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Sales & Marketing

Affiliate Marketing: A Powerful Tool to Promote Your Company

5 Mar, 2013 By: Craig Stimmel, SPIA, Inc.

How would you like to be able to put your company’s ad and a dedicated link on thousands of websites directing people to your own company website, whether or not you have an ordering platform behind it or not?  Well, you can–if you decide to start using Affiliate Marketing to build your product or service business.

What is Affiliate Marketing? 

Affiliate marketing is a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought to your website...sometimes based on whether they “buy” or “signup,” or make a request. 

There are two ways to approach affiliate marketing: You can offer an affiliate program to others or you can sign up to be another business's affiliate. As the business driving an affiliate program, you'll pay your affiliates a commission fee for every lead or sale they drive to your website. Your main goal should be to find affiliates who'll reach untapped markets. For example, a company with an e-zine may make a good affiliate because its subscribers are hungry for resources. So introducing your offer through a "trusted" company can grab the attention of prospects you might not have otherwise reached.

A large percentage of companies who use affiliate marketing elect to use an affiliate marketing service.  These service providers offer up to 250,000 websites covering just about every industry and service category.  Thus, a local company seeking to develop their own affiliate program would:

1. Identify what types of business websites might offer your company access to a customer base that buys similar products/services to their own. 
2. Choose from among a large universe of affiliate marketing companies to determine which one is right for your company.
3. Working with the affiliate marketing company, develop a marketing plan that will achieve your goals.
a. This will also include making sure that your company’s website has a tie-in with visitors that are brought to it by your marketing company’s affiliate’s website
b. Collectively establish your test parameters (#/affiliate websites).  We recommend you make sure the list is large enough to generating meaningful results.
c. And, as would be logical, you exclude your competitors – direct or indirect.
4. Launch and carefully monitor and measure the results. 

Some leading affiliate marketing companies include:
• CommissionJunction
• LinkShare
• ShareASale
• GoogleAffiliateNetwork
• CommissionSoup
• ClickBank, etc.

As is the case with just about any type of marketing, you must “test” your programs effectiveness against your goals.  Affiliate marketing allows great flexibility.  Change is easy and quick.  So if a particular group of affiliates doesn’t work for you, change it to another mix of affiliates that offer potential.  And test/measure again and again until you get it right.

You can benefit from affiliate marketing in one of two ways:
• As a marketing tool to drive business to your website, order platform or information site.
a. It's all about extra revenue. Think about your customers' needs: What other products or services would interest your site visitors? Join those affiliate programs. Affiliate programs can increase your sales with no upfront cost to you. It just takes a little time to plan your strategy and select the partners that will have the greatest impact on your business.
• As an additional source for revenue (commissions) on behalf of affiliate companies who seek access to website visitors to your site.

You should also make sure you aren't competing with your own affiliates for eyeballs. Any marketing channels you're using, such as search engines, content sites or e-mail lists, should be off limits to your affiliates. Put marketing restrictions into your affiliate agreement and notify affiliate marketing partners immediately. It's your program--you set the rules. Or, if you prefer, you can let your affiliate marketing company run your program.

Once you've protected your prospecting pool, maximize your affiliate program by working with the best and leaving the rest. As the old 80/20 adage implies, most of your revenue will come from a very small percentage of your affiliates. Because it can be time-consuming to manage a larger affiliate network, consider selecting only a few companies initially, and interview them before signing them on. Affiliates are an extension of your sales force and represent your online brand, so choose partners carefully.

Ok, you're thinking that this sounds pretty good so far, but how do the affiliate marketing companies–or direct affiliates know that the referral came from me?  It would be an enormous task to manually track the source of referrals and I'm sure that it would contain some mistakes making it impossible for affiliates to collect all that is due to them. Most internet affiliate companies assign an customer/affiliate ID. This ID is included in the link that you use to refer your customer to the vendor's site. The affiliate program has a tracking system that shows that you made the referral and calculates your commission instantly.

Things to consider when signing up as an affiliate:

1)  Affiliate programs generally pay when a sale is made. Some, however, only require a lead to be generated.
2)  Usually, the commission is based on a percentage of the sale; however, some affiliate programs pay a fixed $ amount rather than a percentage.
3) Some affiliate programs provide commissions of the life-long purchases that come from a customer that you referred, while others don't.

When researching affiliate programs and comparing their terms, choose the programs that are likely to be most profitable. It is also wise to choose products or services that you have purchased and are intimately familiar with. When you do this, your promotion is perceived by your potential customer as more of a testimonial as opposed to an over-hyped sales pitch.

When promoting products and services, you are much more than simply an advertiser. You are a salesperson. You understand marketing and brand promotion. You will be successful if you write about your product or service on your website, in your newsletter, on your blog, etc. Your passion will shine through and your potential customer will recognize it. You need to be better than the typical affiliate who simply posts a basic link or banner.

If you have more questions on how to make your affiliate marketing program more successful, contact SPIA, Craig Stimmel at cstimmel@spiainc.com

About the Author: Craig Stimmel

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