Looking to start up an affiliate program to help grow your online business? Creating a powerful network of promoters can extend your promotional reach and help place your products in front of more customers.
To help you decide if this form of marketing right for you, we chatted with Radhika Roy, Affiliate Program Manager here at Volusion. Check out her insights below as she helps navigates the waters of Affiliate Marketing, discussing your most pressing questions.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based model where businesses reward affiliates (website owners) for traffic that they bring to their online store. Traditionally, affiliates will place banners or text links on their site, which track any sales or leads that are referred to your online business.
As a business owner, creating and managing an affiliate program is a great way to grow brand awareness while increasing revenue at a low overhead cost.
If you’re new to affiliate marketing or would like to learn more, I’d suggest joining an affiliate forum to learn tips and best practices on affiliate marketing. Here are a few that I recommend:
How do I set up my own affiliate program?
There are a few different options when setting up your own affiliate program. You can choose to set your program up in-house or with a third-party network. If you’re a Volusion storeowner, you have access to a five-tier built-in affiliate program where you can easily create banners and text links that affiliates can download to their site. Each affiliate will have a unique identifier that’s associated with their account so you‘ll know which affiliate brought in a sale.
Creating assets for your affiliates is just the first step in setting up your program. There are a few other aspects to consider:
- Commission payouts: Creating a competitive, yet profitable structure is crucial to the success of your program. Based on your profit margin, you can determine whether a percentage of sale or a flat fee works best for your business. Also, it doesn’t hurt to check out what your competitors are offering their affiliates.
- Terms and conditions for affiliate publishers: Your publishers should be fully aware of what you do and don’t permit. For example, if you’re running your own pay-per-click ads and don’t want affiliates to bid on keywords that link to their affiliate sites, make sure that this is explicitly stated as part of the terms of joining your program.
- Cookie length: Not to get too technical, but when a sale or lead is sent from an affiliate site, cookies are set within the customer’s browser. Your cookie length will determine how long you’ll be rewarding that affiliate for any additional sales from that customer. For example, a 30-day cookie length allows an affiliate to get paid for any sales or leads within 30 days of that customer’s first visit to your online store, whereas a 60-day cookie length allows for sales/leads within 60 days.
- Reversal period: From time to time, you may have items that are returned by customers who were referred by an affiliate. It’s important to determine ahead of time how you want to handle commission reversals for returned merchandise.
Using a network, such as Commission Junction or Linkshare is another option in setting up your affiliate program. By signing up with a network, your program is accessible to affiliates within these networks. Joining a network does require more upfront and recurring costs (as well as some development work), but is a great option if you have the budget.
Once I have an Affiliate Program set up, how do I recruit affiliates to join my program?
This is the million-dollar question. Once you have a program set up, whether it’s in-house or through a network, it’s important to make sure that you’re doing your due diligence to find relevant affiliates to join and promote your products. Keep in mind that accepting any and all affiliates to your program isn’t always better – typically, 20% of your affiliates will bring in 80% of your sales, so accepting relevant bloggers or website owners to your program will increase the quality of sales coming to your business. For example, if you’re selling cosmetics, partnering with a blog about off-road vehicles wouldn’t make much sense. Instead, you want to affiliate with sites that have a similar audience. In this example, a cosmetic blogger would be much more relevant and would more likely refer business to your site.
Once your program is set up, there are a few different tools you can use to recruit affiliates to your program.
- Affiliate link visibility: Customers can also make the best affiliates! This is especially true if they’re familiar with your business and have had a great experience with your product. Ensuring that your affiliate program is visible on your navigation menu makes it easy for potential affiliates to sign up and promote your product.
- Affiliate program directories: Affiliate program directories are a great place to list your program and are often visited by affiliates looking for new programs within their niche. As an extra perk, there’s usually no cost associated with registering your program.
- Organic search: Manually searching for sites through organic or keyword search can be a bit time consuming, but the rewards are well worth it. Inviting websites or blog owners to join your program through a personal phone call or email will definitely strengthen your partnership and increase the likeliness that they’ll take interest in your product.
When evaluating a potential affiliate site, look at how active the website or blog owner is about updating their site. If they have a blog, always look at how often they post content and if this content is being shared via social media channels. This is a good way to gauge their involvement, as well as their following. Using a tool like Compete will also give you some insight on how often their site is being visited on an average basis. More engagement on an affiliate site, equals more sales for you!
How can I incentivize my affiliates to continue promoting my products and services?
Most affiliates are promoting a variety of different products and services. As a business owner, it’s important to keep your affiliates engaged with your company by giving them the tools and resources to be successful.
Affiliates are similar to an outside salesperson that are selling and promoting your products. Get them excited about your business with unique offers that allow them to easily promote your product.
- Regular communication: While I don’t recommend contacting your affiliates on a daily basis, sending out a monthly newsletter with company or product updates will definitely be appreciated. In certain cases, reaching out personally to specific affiliates with exclusive material is a great way to increase engagement.
- Social media channels: Encourage your affiliates to follow you via social media channels to get the most up-to-date news about your business and products. Also, urge your affiliates to share your news with their networks.
- Incentives and discounts: Offer exclusive coupons or discounts to affiliates – they work as great closing tools! Creating contests or bonus payouts will definitely give your affiliates the boost that they need to continue promoting your products on their site.
- Up-to-date collateral: Whether it’s new banners or fresh content about your products, keeping your collateral fresh will ensure that your affiliates are getting the current information about your business.
Now you have all the tools to create and manage a successful affiliate program! With a little hard work, you’ll be on your way to spreading the word and growing your online business.
Have more questions or comments for Radhika? Feel free to leave them in the comments sections below and she’ll be more than happy to get back with you.