Affiliate marketing turns seven years old this year. Most of what I really needed to know about how to manage an affiliate program I learned as an affiliate kindergartner. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain but, rather, on the frontline as a kindergarten affiliate.
My experiences as an affiliate were used to determine how the ClubMom affiliate program would be set up and run. These success strategies are explicitly detailed in a new book by yours truly and Frank Fiore, “Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants.”
But here are the most important things you’ll ever need to know:
Test and Test Again
The following two basic rules should hang over your computer: Track everything and try everything. There is gold in your affiliate tracking reports. You just need to be careful and keep detailed inspections of those reports to get an accurate picture of your program’s performance and specific affiliates.
One way to increase the effectiveness of your affiliate program is to continuously test new creative. And the way to determine the best creative for a particular product or site is relentless experimentation and testing. Media Market Makers is a new service that enables affiliate programs to run finite offers that enable you to test creatives, as well as commission price points.
Programs With Promotions Convert Better
One of the best ways to keep your program fresh is to tie promotions to your offer. Sweepstakes, freebies, contests, and coupons have a marked impact on conversion rates. Also, by combining promotions with your offer, your program will be more original and timely and therefore will keep your affiliates happier.
Opt-In Email Lists Rule
Affiliate programs based on banners are so passi. If you check with your best affiliates, you’ll most likely find that they’ve built opt-in email lists to sell the products or services on your site. Email marketing is one of the best marketing tools on the Internet today — when used correctly.
Just as your top affiliates are leveraging opt-in lists to generate results, you ought to be doing the same with your affiliate program. Encourage your affiliates to opt in to more frequent communications from you through a free service, such as Yahoo Groups.
FAQs Are Better Than Fiction
One component of your program that can serve as a great efficiency tool is the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) file. Your FAQ should be comprehensive. It should provide an overview of your program, information on commission payments, basic instructions on setting up links and maintaining the affiliate account, marketing and promotion policies, and any other relevant questions that affiliates ask affiliate managers.
Your FAQ should act as a common-language version of your Affiliate Agreement. Also, I implore you to resist the temptation to tell prospective affiliates on your Affiliate Information page that it’s easy to earn money with your program.
Communication Is King
Ongoing communication with affiliates is vital to the success of any program. You should provide a number of different ways for affiliates to communicate with you and vice versa. Your affiliate program should include an affiliate email newsletter (at least monthly) to update affiliates on changes to your program, new offers, and marketing tips.
In addition to newsletter communications, it is important to send targeted communications to affiliates. Webrings enable affiliates to view how other affiliates are marketing your program. Live chat sessions between the affiliates and affiliate manager enable affiliates to interact with one another and the affiliate manager. Such sessions can serve as focus groups for your program.
Educated Affiliates Are Better Affiliates
Tutorials are an important communication tool to provide your affiliates with the know-how to succeed in affiliate marketing. There are plenty of free resources out there that you can share with your affiliates. Also, AffiliateFORCE offers a free, cobranded seven-day course in affiliate marketing for your affiliates.
Don’t Shortchange Your Affiliates
When you agree to pay for something, pay for it. If you have the margins in your product or service to pay higher commissions — do it! It will pay off in affiliate loyalty and barriers to competition down the road.
But whatever you do, don’t pull one of those sleazy moves where you post a high commission to recruit affiliates and then reduce it without telling them. Affiliates are true business partners and should be compensated at the level of your best portal partners. Thus, here are two more important rules to remember. One: Pay them. Two: Pay them on time.
That said, quit procrastinating and become an affiliate yourself! After you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of your affiliates, you’ll learn that there are a lot of things about your program that could be better.
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