Affiliate Marketing Tips For the Advertiser

Many businesses miss out on the true benefits of affiliate marketing. As an advertiser (the business looking to obtain affiliates) you really need to understand the extremely delicate balance that needs to be achieved in order to hit that sweet spot of unbelievable business success.

So, What is This Sweet Spot Exactly?

First, this depends on the goal of your affiliate marketing campaign. For most companies there are 2 main targets that are zeroed in on:

1. Building Your Brand

2. Making a Ton of Profits

However, many businesses forget about old #3, Making a Ton of Profits for your Affiliates.

Hitting the sweet spot involves all three of these targets. I’ve seen a lot of companies start an affiliate program and generate a bunch of leads, and just dump their affiliates without even a care. If you do this you will miss out on a ton of money that could have been made.

You have to understand what affiliate marketing is really all about, and having been on both sides of the table (meaning I have ran affiliate programs for my business, and have also been a publisher selling affiliate products) I know exactly what needs to be achieved for both to have success.

You see, affiliate marketing is about much more than just you (the advertiser) making a great business decision to pay for only advertising that results in sales and therefore profits, it’s also about building your company brand while building strategic partnerships with individuals who can literally make your business explode.

It’s fine and dandy to use affiliate programs to have individuals throw up a few banner ads to make some extra money and generate leads for your business, but that’s what most companies do, so why stop there? You don’t want to be like everyone else, you want to be better than them. You do want to be better than them don’t you? I sure hope your answer is yes, because if not you can stop reading now. You don’t have to know these strategies if you don’t want to, but for those who do, pay extremely close attention to the rest of this article.

Your goal with your affiliate program from this point on should be to aim for the 3 targets I mentioned earlier: Building your brand, Making a ton of profits for yourself, and Making a ton of profits for your affiliates. Helping your affiliates will help you, I can guarantee that, and this will come down to how you ultimately structure your affiliate program.

So How Do You Structure an Affiliate Program?

First, it’s all about the commission. You have to give people a great incentive to advertise for you. Your goal is not just about making that quick sale (quick sales are good, but there is a lot more to this), it’s about the lifetime value of the customer and building that strong brand image with them. If you don’t know what the average lifetime value of your customer is, you’re going to have to go through your records, do some research, and probably do a little math. You at the very least want to know how much they spend, and for how long they remain an active customer.

Typically a good commission to start with for physical products is 6-8%, and once an affiliate shows good sales volume you can increase the commission amount to 12% or even 15% if it is feasible. Keep in mind at this point, whatever commission you decide on, make sure you’re still making a profit. I know that sounds like common sense to you, but later on after you’ve tested your campaign for a while you make actually find it more affordable to take a loss up front on the first sale. Don’t worry, I’m going to cover this in a little bit, so just keep reading, but first I want to cover informational / digital product affiliate commissions.

For informational / digital download affiliate programs, you want to at least offer a 50% commission. Statistics show that programs that don’t offer 50% or higher do pretty miserably. There have been a few exceptions with products I worked with that did well, but that was only because they had extremely high conversion rates. So use this as your baseline, test it, and see if you can afford to go higher. With downloadable products it’s usually not the first sale that will make your business, but it’s the backend products and the upsells that come later on. So just like with physical products, you want to know what the average lifetime value of a customer is, and from there, you can assess how much of a commission you can afford to give out.

Second, is cookie duration. This is very important to your affiliates because most sales do not occur on the first visit. Studies show customers on average come back between 4-7 times before a sale is actually made depending on the product that is being sold. I advise companies to use at least a 60 day cookie. Why 60? because everyone else uses 30, 30 days is the standard. Even though most sales do occur within that time period, you’ll attract a ton of more affiliates with a 60 day (or greater) cookie duration.

Third, besides the cookie duration, something for you to consider is the attribution of the sale. Attribution basically means deciding on who to credit the sale to. If you have a customer who goes to one affiliate, and then doesn’t buy, but a day or 2 later manages to land on a different site and then buys, who do you want to credit the sale to? Most companies prefer a last click attribute, meaning the last site to get the click that results in the sale gets the credit. This is the most common method, but there are other companies that prefer the opposite which is a first click attribute, which means even if someone bought from the second site in the above example, the site that got that first click will get the sale. Choose which rationale works for you, for me I tend to favor the last click attribute as well.

