7 - SETTING UP AN AFFILIATE PROGRAM (Part 3 of 3):
You did start with PART
ONE, I hope?...
AVOID THESE MISTAKES IN SETTING UP YOUR PROGRAM!: This
list of typical affiliate program problems (from the point of view of the affiliate) is taken from Allan Gardyne's excellent newsletter from AssociatePrograms.com (sign up and refer to archived issues at http://www.associateprograms.com/search/newsletter
.shtml - it's not just for affiliates):
--Specific information missing from the contract
--Inconsistent information (webpages differing from contract)
--Referral tracking system not explained (method, length of time)
--Typos! - if you don't have it all proofread, you look sloppy
--No obvious link to the affiliate program page (if you intended one, that is)
--No FAQ for affiliates
--No name and physical address of the company revealed
--No privacy statement assuring affiliates that their names/addresses won't be revealed
--Website not easily navigable
--Graphics on website not optimized (i.e., it loads too slowly)
--No ALT tags defined (so graphics links can be "read" if page loads slowly or people are surfing with graphics turned off)
--Banner sizes not stated in bytes; small buttons not offered (for people who are minimizing their site's graphics load)
--Use of HTML coding that's not viewable by all browsers (HTML 3.2 is universally acceptable)
--Affiliates not kept informed of important changes (e.g., of changed webhosts)
To this, I would add...
--No aggressive anti-spam policy (your company's reputation is at stake!)
--No (simple) text links provided
set up for U.S. only (must choose a state, a 5-digit "zip code", a tax ID, etc.) even though program accepts people from other countries
--Excessively long payment periods or large minimum payment levels
--Reducing commissions/increasing minimum payment levels after the program has been advanced by the efforts of the early affiliates
...Which leads us nicely into this advice, posted in the same ezine in March 2000 by an experienced affiliate, touching on the biggest mistake of all...
with respect. Webmasters and ezine writers talk among each other frequently. One bad experience will be broadcast through a large network of individuals." Affiliates know they are company assets... yet many affiliate companies treat affiliates merely as a resource to be used.
a strategic partnership with your affiliates will quickly reward both of you. The more you can help your affiliates achieve their best success, the greater your own success will be.
GUIDES TO SETTING UP AN AFFILIATE PROGRAM:
Much of the work involved in preparing to set up, and setting up, an affiliate program stems from your own lack of knowledge. With this primer you've started to improve on that situation. To go forth even more confidently into the fray, you may wish to avail yourself of some more advanced help.
If you only choose one source for that help, I'd recommend Neil Durrant's free e-book, Creating
and Managing a Profitable Affiliate Program. Neil has interacted with many affiliate program managers, both expert and floundering, over many years. His book covers all the questions that may crop up in your decision-making along the way...
Some highlights: Does size really matter? Choosing the right model for your business. Affiliate payment options. Tracking solutions. Identifying all your niches. Creating banners. Offering free reports via auto-responder (as Neil does below). Interactive content and personalization technology. How to get the edge on your competitors even without beating their commissions. Recruiting and activating affiliates. Cross-promotions. Generating free publicity. Creating a "fast-start" training guide for your affiliates. How to best test your marketing. Recruiting a Program Manager. Worksheets. ...And a case study on planning and implementing a program.
There's another (more recent) book that will be of interest to you: A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing: Quick Reference for Affiliate Managers & Merchants, by experienced industry commentator and advocate Evgenii ("Geno") Prussakov. I would suggest checking out the glowing testimonials on Amazon, from new as well as experienced affiliate programs managers and merchants who found great help and ideas in this handy book. (You might also wish to look into Geno's bio and blogs, accessible via the Amazon page as well - a very interesting, stand-up guy.)
YOURSELF BY HELPING YOUR AFFILIATES:
Just as affiliates can further their own interests by helping their sub-affiliates to succeed, you can do much to magnify your own success by helping your affiliates to produce great websites (or other marketing efforts). You might review "HELP YOUR SUB-AFFILIATES FOR GREATER PROFIT" in the primer section "How
Get the Most Out of Your Affiliate Programs" for ideas that you could also pursue.
First, establish a useful means of communicating with your affiliate partners...
If you don't have a "hands-on" type of affiliate program, create a way to discover them. I'm thinking of the popularity, for digital authors (of e-books, private sites, software, etc.), of using ClickBank...
does the affiliate program handling, and in which case you might not ever find out who your intended affiliates are until they make a sale.
An excellent way to "gather in" your ClickBank affiliates is to use a script called EasyClickMate...
your webhost allows you to access your CGI bin (most do). The script is pretty inexpensive (and one-time cost, with free upgrades); and if you don't want to fiddle around with the script, you can opt for a small setup fee to have it done for you. For your affiliates' sake, it gives them a URL that isn't obviously an affiliate link (especially important if they don't get the link directly from ClickBank's site, where it's "masked") - and for your sake, the link goes to your website (which is good for your search engine ranking). It also allows you to collect a list of the people who you can now regard as "your" affiliates. It even sends a confirmation email with promotional tools to the affiliate. It
collects your affiliates' locations, if you wish - which can come in handy for pinpointing affiliates who might help you with marketing specifically in other countries. Other sophisticated features allow you to manage multiple products on multiple websites with one ClickBank account - and to give your affiliates links to those specific pages within your site/s.
