The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and super affiliates: Many affiliate managers are prone to thinking that all of these are mythical characters. There may or may not be a Nessie or Sasquatch out there, but the super affiliate is a living and breathing creature that can be a great foundation of your affiliate program.
As I detailed recently in the column "Keeping Your Affiliates Loyal," the trend has shifted from quantifying affiliates to qualifying them. That said, the epitome of high-quality affiliates is the super affiliate.
There are some components to your program that should be adapted to accommodate super affiliates. By all means, these affiliates merit a closer relationship than the rest of your affiliate network. Make yourself very available by email and phone for any technical and customer support.
Some super affiliates may require minor steps to implement their relationships with you. This should be highly considered on a case-by-case basis. Often the only request is that you add a snippet of code to facilitate reporting on their end.
Another frequent request is for you to provide customized reporting (by email or fax) to the super affiliate. Do a little cost-benefit analysis on this one; isn't it worth 15 minutes a week to appease a site that may give you 10 percent of your referrals? And be sure to communicate personally with super affiliates when there is a new promotion or offer. Send them the new code; again, isn't it worth 5 or 10 minutes a week to get immediate action for your program?
There may be some super affiliates that demand a higher pay rate than your standard rate. This can put you in a bad situation if the super affiliates communicate with each other, so proceed carefully. The safest bet is to build performance levels into the relationship.
What Is a Super Affiliate?
First, a super affiliate is a superb email marketer. Many affiliate programs prohibit the use of email to promote their programs. Though this tactic can curb spam, it also sends the message, "super affiliates need not apply," because super affiliates collect large databases of email addresses through opt-in lists or newsletters.
The truism here is that super affiliates know what works in affiliate marketing better than most affiliate managers. With too many affiliate managers, affiliate marketing is synonymous with getting their banners on as many sites as possible.
Another area that is not exploited nearly enough is the two-tier concept in which talented affiliates can groom subaffiliates to earn referral fees for themselves and the super affiliate mentor. According to affiliate guru Declan Dunn, "The key to making money in business is OPE (other people's effort)." In his new book, "Net Profits: How To Win the Internet Game," he describes the tactics used by an affiliate that has earned over $65,000 in commissions from only one affiliate program.
Super affiliates also utilize autoresponders, such as AWeber, to send more than one response to a prospect, a maneuver that can substantially increase affiliate profits. And super affiliates are testers, copywriters, and search engine gurus.
They test early and often to determine what works and what is a waste of their time, and they know how to persuade with words through the low-cost, highly effective education available in books such as "Make Your Site-Sell!" by Ken Evoy. How do you get listed in the top 30 listings for any keyword? You may not know, but they do.
Finally, super affiliates earn the big commissions by either setting up sites dedicated to one program or creating an affinity shopping portal.
One Focus, One Big Check The optimal super affiliate is one that identifies your program as a top prospect for earnings potential. The optimal super affiliate should also be one of your customers. What better way to know what your customers want and need? And, of course, the ideal super affiliate should be able to drive traffic to its own site and convert that traffic. The $65,000 affiliate that Declan Dunn mentions in "Net Profits: How To Win the Internet Game" is Jeff Belton, founder of the American Web Ventures Network (AWVN). AWVN's network of personals associate sites are the top revenue and traffic generators and commission earners on Ticketmaster's Match.com and One & Only Personals Network.
Another super affiliate that has dedicated a site to one program is Dan Gray, author of "The Complete Guide to Associate and Affiliate Programs on the Net." Dan created over-the-counter.com as a means for people to purchase embarrassing drugstore items online, such as pregnancy tests, gas relief products, and adult diapers. The over-the-counter.com site is an affiliate of PlanetRx.com.
Affinity Shopping Portals
Shortly after the birth of affiliate marketing, a number of sites, including Schoolpop and ShopforSchool, identified the niche of online school fundraisers. The online school fundraiser sites enable parents, family, and friends to benefit K-12 schools nationwide when making online purchases.
Similarly, many sites sprang up to facilitate donations to causes and charities when consumers make their online purchases. GreaterGood.com benefits chosen charities, the nation's K-12 schools, and college and university scholarship funds when registered users make a purchase through merchants represented on its site. iGive.com allows shoppers to support their favorite causes when they shop through its site. In the past 120 days, it's issued 2,434 checks to causes ranging from the Adopt a Grandparent Program in New Castle, Ind., to the Zink the Zebra Foundation in Milwaukee, Wis.
Super Affiliate Sightings
The question is not necessarily how to find these super affiliates and get them to join your program but rather how you can help them to find you.
To bring merchants and super affiliates together and foster a more harmonious relationship, Be Free recently announced its Performance Partner Program. Be Free offers eligible Performance Partners special products and services on behalf of participating merchants.
On December 6, CashPile.com and the United States Affiliate Manager Coalition are teaming up to present the Affiliate Webinar, an affiliate marketing seminar conducted entirely online. This free event was created to perform the revolutionary task of bringing affiliates and merchants together.
Countless people have endeavored in cryptozoology (the study of creatures, such as the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, whose existence have not been substantiated), only to be left feeling they are wasting their time on a snipe hunt.
Trust me. I know snipe hunts, and seeking out the super affiliate is no snipe hunt!
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Shawn Collins is a Co-Founder of the Affiliate Summit conference, Co-Editor-in-Chief of FeedFront Magazine, and has been an affiliate marketer since 1997.