You Are Your Best Super Affiliate: Smart Media Buying

Who are the best affiliates for your business? Are you one of them? You should be your own super affiliate. Let me explain…

  • Affiliate programs give you the ability to track all your advertising to actual revenue generated, putting return on investment (ROI) on any campaign you run.
  • Affiliate programs are one of the best ways to test a variety of creative and to get input from your best affiliates, who become a virtual research and development (R&D) center for your advertising, with payment based on performance. Your best affiliates will often come up with ideas you would never think about.
  • Affiliate programs should be the center of your overall advertising efforts, giving you the ability to negotiate hybrid media buys based on performance and, yes, cost per thousand, or CPM (many smart marketers are taking advantage of low CPM rates and tracking it through their affiliate program to determine ROI).

Most people think of Amazon.com as the industry definition of an affiliate program, with a bunch of small mom-and-pop sites selling one or two books a month. What’s amazing is that many affiliate programs take this same approach, waiting around for unqualified sites to generate sales for them. This approach is outdated and not worth your time.

Yet the real goal of an affiliate program is to generate sales for your business. If you are not using your own affiliate program to track your media buys, to test, and to improve overall performance for your entire business, you are missing its real power.

Affiliate programs offer much more than free advertising on small sites; they are a testing bed for all your media buying. And there are much better models than Amazon to follow.

For example, one of the first affiliate programs on the Internet, Internet Marketing Center, has a large affiliate network promoting its books and software. Founder Corey Rudl is one of the smartest marketers on the Net, and his program generates significant sales.

You may not know Rudl, but his business has generated over $7 million in yearly sales, driven by affiliate programs and smart media buying.

Here’s what he did. He set up his affiliate network in 1996 (before Amazon), gave people the right creative, and promoted it through traditional affiliate directories, outreach to target sites, and his own opt-in list.

But to take his program to the next level, Rudl integrated all his promotions within the affiliate program. Here’s how he did it:

  1. Internet Marketing Center set up traditional affiliates with a variety of creative and watched the results in terms of click-through and conversion, especially conversion. These numbers guided creative development.
  2. Ads that did not perform were gradually filtered out, while new promotions were given to affiliates to improve performance and, of course, to get tested.
  3. Conversion rates were determined by finding the best performing ads, and the right landing page to convert the visitor to a quick sale, so affiliates could be rewarded.

Now this is where 99.9 percent of all affiliate programs stop dead in their tracks; they sit around and wait for their affiliates, their sales channel, to generate results.

As you likely know, affiliate programs may generate up to 33 percent of overall sales. That leaves a large percentage of sales dependent on your ability to advertise and promote your business.

Armed with knowledge of what advertising is working, and with a reliable conversion number, you should now become your own super affiliate.

Rudl was one of the first people to use his affiliate program to track all his advertising. He became his own super affiliate. It’s one of the simplest concepts, yet most miss it. Here’s how it works:

  1. Internet Marketing Center buys advertising, in addition to relying on its affiliate channel. Each ad gets its own affiliate tracking code so it can be fully tracked to revenue generated.
  2. In essence, Rudl becomes his own super affiliate and tracks the performance of his advertising at other Web sites. This is compared to affiliate results.Not only does this approach give full ROI tracking to every campaign, it also forces the company to walk in the shoes of an affiliate, running into the same problems and challenges. Knowing what your affiliates must do to succeed can only help you with your own efforts. 
  3. When Rudl gets his monthly reports, they include not only affiliate results but also the results of all his advertising campaigns, based on performance of that ad to generate real revenue.
  4. Empowered with this information, Internet Marketing Center is able to develop its own affiliate profile of best sites to advertise on. This can be used to recruit more affiliates in specific niche markets, as well as to identify new sources of advertising to buy, that is, smart media buying.

The next generation of affiliate programs will be much more than just pay-for-performance deals. Sometimes buying CPM is much cheaper than paying for performance, if you know your conversion numbers.

In the challenging Internet advertising market, knowing your numbers and tracking results quickly is essential to survival. And like most things on the Net, the best ideas come from the places you’d least expect — such as Internet Marketing Center.

But these are the companies in the trenches that have always been profitable. To survive today, you should mix an affiliate program with all your advertising, and make sure that you get the best performance out of every effort.

In my next article, I’ll share with you the impact this approach is having on all advertising, bridging the gap between cost per action (CPA) affiliate deals and standard CPM advertising.

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