Affiliate marketing involves allowing a third party to market your product for you leaving you to concentrate on other aspects of your business and only having to pay them for referrals that create a click, registration or, most commonly, a sale. Referrals to your site are usually made through a link on the affiliates site and when this link is clicked by a visitor, it is recorded by your system as being from the affiliate and so any sales that are subsequently made can be documented. As this way of marketing functions around a ‘pay for performance’ model, your return on investment is predictable.
Choosing a system
When choosing an affiliate system you can either build your own, buy one or use a service provider. Building your own obviously takes time and expertise but enables you complete control over the process. Buying a programme offers the same control but with the added cost. Building and buying systems both need ongoing upkeep and so it is often a good idea to use a service provider who do all this for you. Not only do they have all the systems needed in place but they will already have a database of affiliates to promote your products on. A service provider will take a cut of commission and most require a set up cost ranging from £500-£2000, however they will eliminate costs such as ongoing administration that you would have incurred had you bought or built a system yourself. One of the largest service providers is Commission Junkie who offer a ‘global network of publishers, educational resources, and sophisticated reporting tools’.
One of the most important aspects of the affiliate system is the payment model. The most common type of commission is a percentage of the total sale amount the affiliate generates. Also, adding bonuses and incentives, such as offering a larger commission percentage for reaching a certain amount of monthly sales, can attract larger affiliates partners.
Recruiting your affiliates
Once your affiliate program is in place you must promote it to attract affiliates. This can be done like a launch of any new product – create a press release, advertise on your own website, spread the word on social media sites. If you are with a service provider, they will also be promoting your programme.
You also need to decide which affiliates you wish to target. Their audience needs to fit with your own, otherwise the amount of referrals you receive will be limited. When considering Eliot Turner we must choose affiliates that are likely to have visitors with the same interests as we expect our customers to have rather than just building a database of random affiliates, e.g. websites associated with similar or related products. It is not a good idea to target a website that sells competitive products but instead look for potential affiliates that are more interested in communication than eCommerce, for example, fashion blogs would be ideal for Eliot Turner.
Once you have recruited your affiliates it is important to work together with them to generate more leads. You need to update them on new offers or products which can be done with a monthly newsletter. Otherwise, your affiliates won’t have an awful lot to work with and won’t generate the sales you want.
Affiliate marketing may seem a perfect solution however there are obviously some risks associated. You are no longer in control of your own marketing and are allowing a third party to decide how your company is being represented. Affiliates may use marketing methods you are not comfortable with, for example, being too intrusive. Also, there is always the risk of fraud which can affect the merchant, customer and affiliate. Customers can be diverted to a duplicate site preventing the merchant from receiving potential customers and often when the affiliates commission is on a cost per click basis, both affiliates and competitors have been known to commit click fraud whereby repeatedly clicking on a link that pays out can drain the merchant of money. Keeping careful track your system and making sure it has fraud detection will help you discover any unusual behaviour.
That aside, an affiliate programme can really boost sales if done correctly, and if it doesn’t, you won’t have to pay! This is one online programme that must be part of your marketing plan.