Fourth, pay your commissions on time. If you do not pay your affiliates on time they will venture somewhere else, even if it’s for a lower %. Your affiliates are working hard for you and many times are paying to send traffic to their sites for the possibility of making commissions for advertising your products, and most of the time those advertising bills come in way before they get paid, and I know because I’ve been there. Nothing would get me more ticked off than the affiliate company not paying on time, and even worse than that, some will even wait till the next paying cycle. You need to feel your affiliates pain and know what they go through. There’s nothing more agitating then spending a few hundred or thousand dollars on advertising and having to wait 2 months to get paid on it.

More Advanced Affiliate Marketing Tips For The Advertiser

So what’s the point of making sure all this happens? Why is it important to make sure your affiliates are happy? Well here’s some stuff that will really put you above the competition. I’m all about giving great content in my articles, so here’s some juicy stuff for you.

Making Outstanding Affiliate Offers

Anyone can recruit a bunch of affiliate marketers, slap up a good offer following the basics that i listed above and you’ll make a bunch of sales, but will they make your business explode overnight? Probably not. It’s where you take it from here that will depend on how much success your affiliate program will be. After you (or your affiliate manager) has started generating affiliates, contact them. Send a message to your affiliates and ask them if any of them would want to take advantage of a special offer, and how you’d love to work with them personally. You see many companies will give their affiliates coupon codes for shopping discounts like 5, 10, 15% off, or offer free shipping for people that buy through affiliate links. Now these work pretty decent from time to time, they do help people to buy through affiliates, but there is always a way to take things one step above the competition, and that’s what I’m going to teach you here.

Typical Multi-Product Website Affiliate Offers

You want to work closely with a few select individuals that responded to that email that you sent to them about working with them personally. Depending on your business structure, there are a few directions you can go from here. First I want to talk about your standard multi-product website. Let’s say you sell furniture online and really want to get your business to explode. Instead of just giving coupons to your affiliates you want to try to get your affiliates to promote different categories or even a specific product in ways that aren’t possible through your site.

Let me explain, a typical product website can only do so much. You have a product picture, a description, maybe a bit of ad copy, and a price. The only factors that you can really change to increase sales are Price, Free or Reduced Shipping, tweak the Copy, and Brand Image. This is pretty standard stuff, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but there is a whole other level that you can hit with your affiliates, but will not be able to fly on your site. Since we’re talking about furniture, let’s say you have a product that you want to work with an affiliate to sell. The product is called the Super Deluxe Bed. With your chosen affiliate there are a lot more things you can work on to get this product sold. An affiliate (with your supervision) can create copy for the product that will be able to incorporate so many other sales triggers to get it sold.

Example: Your affiliate is promoting the Super Deluxe Bed. For his customers you allow him to have an exclusive offer (or allow him to say it’s exclusive) for this bed, and that the only way they’ll get this exclusive offer is if their customers buy through him. However, that’s just the beginning. Allow your affiliate to inject some scarcity into his customers veins. Make it an “Extremely Limited” offer that’s only available for a limited time, or that you’re only allowing a certain # of these beds to be sold at this price. You can also allow your affiliate to offer a bonus to the customers that buy the Super Deluxe Bed. The bonus can either be a physical product like a “limited edition lamp”, or a Free “How to Get an Amazing Nights Sleep” Special Report. Salesmanship like this will get a ton of more products sold for you.

Exploding Your Business With Affiliate Marketing

These are things that will get your business to literally explode but something you can’t do alone. If you did this on your site for every product or category you would come off as too salesy, or too pushy. I mean think about it, if every product bought got the same special bonus it wouldn’t be special any more, or if everything is listed as “limited quantities available” you’d seem more like a business that can’t manage it’s stock rather than one that’s giving people an “exclusive limited offer”.

Really take a few minutes to picture the 2 different sales processes I just described, and put yourself in the customers shoes to feel the experience they would have in each situation. Which do you think would be more likely to make the sale: Your site listing the product with free shipping, or an affiliate site listing the product with an “exclusive limited time free shipping offer”, with a bonus (only for the next 10 orders) Free “How to Get an Amazing Nights Sleep” Special Report (a $37 value), along with some longer more compelling copy?

