6 Proven Effective Ways to Grow Your Affiliate Program or Affiliate Network
So you are selling online or generating leads efficiently through your website (or least you should be converting well) and 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 100 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 that we have used over the years to really swell the numbers of participants in the affiliate program we manage.
- 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 in the U.S. are CJ, Shareasale, Impact, and Rakuten/Linkshare. All of these networks will allow you to access their affiliate bases and will also handle all the tracking for you. If you are looking to launch an affiliate program where the affiliates find you to a degree then this is the way to go. CJ is particularly effective in our opinion for recruiting new relevant affiliates, in that they allow you to prospect from their database in certain categories and countries, via “pending offers” and email blasts. If done right, this can work very well and building the program with both niche and large performers. Also, using an outsourced affiliate management agency (such as ours) can give you a huge head start in the affiliate building process because we can recruit from our other programs’ affiliate bases, as well as mine CJ’s database to its maximum. 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 unless you are a super-niche product, then their costs may outweigh the benefits. Finally, make sure your website’s conversion rate has been honed and improved through a process known as conversion rate optimization, so your affiliates have a fighting chance at making money promoting your company. If your website conversion rate isn’t that great, your affiliate program will go nowhere.
- 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 and recruited from scratch through various strategies. Platforms like TUNE and 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 alongside the major affiliate 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 affiliate sign-ups and see how they plan to promote the company. Also, providing guidance and strategy to newbie affiliate marketers is a good idea if you want your new affiliates to actually start promoting the company on their sites or by word of mouth. You have to facilitate your affiliates, or don’t expect them to produce.
- Advertising in Search Engines for Affiliates – one of the best ways to recruit affiliates into your affiliate program is through paid search in Google and Bing. Let’s say you run a flower website. You would add the following keywords to your keyword list: Flower affiliate, flower affiliate program, flower merchant affiliate program, florist affiliate program, online florist affiliate program, gift 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 companies advertising under those types of keyword phrases, so there’s a ton of opportunity to recruit this way. Then, you need to look at all the affiliates that signed up from those traffic sources and measure it against how many sales they brought in within a month or so. 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.
- 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 your affiliate program to anyone that has an interest in affiliate marketing on Facebook…how much more targeted can you get than that?! You can advertise to a database of contacts to join your affiliate program. Plus, other ways to target using Facebook’s targeting. Then, you have to measure the sign-ups production versus the ad spend over a period of time to see if its working for you, but just 1 or 2 good affiliates could pay for your Facebook advertising campaign for the entire month or longer. So in my opinion it’s a no-brainer to advertise on Facebook to grow your affiliate program (when done properly).
- Contacting Websites and Blog – Reaching out to relevant websites 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 or provide a helpful suggestion for their website. Deliver some value. Then, when you offer your affiliate opportunity to them, they may say yes. 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 to regular affiliates. Also, don’t repetitively contact the same sites, that’s extremely obnoxious, so stick and move and get it done in VOLUME! Make sure to keep track 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 (unless it’s to this agency because it’s what we do and we do it well). Check out affiliate databases such as PublisherFinders.com to find publishers that are already affiliates of other companies.
- Using GREAT Affiliate Management – there is no exception to the fact that you need competent, knowledgeable, friendly, pro-active 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 great job at working the relationship. 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 of their website for instance, you can really deliver value and build the affiliate manager-affiliate relationship. Affiliate management is so much more than approving new affiliates and sending monthly newsletters, and some companies can’t even do that properly. Affiliate management is all about bonding with your affiliates, facilitating them to become effective producers, and listening to their wants and needs, then responding expeditiously. Helping your affiliates to become better affiliates. 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. Providing helpful tools and resources is a must to facilitating the entire affiliate program and ensuring the success of your affiliate partners.One of the best things you can do for your affiliates and the affiliate program is to work hard to make your website convert traffic better and better over time. In fact, if you don’t do that, your affiliate could be a huge dud. And last but not least, a lame affiliate manager is never going to work out well because they won’t be proactive enough to get enough people interested or involved in trying to promote the company. Remember, this is a volume game. You need lots of targeted affiliates to grow the channel. So make sure you use really great people (or agency like ours ) in that role. “Anything less than excellent, proactive affiliate management is unsatisfactory at best.” – Evan Weber, CEO
These are some strategies any company can use to build a large, productive affiliate program for their business. Of course it doesn’t come free. There is a certain amount of budget you have to be willing spend and resources you have to devote to achieve large affiliate growth in a relatively short period of time. Growing an affiliate program should always part of your long-term online marketing strategy and should be taken serious and strategized for on at least a monthly basis. If you are interested in growing a large productive affiliate program please contact us and we can give you a free analysis. Thanks for reading and have a great day!