The idea behind affiliate marketing is simple.
The concept is basic “pay for performance.” You recruit other Internet marketers to help you sell your website’s products or services in return for a portion of the gross.
When an affiliate enrolls in your program, you give her an affiliate identification (name or number) that she uses in the links and banners for your site that appear on her website. When visitors to her site click through to your site and make a purchase or join, you pay her a commission for bringing you the new member.
Your subscription website content management program may have an affiliate management program built into it. Alternatively, you can use another for affiliate tracking, reporting and recruiting. Some programs even cut and mail affiliate checks for you.
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An effective affiliate marketing program depends on establishing trust. Create a mutually beneficial (win-win) relationship with other marketers, and you can harness their influence to turn many of their customers into your customers.
Guidelines for Setting Up An Affiliate Marketing Program
Be discriminating. Not everyone who wants to sell your membership website is an appropriate joint venture partner.
Find partners compatible with your niche. Those with lots of existing traffic are the most desirable. If your site is about collecting antique model cars, you might find that the publisher of a site about collecting antique model trains is a good match. Or a site about how to buy and sell at auctions.
Initiate the relationship. You don’t have to wait for someone to find your site and its affiliate program. Go out in search of website publishers whose products you admire. Contact them directly and ask them to promote your site or other information products in return for a healthy percentage of the gross.
Offer a generous commission, especially for information products that carry high profit margins. Consider rewarding your best performers with additional perks such as complimentary membership to your site or admission to your seminars or tele-seminars.
Consider a two-tier program. While these are more difficult to manage, and they resemble multi-level marketing pyramids, many experienced affiliate marketers insist that two-tier programs are a key element in their success. Two-tier affiliate marketing programs require you to pay additional commissions to your “down line.” And while all this accounting and paying off may not be consistent with your comfort level—it’s not something I want to do—you can be certain that many other marketers are entirely comfortable with these complex arrangements and are thriving with them.
Write compelling copy. In the final analysis, all online marketers are in the direct marketing business. And all direct marketing is fundamentally driven by powerful copywriting.
If you haven’t learned the skills of the successful professional copywriter—or can’t be bothered—expect to pay handsomely for others to handle these chores for you. Providing your affiliates with tested, proven, compelling copy will increase sales and make your affiliate program more attractive to potential joint venture partners.
Provide fool-proof affiliate text links. If you can make your affiliate program an easy-to-use, turnkey operation, you’ll garner more affiliates. Make several text links available to each new affiliate and make certain that each has a unique affiliate identifier. Test all links!
Provide attractive affiliate banner ads in a variety of sizes. If you have minimal skills with Adobe Photoshop, you can create simple graphics for your affiliates to use on their sites. Again, this saves them time and makes your program look more professional and easy to use. If you’re not skilled in creating simple graphics and buttons, contract the job out to someone else.
Keep good records. Provide online tracking. The more you automate these functions, the better for you and your affiliates. Some membership website content management systems, such as MemberGate and MemberScript, have this capability built-in.
Get a PayPal account. A remarkable number of your affiliates will prefer to be paid via PayPal. So be sure to accommodate them. It’s easy and painless, and it eliminates the headaches associated with sending checks overseas and converting currencies.
Communicate regularly. Affiliates are more likely to stay active in your program if they hear from you often. Send out a monthly email with news about your latest products or other offerings.
Pay off fully and promptly. Do we really need to repeat this? We do! I am a member of numerous affiliate programs that have never sent me a check. They are either 1) bogus, 2) careless or 3) have set unrealistic minimum thresholds before paying off.
If you don’t pay off monthly, even for minimum commissions, don’t expect your affiliates to maintain any enthusiasm for your program.