Not too long ago, affiliate programs were one of the most innovative ways to drive customers to your web site. Now, every site you encounter has a link at the bottom of the screen with those three words every vice president of marketing loves to see: “Become an Affiliate.”
An increase in affiliate programs doesn’t have to spell a decrease for your program’s success. By understanding your affiliates, your competition, and your allies, you can ensure your affiliate link will continue to be clicked.
Know Thy Enemy
Ask any army general, NFL coach, or high school debater how to win, and, most likely, he or she will say the same thing: “Know thy enemy.” If your business has competitors, there’s a good chance you have competing affiliate programs. Knowing what’s going on in the enemy’s camp can keep your own program from getting ambushed.
Scout out your competitors’ affiliate programs. Make sure you understand their program as well as you know your own. If you don’t know the answers to the questions below, you’re fair game for an affiliate attack.
- Who is their affiliate technology partner? (Commission Junction, Be Free, and LinkShare are a few of the most popular ones.)
- How is their program structured? (Do they negotiate revenue shares, pay for performance, or take a cut of a transaction?)
- How are they promoting their program?
Do your research and be objective. What is your competition doing wrong? What is it doing right? How does your program measure up? By comparing yourself to your competition, you’ll find areas you need to work on, but you’ll also find what makes your program unique. Use these differences to sell your program to affiliates.
Now that you understand your competition, take a look at your own program. Analyze your existing affiliate base to find out who’s helping your site meet its goals. Chances are, the old sales rule still applies: 20 percent of your affiliates will generate 80 percent of your traffic, transactions, or acquisitions.
Remember how you researched your competition? Do the same due diligence on your own high-performing affiliates. Take a look at demographics, psychographics, anything that can give you insight into what kind of site makes a great affiliate. Then use that knowledge to get more great affiliates.
Brush up Your Graphics
Once you have found your affiliates, empower them! Think back to your most successful affiliates. How are they implementing your program? Are they using links? Buttons? Banners? Make sure you’re providing your affiliates with the creative elements that are working for them.
Remember that your success hinges on your affiliates’ success. Take a look at the creative you’re offering your affiliates. Don’t give your affiliates a graphic you wouldn’t put on your own site. Think of these boxes and banners as extensions of your own site and brand because that’s exactly what they are. Amazon.com, the mother of all affiliate programs, does a great job of meeting its affiliates’ needs while at the same time building its brand. Amazon offers its affiliates more than 50 different great-looking options, and it has the most successful affiliate program on the web. Coincidence?
Partner or Perish
In war and in business, allies are important. Look for partners that share your same target market that you can promote your affiliate program to. If your affiliate program is cost per click, find another web site with acquisition programs or revenue-sharing programs that complement your existing program. Build partnerships that create value for your affiliates. If you help them make more money, they’ll make more money for you.
The bottom line? Invest the time to understand your competition, identify your successful affiliate channels, and keep your creative fresh. Once these steps are completed, cross-promote your program with partners, and you will be well on your way to increasing your brand and Internet reach.