See you can’t do that with every product on your own site, but with the power of affiliate marketing you can drive highly targeted traffic to amazing offers like this without tarnishing your brand. It’s really just unbelievable with how doing this with multiple affiliates with several different products or categories can blow away the competition and make you and your affiliates a lot of money, and I’m just talking about visitors coming to your site via advertising, don’t even let me get started with what this process can do for you in a product or business launch or relaunch sequence. Ever want to know what it’s like to make a years worth of sales in a few days? You just try this in a launch or relaunch and the results will surely make your eyes plunge out of their sockets.

Information Product Website Affiliate Offers

For an Information / Digital Download type of site, you can use the same techniques as above. Work with your affiliates to allow them to offer something unique specifically for their customers. Either you can create it for them or let them do it with your supervision of course. The point is to make it so that your affiliate is giving them something exclusive for ordering through them. Also, just like with the physical products above, If you do a well coordinated product launch with your affiliates you can expect to make a lot of cash quickly.

Why You Need to Keep Your Affiliates For the Long Term

So why do you want your affiliates to succeed so badly? What do you need them for after the sale is made? I mean you got your money your leads, what else can they possibly be good for? Because your affiliates, if you work with them and help train them with the example techniques I mentioned in this report, they will always continue to bring you high quality leads. You always want to allow them to make available to their customers “highly exclusive” offers on a continuous basis. Don’t forget, affiliates one way or another through using their time or cold hard cash, that they are covering your advertising expenses.

Making a Profit Selling at a Loss

Remember way up at the top of this article when I mentioned sometimes you can have an affiliate program where you can actually take a loss up front on the first sale? Well I want to get into that here a bit like I promised. You see, making that first sale is what is crucial to your affiliate marketers, it’s what gets their motor going. If you can afford to take a loss up front then do it and you’ll see more affiliates then you can handle sign up for your program, but only if you have an awesome backend to sell those customers, and this is something that requires testing. If you’re not making a profit, don’t do it. Your backend, whether digital download or physical product, has to make you a nice profit. I’m not talking nickles and dimes, I mean a hefty profit. I know the bulk of this article talks about being good to your affiliates, but you’re in this to make money and they understand that. They may be taking on the bulk of your advertising expenses, but you’re here to make a profit too. If you’re going to go for a loss on the front end, you don’t give your affiliates backend commissions unless you’re making huge profits yourself, but if you structure it so that you can make some good money on the front end, there’s no problem with thanking your affiliates with a nice commission on that as well.

Building Your Brand With Affiliate Marketing

Throughout this whole affiliate program process remember your targets. You now know how to make a ton of money for yourself and your affiliates, but don’t you dare forget about that brand! You must build your companies brand in with the affiliate marketing process. Even though the link of the product will be redirecting to your site, your sites name needs to be on that page. Those customers need to know that those Super Deluxe Bed “exclusive offers” are going to Squiggly Doo’s Furniture Store before the link sends them there. It really helps the credibility of the switch from one site to the next. Take note however, that you are not endorsing any bonuses (anything separate from your sites offers) that may be offered through your affiliates, you’re just privately approving them. It’s just a matter of protecting your brand, and guarding yourself legally. If you find yourself getting complaints about the bonuses being offered, look into the matter immediately and notify the affiliate to stop offering it because your brand is your #1 long term asset.

Your brand is what will keep those customers coming back to you for repeat business and continually buying your products. Another reason why you want to keep your affiliates for the long term is because if they know the right techniques (which you’ll enlighten them with) they will build deep relationships with the people that just bought through their link. So you want to encourage your affiliates to build a list and stay in close contact with your shared customers so they can continually promote for you, and both make a lot of money. So for your benefit, reach out to your affiliates and make sure they can capture leads effectively. It’s much easier to have individual affiliates build those relationships with you’re customers as opposed to having it all on you. With you and your affiliate marketers working as a team you all will make lots of cash, and build a solid brand.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s about all I have for you now. There’s just a ton of information out there that I could write hundreds and even thousands of pages about it, but for now I’m going to have to stop here. I would like to thank you for allowing me to help you in you new affiliate marketing venture. I hope you found these tips helpful, and I’ll be looking to post some more articles soon.

