you have the top 10 on board and are recruiting the long tail through the email then get on the phone and work your way down the list getting more and more affiliates on board, there will be many that you cannot get hold of and/or who do not reply; do not be disheartened as this is normal, affiliates are busy people. Just try to think of good ways to grab their attention and leverage all contacts at the network to aid you in getting in contact with the affiliates.

Keep in close contact with the network – let them know that you will make them work for their commission, be thankful and complimentary when they are good but beware of them being more lazy after the initial flurry – you need to hold the pace for at least the first 3 months and then it should start to get easier as you have some secure relationships that do not need too much maintenance. This applies to both affiliates and the networks.

New affiliate promotions to get the affiliates promoting you instead of your competitors This is obviously a tricky one with no clear right/wrong way. There are a few rules that I would stick to though:

Keep things fairly simple – as mentioned above affiliates are busy so if you come up with a highly complex (however fun) promotional idea they may just switch off before you sell it in to them.
Keep things fresh – do not just dole out the same old promos every month to the affiliates, there will be no real incentive for them to keep promoting you and trying new things for you if they already know how it will perform on their site.

If possible base your promotions for the top affiliates around their site and what works well for them e.g. if you sell T-shirts and cushions and one site is flying on the cushions then give them special offers around cushions.

Use the data you have after each promo – see what works for who and try to understand their site use profile so that you can meet their needs.
Show your face at affiliate events, make friends in the industry, do people favours and just generally enjoy yourself as if people see you being fun and positive socially then it will impact the business relationship you have with them.

If anyone has anything that they think could be added to this post then just let me know and I will add it in. All the best with your affiliate marketing!