Imagine having an army of sales reps, many of whom have highly trafficked websites that pull in the same type of visitors that you are trying to bring to your ecommerce site. Some may even have opt-in lists of highly engaged subscribers. Imagine only having to pay them after they make a sale. That is, their payment is performance based.
What we are describing here are a few of the many benefits of having your own affiliate program. It’s a way of profiting from the SEO and social media traffic of websites that don’t have online stores. You are in a sense, co-opting their inbound marketing efforts into yours. This extends your reach several-fold.
Many of these affiliates are highly skilled at traffic generation and understand their market. They may have large and engaged readerships. Why would these people send leads to you for a commission when they could (and possibly should) set up their own business? Because running a business has risks, obligations, and other aspects that they prefer not to deal with. It’s appealing to simply make an affiliate sale without the difficulties of customer service for example.
Some experts at traffic generation and marketing are inclined to monetize their traffic, and affiliate offers are one of the ways of doing this. Sometimes they might sell their own products, but use affiliate offers of non-competing products to supplement their income.
Affiliate Marketing Defined
With an affiliate program, you pay your affiliate a commission whenever the traffic they send your way performs some desired action such as filling out a contact form, viewing an offer, or making a purchase. Paying a commission only after a sale is made involves no risk on your part. This is why sales based commissions are common for many affiliate program owners.
When to Set up an Affiliate Program
Affiliate programs work best for e-commerce business owners who already know that their market and products are viable. You should have already optimized your website and its landing pages for conversion. The reason is that the experienced affiliates who will make a difference to your business bottom line have a lot of marketing and conversion savvy of their own. They will go over your site from the point of view of its conversion. If they see serious deficiencies, they will join your competitor’s affiliate program instead. Some affiliates will evaluate your conversion by giving your program a test run and then go from there. You should also have your affiliate resource pages fully set up.
Tips for Setting up an Affiliate Program
Affiliates prefer programs that provide resources for them to use such as banner creatives, promotional videos, product images, and newsletter templates. You should also do your best to sell your program to affiliates with compelling copy about why they should join your program. If this seems like a lot of work, it is. However, an affiliate program that is treated as an afterthought is a waste of time because it will fail. Some of the businesses that have mastered this process, generate nearly all of their business from affiliate sales.
You can set up your own in-house program on your website, complete with tracking software that tells you which affiliate is responsible for which sale. Each affiliate should have access to their own sales history such as when a sale occurred and from which page of their website the referral came. A number of commercial affiliate tracking scripts are available. Make sure to include a link on your home page that points to your affiliate resource area.
An alternative to setting up your own tracking software is joining an affiliate network. Affiliate networks are third-party intermediaries that bring affiliates and the businesses that need them together. They will track your affiliates for you and will take care of paying them as well. You will also have a better chance of being found by affiliates. Affiliate networks will charge a fee for their services in the form of a percentage of the sale and/or as a flat fee. They do make things easier for the business that is new to affiliate programs.
Your commission rate must be competitive in order to attract the best affiliates. Of course, it must factor in your business expenses and profit as well. If your numbers won’t support a competitive commission rate, you may have to adjust your prices accordingly.
How to Find Affiliates
Affiliates often look for programs by doing a search for a product keyword followed by the phrase “affiliate program.” Make sure that your affiliate area is on-page optimized for search engine traffic looking for affiliate programs. You can also recruit affiliates by visiting Internet marketing forums and announcing your program.
Look for popular blogs and websites that attract visitors who would have an interest in your products. Contact the owners and let them know of your affiliate program. As mentioned before, joining an affiliate network will also bring affiliates to you.
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