The Ins and Outs of Affiliate Marketing Campaigns

Let the professionals help you… in mass:

Affiliate marketing networks provide an environment where companies who have something to sell (Advertisers) meet with companies who know how to sell it (Publishers). Many large Affiliate marketing networks provide hundreds of products to be sold to their network of thousands of publishers.

Affiliate marketing networks generally work on a performance basis (CPA), where you only pay when a sale or lead is generated for you. You receive a sale or lead at a predetermined cost and then award the affiliate network with a bounty for generating the sale or lead for you. The Affiliate network then pays their publishers for generating sales on your behalf, minus what the network keeps for itself for putting the deal together. This may sound similar to a shopping portal, however there are some distinct differences. A shopping portal places your products in direct connection with the online shopper. Affiliate marketing networks place your products in direct connection with publishers (marketing or media companies.) Each publisher will then use their own resources to generate sales for you, be it PPC, SEO, email, banners and the like.

Not every product or service will work with an affiliate marketing campaign, and many affiliate networks will not accept your offer unless certain criteria are met. The average website is not “marketing ready” for an affiliate marketing campaign, and often requires a redesign or a separate website to allow for easy sales or lead conversions. Most sales lead generation campaigns work across affiliate marketing networks as long as you are not trying to collect too much information, or information that makes your customers feel nervous such as a social security number. For product sales, you need to present a very attractive offer like “a free 7 day trial for a diet pill”, “free services for 1 month”, or anything that can be considered a low risk bargain. An offer such as “a 42 inch plasma screen Television for only $1,597” will not work. As always, there are exceptions, and you may need to work closely with your affiliate manager to produce a campaign that will be popular amongst the publishers.

Due to the nature of the affiliate networks, they can be volatile and risky, and are not recommended for any company until they have a lot of internet marketing experience under their belt. The overall sales potential of affiliate network marketing can be enormous, and any time gigantic sales numbers come into play, so do gigantic risks. Many affiliate networks have what are known as “Super Affiliates” who have the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales commissions each month. The volatility stems from both the marketing power available through an affiliate network, along with the performance-based environment they provide.

For the most part, the publishers who do the selling through the affiliate networks are greedy. They want to sell only the products and services that yield them the most revenue. It is their right, after all, because they are working on a performance basis and assume all marketing risks. If a good offer comes across an affiliate network, where a lot of money can be made, many publishers will market the product and sales will come streaming in. If a product comes in that does not generate good, or at least acceptable, revenue for the publishers, they will chose to not market the product and sales will be almost nonexistent. It is difficult to find the right balance to satisfy all parties involved (advertiser, publisher, affiliate network, and potential customer.) All parties must be happy in order to yield a successful affiliate campaign. The swing between a high performing campaign and an unpopular one can be tremendous. This volatility introduces significant risk, which comes in three flavors.

Affiliate Network Marketing Risk:

  • (1) Not enough business You have put significant time and resources into building an Affiliate marketing campaign. You have commissioned all types of marketing creative, website design and even bulked up your sales staff. Despite this preparation, your offer is not a money maker for the publishers, and they are not marketing your campaign. Your expenses have increased in anticipation of increased sales that simply never materialized.
  • (2) Too much business You hit the nail on the head… Your offer is hot and the publishers love it. They love it so much that sales flow in faster than you can handle. Your call center can handle 50 leads per day but the publishers are generating 200. For each sale or lead made you must pay a commission whether or not you can address it. You are literally downing in too much business, and your pocketbook can’t hold out long enough to expand accordingly.
  • (3) Cheating You didn’t invest much effort in validating your sales or leads. Your affiliate marketing campaign is generating a lot of leads, but sales are not happening. You are receiving numerous disconnected phone numbers, invalid credit card numbers or people who say “I only signed up for the free gift.” Leads are coming in, but a bunch of crooked publishers are submitting fake information to get paid as if their data was real. Notice how that last lead had a Texas area code, their zip code was “12345,” they stated they live in Alaska and gave you the credit card number “4444555544445555.”

Many Affiliate marketing networks will also ask if they can run your campaign exclusively. This means that they are the only affiliate network that can provide your offer to the world. There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to running your campaign exclusively with one network.