And if you don't have access to your CGI bin? Perhaps at least you can set up a webform to collect your affiliate's name, email address, and ClickBank ID. (If you don't have the means or desire to do this yourself, FreedBack.com provides an easy way to set up a webform and send the data to you via email.)
Once you know who your affiliates are, what do you want to say to them? Here is an article that gives some excellent ideas on that: How
Develop a Communications Strategy for Your Affiliates, by Jason Ciment.
You can help your affiliates (and your bottom line) measurably by giving them the benefit of your in-house experience...
Let them know which banners and text links work best (and in what context, especially). If you have some super-affiliates who are doing extremely well for you, showcase them in a newsletter to the others... Not only do they deserve the attention, but the others can learn a great deal from seeing what is working on someone else's site.
If you aren't going to do it yourself, consider providing graphics for your affiliates to create links from... Do you have different products? - give them product shots. Maybe only one or two out of your line are of interest to them - always give affiliates "wiggle room". (Hmm, how about a reward for a good design suggestion? Banners aren't the backbone of sales, but some are used, and many can be improved.)
What else might your affiliates benefit from? ...Well, ask them! It might be very useful to survey your affiliates about their needs from time to time (and revealing!). You'll find out what the spread of sophistication levels is as well as pinpoint specific areas to target in your future newsletters and the like.
You might also consider encouraging your sub-affiliates to avail themselves of useful software you like. If
it has an affiliate program, sign up as an affiliate yourself to get a commission... Or you could give them a rebate of your commission - or even purchase it for them (you might be able to purchase resale rights from the software company, as Ken Evoy did with The Ultimate Ad Tracker).
I think you will learn many useful things from this article from the Internet Marketing Chronicles newsletter, "Secrets
of Advertising 'In Context'"...
that is, in the context of your affiliates' websites. There are many excellent ideas here about how to integrate your own advertising into individual websites to make it more "seamless"... more apt to be interesting to site visitors rather than repellant simply by virtue of overtly being an "ad". This includes advice on how to make your own banners more attractive, even unto making them look less like a typical banner and more like text in a site. Also touched on is the type of site that pulls better for sales of any kind - that which is geared to the whole concept of selling. Lastly, you can focus on ways to keep your affiliates actively marketing for you - some are listed here. This is advice from someone who has "walked the walk"... It might make all the difference in ensuring your success.
Then, why not encourage your affiliate partners to do the kinds of things you do?
...Like surveying their customers about your service or product. Helping their affiliates, if you offer a multi-tiered program. Automating (you are doing a lot of this, aren't you?). Pre-selling. Testing. (...But not too much of this too fast! That simply gets overwhelming. Give them time to work on one or two improvements at a time - and
facilitate their efforts... That'll
YOU WORRY ABOUT YOUR INACTIVE AFFILIATES?:
Well, certainly you should worry about them some... After all, the more that are inactive, the less effective your affiliate team is on the whole. ...But the positive angle is - the more room there is for improvement!
Truly helping your affiliates will improve your bottom line. And there's no reason why you can't get that typical "80/20" percentage (or more like 90/10, as it really tends to be with affiliate marketing) honed well down. But there are a number of reasons why you'll have an inactive cadre, some of which you can probably influence, and some of which you can't...
Some people will sign up for your program and then decide that it isn't a good fit for them...
If they can't evaluate the program itself before signing up, that's your fault. You should make sure that all of the points of interest are laid out understandably on your site - don't leave it to the annoying legalese of your affiliate contract to divulge what everyone wants to know! You should also make sure that you provide what most affiliates need in the way of HTML links, statistics, and affiliate support services.
Beyond those things that you have control over, though, there's reality... Many of your affiliate sign-ups will come when people are still in the midst of setting up their websites. The creative juices are still flowing, folks are always learning more about how to tune their sites, new promotional ideas are always headed their way, and their private lives are forever evolving... Things change!
If someone isn't trying, don't worry about them; that's life. It's the people who are trying and still not succeeding who you might have a good effect on... if you give them some good pointers, as we discussed in the last section.
...Assume that there will be a certain portion who you don't have to worry about; and be patient with the others! - it often takes awhile to put good advice into effect (I can tell you from the affiliate's experience).
But will your efforts pay off? Yes!, incrementally... Meanwhile, don't forget to help your top affiliates do even better!
And may I wish you the very best of luck? - I do!
Copyright February 2000 and onward. All rights reserved.
"The Affiliate Marketing Primer"
permission to LINK to this report from any website, email message, or ezine.
Please do not COPY it or portions of it without seeking permission. Thank you.
7 updated 1/2010
Marketing Strategies for Affiliates and Affiliate Program Merchants (and Others)
steps you can take to put viral marketing into effect in your affiliate (etc.) business
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