So you are selling online through a shopping cart or generating leads efficiently through your website and you want to broaden your online marketing channels, but want to do it really cost-effectively and with a great strategy. Affiliate Marketing represents an amazing opportunity to scale your sales and diversify your traffic sources expansively, but how should you go about it? What you shouldn’t do is launch your offer on a hundred CPA affiliate networks and cross your fingers, that will surely disappoint you and possibly lead to a nightmare of bad leads or fraudulent sales. There are many proven strategies for growing your affiliate program or affiliate network methodically that I have used over the years to really swell the numbers of participants in the program.
Launching on a Major Affiliate Network: Launching your affiliate program on a 3rd party affiliate network can be a great idea if you do it properly with the right strategy in place. Some of the top Affiliate Networks are CJ, Shareasale, Linkshare, and Google Affiliate Network. All of these networks will allow you to access their affiliate bases and also handle all the tracking for you. If you are looking to launch an affiliate program where the affiliates come to you then this is the way to go. CJ is particularly effective for recruiting new affiliates in that they allow you to prospect from their database in certain categories and countries for a fee per email, but if done right this can work very well and building the program with niche performers. Also using an outsourced agency (such as ours) can give you a huge head start in the affiliate building process because we can recruit from our super-affiliates database. Make sure to have really good affiliate managers in place to make sure everyone is followed-up with effectively and receiving the right messaging at the right intervals. CJ should be a no-brainer for most companies unless you are a super-niche product, then the costs may out-weigh the benefits. However, any affiliate program will grow over time if the right principles and procedures are used. You can also look to join “CPA” affiliate networks that have their own publisher base. This can be effective, but has to be tried out to see how each performs. There are some good ones, but you have to proceed with caution since they don’t tell you who their affiliates are. CPA networks can be a way to add to your affiliate channel while running on the big networks like CJ.
Running Your Own Affiliate Network – you can absolutely run your own affiliate network, however there are no inherent affiliates, so they have to be prospected for and recruited through various strategies. Platforms like Hasoffers.com have come along to provide a really robust affiliate network platform at a really cost effective price. Once you have your affiliate network up and running you can start reaching out to prospective websites and blogs and asking them to be your affiliate, as well as linking to your affiliate sign-up page on your website. Some companies even ask their customers if they would like to join their affiliate program. You can operate your own affiliate network along side the Major Afiliate networks but the only condition is you can’t bring affiliates away from those networks to your own or you could run into issues. Running your own network can be a good idea if you have someone in place to follow-up with all the new sign-ups and see how they plan to promote the company. Also, providing guidance and strategy to newbies is a good idea if you want your new affiliates to actually start promoting the company on their sites or by word of mouth.
Advertising in Search for Affiliates – one of the best ways to recruit affiliates into your affiliate program is through paid search in Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Let’s say you run a flower website. You would add the following keywords to your list in Adwords and MSN Adcenter: Flower affiliate, flower affiliate program, flower merchant affiliate program, florist affiliate program, online florist affiliate program, phrases like that to pull in people searching for your type of affiliate program. You can definitely go more broadly into keywords like “affiliate program” and believe it or not there aren’t many Advertisers under those types of keywords, so there’s a ton of opportunity to recruit this way. Then, you need to look at all the affiliates that signed up from that source and measure it against how many sales they brought in within a month or 2. You will see the ROI trust me! You should also be maximizing your organic SEO rankings for your core affiliate program keywords by optimizing the page tiles for your affiliate information page and having good on-page content as well to get more organic rankings for targeted searches for your niche affiliate program. It’s all about the follow-up my affiliate managers that know what the heck their talking about and actually know something about websites and online marketing. If your affiliate managers are clueless they won’t be able to help your affiliates succeed. Affiliate managers should actually be experts at online marketing to be truly effective.
Advertising on Facebook – the nice thing about advertising anything on Facebook is the targeting you can build into the campaign specifications. You can actually advertise you affiliate program to anyone that has an interest in affiliate marketing on Facebook…how much more targeted can you get?! Then you have to measure the sign-up’s production versus the ad spend over a period of time to see if its working for you, but 1 or 2 good affiliates could pay for your Facebook advertising campaign for the entire month or year. So in my opinion its a no-brainer to advertise on Facebook to grow your affiliate program. However you should proceed slowly with your spend and make sure someone is following up right away with the new affiliate sign-ups.
Contacting Websites and Blogs – Reaching out to relevant website and blogs in your niche is a great way to build your affiliate program with niche producers. You have to do this very delicately, with a strategy, or the effort won’t be well received and will be a big waste of time. Approach is everything when you are contacting websites about your affiliate program, so make sure to be brief, complimentary of their site, and looking to make friends first, then you can offer your affiliate opportunity. One thing you can do to make sure it’s well received is to offer to pay a higher commission amount to the sites you are prospecting than they can get normally. Also, don’t repetitively contact the same sites, that’s extremely obnoxious, so stick and move and get it done! Make sure to keep track of who is being contacted and my recommendation is do not outsource this type of thing because you need good quality control in place for it to be effective. Again, make sure the people doing this type of outreach know what they are looking for and sending the right message or it will reflect poorly on your company and be a waste of time and money.
Using Good Affiliate Management – there is no exception to the fact that you need competent, knowledgeable, friendly, proactive affiliate managers working your affiliate program to the utmost. The more proactive and friendly the better. The problem is, there are so few people that really know how to effectively work with affiliates and have a good enough background in online marketing techniques to be able to really do a good job increasing your overall participation. Managing affiliates is all about building the relationship with each and every affiliate on a personal level. If you have the ability to share traffic generating strategies and provide analysis for their website for instance, you can really deliver value and build the manager-affiliate relationship. Affiliate management is so much more than approving new affiliates and sending monthly newsletters. Affiliate management is all about bonding with your affiliates, facilitating them to become more effective producers, and listening to their wants and needs, then responding expeditiously. Building lasting friendships with your affiliate partners will win the day in the long run. Running affiliate sales contests is a great way to reward affiliates for their efforts and show them you care as an Advertiser. Also, giving bonuses to producers will also show you are concerned with how much they are making, not to mention make affiliates more inclined to promote your company more so. Providing helpful tools and resources is a must towards facilitating the program and ensuring the success of your affiliate partners. Lame affiliate managers are never going to work out well because it just won’t get enough people interested or involved in trying to promote the company, so make sure you use really great people in that role. Over time, you should be bonding with 1000’s of affiliates and getting them excited about promoting your company. All companies should be working on their overall conversion rate of their website so affiliates can make more commissions which will encourage more production. That’s how an affiliate program truly gains “traction”, by converting for as many different affiliates as possible. Strategies for both recruiting and managing affiliates should be going on simultaneous and constantly. If you are doing one and not the other you aren’t actualizing your affiliate channel.
These are some strategies any company can use to build a large productive affiliate program. Of course it doesn’t come free, there is a certain amount of money you have to be willing spend and resources you have to devote to achieve large affiliate program growth in a relatively short period of time. Growing an affiliate program is always part of your long-term online marketing strategy and should be taken serious and strategized for on at least a quarterly basis. If you are interested in growing a large productive affiliate program please contact us and we can give you a free analysis. Please let me know what you think of this post and add any ideas or strategies you may have. Thanks and have a great day!