Did anyone say they like your product or service? Why not put them to work by selling for you with your very own affiliate program? Did a new customer learn about you from a friend? Find that person who made the referral and provide a commission for them to spread the word by becoming a member of your affiliate program!
A lot of people think that affiliate programs are costly. After all, don’t they require expensive software and accounting systems? Yes, you need them; and no, they don’t have to be expensive! In fact, a lot of small business owners have started their own affiliate program without spending a lot of money on it.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best, most effective ways for bloggers and marketers to generate revenue. However, there are two sides to the coin – one side represents the affiliates themselves who sell others’ products to turn a profit, while the other side represents that of the product owners/manufacturers. Since selling a product sounds much easier than creating one that’s worth selling, a lot of people spend more time teaching others how best to become a successful affiliate instead of starting their own program.
Today, however, we’re going to tread a different path by covering at least the basics of creating your own affiliate program.
But here’s the gist: Majority of affiliate programs don’t make much money. They either can’t get a lot of people to sign up or the members of the program don’t make a lot of sales. Yes, you can make a lot of money from affiliate marketing, but most people fail in this endeavor. It’s like everything else in business – there’s no free lunch! That’s why you need to have a full understanding of the inner workings of affiliate marketing, and you need to put some work into making your program a huge success.
So before jumping right into the affiliate marketing bandwagon, you must first make some serious decisions. If you’re ready to step up your game, here’s a quick rundown on how you can create your own affiliate program and how it can pave the way to making more sales.
But, first things first…
What is Affiliate Marketing, Anyway?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, I need to make sure that everyone knows the meaning of affiliate program. And in order to understand what it is, you need to know what affiliate marketing is.
In its simplest definition, affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a product creator allows affiliates (their partners) to sell their product or service in return for an appropriate commission, a form of incentive for promoting the product and producing sales in addition to the product creator’s efforts. Besides getting a commission for promoting a product or service through a website, some affiliates also get paid for the traffic they send to the product creator’s website, from their website.
In short, the affiliate promotes a merchant’s stuff for a piece of the action. You, as the merchant, get to decide the amount to pay as a commission, but you only pay the affiliate once you have verified that the sale has been made or when the money-back guarantee (if any) period has ended.
An affiliate program (also called reseller program or associate program) is how the product creator facilitates the process of affiliate marketing. It’s a great opportunity for you to drive traffic to your website and make hundreds, even thousands of websites making sales for you.
The best part is that you don’t have to pay until after they make the sale!
Why Should I Start an Affiliate Program?
The benefits of setting up your own affiliate program goes beyond just helping you boost traffic to your website, especially if the product/service and program are done right.
When properly executed, an affiliate program will not only increase traffic to your site but will also boost sales, generate leads, improve your site’s SEO, leverage your brand’s influence and reach, and will even help sell other products/services that are not even part of your program. What’s more, if your affiliate program becomes popular enough with affiliates, your marketing costs will become the cost of managing your program. So as long as everything is running smoothly, you’ll have a whole slew of marketers promoting your product/service purely on commission.
Here are the advantages of creating your own affiliate program:
- You don’t have to own a physical store, deal with merchandise, or even transactions.
- You don’t need to invest on anything because you can generate revenue through your marketing force which promotes your website for free and you don’t pay them a single cent until they generate sales for you.
- It requires minimal marketing skills since all you have to do is to focus on your real skill, which is to successfully run your website.
- You get fringe benefits because even if visitors don’t purchase your product, chances are they will subscribe to your email newsletter or bookmark your site for future reference. You only pay your affiliates once a sale has been made so until then, you get loads of free traffic!
- You don’t have to pay for crappy advertising since you can let your affiliates test the waters for you. You create the ads, they place them in various websites. All you need to do is to measure the results – you’ll lose nothing and you can test them for free until they finally work in your favor.
- As mentioned earlier, creating your own affiliate program can also help improve your site’s search engine placement. So the more websites point to your domain, the higher your search engine ranking will be.
- A properly executed affiliate program provides unlimited potential for growth. This is especially true if you want to start a two-tier program that encourages affiliates to invite other people into the force by rewarding them with commission every time someone below them makes a sale.
The Challenges of Creating an Affiliate Program
With all those awesome benefits, it seems like there’s no other reason not to immediately jump into starting your own affiliate program. It may indeed be the perfect choice for many, but I’d be wrong to say it’s perfect for everyone. So I’ll offer up a word of caution.
For those who are thinking of starting their own affiliate program, you need to consider the fact that as it grows, so does your commitment to managing it. Your resources might be diverted from your core business to support your marketing force, and you will have to spend some of your time preventing fraud or other issues that may arise along the way.
Some of the issues that may arise can also be due to a merchant’s lack of knowledge about the affiliate channel, or based on a company’s policies and guidelines that prevent affiliates from taking certain actions. There are a lot of best practices when it comes to managing an affiliate program, but not everything will cut out for every business.