Exclusive Affiliate network Campaign Advantages:

  • Your Affiliate marketing campaign manager may pass your campaign on to other affiliate marketing networks, and manage your account for you. This saves you considerable time by not having to seek out new networks, organizing campaign launches, marketing creative, and other tasks required to launch a new campaign.
  • You will not have to pay startup fees or sign contracts for the affiliate marketing networks that your affiliate manager passes your campaign on to. You simply work under your single agreement with your affiliate manager. This can save you thousands of dollars in startup costs, and lots of time.
  • Affiliate marketing networks use exclusive campaigns as “bragging rights,” and often give priority to their exclusive campaigns. Your campaign is more likely to be advertised to the publishers and given special attention. This helps to get your campaign noticed by the publisher, and ultimately increases sales or lead flow.

Exclusive Affiliate network Disadvantages:

  • Your campaign manager will outsource your campaign to other affiliate marketing networks. You will not know exactly who is marketing your offer and therefore the quality of the web traffic coming into your website is unknown.
  • Your affiliate manager may not be as ambitious as you. Your campaign may not get passed on to other affiliate marketing networks, and because it is an exclusive offer you can’t pass it on to other networks. Growth may become stifled.
  • The publishers who run your campaign through outsourced affiliate networks will not receive as high of a payout (sales commission). There are effectively two affiliate marketing networks: Your direct affiliate network and the outsourced network. More hands are in the pot, taking money and leaving less for the publishers themselves. The decreased publisher bounty with result in decreased interest in your campaign, so the outsourced affiliate marketing networks will not be as productive as if you worked with them directly.

Most affiliate networks will want to incorporate email marketing into your campaign. This is strongly recommended, as sales or lead generation volumes could be significantly higher. If you do allow your campaign to be email marketed, you will need to be able to maintain an email suppression list. The suppression list is a list of email addresses of people who want to opt-out from receiving your offer. An opt-out link must be provided on your email marketing creative where people can opt-out from your offer. You must then supply the suppression file to your affiliate network so they can in turn pass your suppression file to their publishers. This is a part of the Can-Spam law and it can be effectively managed with a small opt-out landing page connected to a simple database. Make sure you provide an updated suppression file to the affiliate networks at least once per week.

Launching affiliate marketing campaigns that convert:

  • Your goal is to generate a campaign that puts the most money possible into your publisher’s pockets, while also generating a profit yourself. Keep in mind that a break-even campaign is also a successful campaign as long as you can re-market to your clients and generate additional sales, upgrades, etc.
  • Design your campaign to maximize conversions. Minimize the clicks needed to purchase a product, or have your lead generation form on the home page. Don’t collect information that you really do not need, or that people do not like to give out (like an SSN.) You may have to build a unique website for the affiliate marketing campaign if your current website is not fine-tuned for affiliate marketing.
  • You are competing against all of the other campaigns on an affiliate network, not just ones selling the same thing you are. Publishers optimize the offers they market and drop the poor performing campaigns. Design an offer that works both for you and your publishers; your affiliate manager can help.
  • Make the steps necessary to allow your campaign to be email marketed by the publishers. This means you will need to create Can-Spam compliant email marketing creative, an opt-out page linked to a database, and provide access to an updated suppression file (a text dump of your database suppression file.) Email marketing will significantly amplify your campaign’s effectiveness.
  • Develop a large selection of various marketing creative, lots of standard size banners, multiple email creative, multiple email titles and subject lines, various text links and so on. Your affiliate manager will provide you a list of critical media types and sizes, but try to provide more than their minimum requirements.
  • Stay on top of lead quality and fraud. No matter how advanced your validation system may get, someone will try to sneak fake data past you. Make sure that you can track all lead sources, including the subIDs that are passed on through the affiliate network.
  • Every time you make a change to your website, submit a test to ensure that the affiliate campaign is still running as it should be. If your website has an error preventing sales conversions or introduces tracking problems, you may be asked to pay the publishers for their lost business. Remember that your broken website will affect many companies who stuck their neck out for you.
  • Be prepared for large volumes of leads, or no leads at all.

The risks associated with affiliate network marketing are many, and they are significant. You must be on your toes, thinking ahead and quick to move if things turn sour. But if you come prepared and design an offer that the publishers love, the financial rewards can be enormous.