Setting up your own affiliate program means you have to work hard, be creative, and have sufficient know-how about the affiliate landscape. Armed with these traits, you can successfully demonstrate the value of the affiliate channel.
If you haven’t taken this into account, consider it a fair warning and also an encouragement to do more research before you finally take the plunge!
Building Your Own Affiliate Program From Scratch
Okay, so now, I’m going to show you how to build your own affiliate program. As you can see, the steps are rather general. This is because most of how you specifically go about launching your program depends on both your product(s) and the platform you choose. There are, however, some very important things you need to consider no matter the situation.
Create an amazing product.
It goes without saying that you need to have an excellent product that delivers on your promises. Your product should be something worth becoming an advocate for, which is what you need from your future affiliates.
The quality of your product is very important. Remember that a lot of affiliates have their own brands that they have built over time with hard work and dedication. These people are not going to risk promoting a substandard product to their audience because this could mean losing their trust. What’s more, if your product is very low in quality that customers begin asking for refunds, it can cause a major problem when it’s time to manage affiliate payments for products that didn’t sell. In the end, you’ll lose a lot of money and/or affiliates. Not to mention customers!
Decide which platform works best for your website.
One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is to choose the program or script you need to use to process payments and to manage your program. There are a lot of options out there, but you need to weigh the cost and benefits of each of these services or programs.
- You can choose to run your own affiliate program on a script. Your own server and script will track your affiliates’ sales and the amount you need to pay for those sales. Once their commission is due, it’s your responsibility to go in and pay them.
- Join an affiliate network. An affiliate network will do all the heavy lifting for you, like tracking and recruiting affiliates for you, as well as making the payments when commission is due. The affiliate network will charge you for using their service.
- Use a shopping cart service. This will help you manage your business and your affiliate database. In this case, you might have to do the affiliate recruitment yourself, although you’re more in control than with the other alternatives.
Find the right people.
Affiliate program managers are overwhelmed with different products in many different niches. That’s why it’s difficult to stand out from all of these options. If you wish to sell your product, you need to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd and grab the attention of potential affiliates. Some of the best ways to grab the attention of prospects is to offer them plenty of resources to get their promotions up and running quickly and easily. Some of them include articles, banners, marketing plans, and sample excerpts of your product(s), just to name a few.
The easier you make it to promote your product, the more sales both you and the affiliate will make!
Get in touch with your affiliates on a regular basis.
Want to know what works and what doesn’t? Talk to your affiliates regularly!
If one month there’s an abundance of sales and the next nothing, it’s best to get in touch with your affiliates to figure out what’s happening. There are many factors that cause the dip in sales. You can find out by reaching out to your affiliates either by creating an online survey or sending them an email and asking them to respond.
Also, you need to be wary that some competitors might be enticing your affiliates more, or that some of your affiliates think that your resources are not working out well, or maybe you’re always behind payments. Make the necessary changes in order to get sales moving in the right path.
Provide affiliates with the right tools.
Provide your affiliates with the right tools and assist them whenever necessary. This is very important. Most affiliate programs only provide their affiliates a banner or two. This won’t help.
People these days are quite lazy and need all the convenience so you need to give them everything that they need in order to promote the program and succeed.
Prepare to go live.
Some people open up an affiliate program without knowing if their website even sells. This is a common mistake people make when trying to set up their own affiliate program. This is so wrong, and it could be detrimental to your entire marketing plan.
When it comes to affiliate programs, you need to have a website that sells. If you’re not confident that your site sells, don’t move into marketing your program yet because you’ll just end up disappointing your affiliates.
Spread the word.
Once your website is making sales, armed with top affiliates and an established affiliate program, it’s time to announce it and go all-out.
Remember that the first step to any successful affiliate program is to ensure your website actually sells. Once you’ve proven that everything is working out as they should, you can start spreading the word about your program.
Of course, you need to start with your existing customer base or list of contacts. Send out an email announcing your affiliate program, including a link where they can sign up. If people respond to your email and start asking if they could join your program, it’s definitely a good sign.
Next, you need to announce your program to various affiliate program directories and networks online. Here’s a short list of affiliate program directories you should submit your information to:
If you don’t want to announce your affiliate program to all these sites (any many others), a service called Affiliate Announce can handle it for you.
When announcing your program, your listing needs to highlight the benefits to affiliates if they sign up. A good, benefit-driven copy is critical. What you want in your army are raving fans or those who know how to make an excellent, highly engaging sales pitch. You’ll be amazed at how much top affiliates talk about their best programs or what they are promoting now.
Remember that building your own affiliate program doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to deal with. The virtue of simplicity often encourages you to become more involved with your members. Simple works and simple sells.
So how about it? Are you ready to step up your game? Create your own affiliate program today and make your money work for you!