The Ten Keys to Your Affiliate Program:
What You Must Know to Unleash Your Internet Sales Channel
Copyright © 1998 Michael Declan Dunn. All rights reserved.
This is an excerpt from "The Complete Insider's Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs." Email email@example.com for more information.
Affiliate program: targeting a customer base and the Web sites they most frequently visit, a business sets up an Internet sales system that moves the consumer from visiting another site to a point of sale at their Web site. Sometimes called an affiliate or associate program, resellers, revenue sharing programs, per-inquiry/per-click-through sales, or per-sales commissions, the online affiliate programs simply make it easy for your customer to find you through high-traffic niche sites on the Internet. In exchange for forwarding customers to you, the Web site owner/affiliate is rewarded each time one of its consumers makes a purchase at your site. Amazon.com is the most famous example with its Associate Program.
Discover how to target your customer base and affiliates to generate leads, along with innovative means to convert those leads into sales. Most businesses think it's just about generating traffic, but your conversion and follow-up process are crucial.
1. Target Your Customer Base and Niche Web Sites Where They Are Meeting: Qualify Your Affiliates and Build Your Network
Right now your target prospects are out there looking on the Internet. There are over a million commercial sites to choose from, so it's not easy. To develop your business and traffic, you have to do what few others are doing: clearly and quickly define your value to these target prospects through the Web sites where they are already meeting.
Go out on the Internet and act like your customers. What key words do they use to find your product or service? What related hobbies, discussion groups, or subjects do you find? What are the key frustrations your customers run into? More importantly, what are the sites that solve these problems?
2. Focus on Your "Sell-Through" Measurement by Tracking Your Affiliate's Traffic and Counting the Percentage of Sales to That Traffic
Customers are very simple; they will not work hard to work with you. Your ratio of sales to traffic is a critical count to measure; it is the most accurate way to gauge your success. Why focus on click-through ratios when you can focus on the sell-through?
Sell-through: the conversion rate of visitors to buyers from a specific affiliate Web site.
Create a general measure of your sell-through ratio from targeted sites, and rank your top affiliate sites in terms of the sell-through ratio.
3. Give Your Affiliates the Marketing Tools to Succeed
Now that you have targeted your market and determined your sales goals in terms of the sell-through, it is time to create the best means to drive people from other Web sites to yours quickly. The Internet is a direct-response medium--people have to literally take action by clicking the mouse to make anything happen. For your affiliate program to succeed, you need to invent the best lead-generating items like:
a. banner ads
b. personal endorsement from an affiliate (the most powerful tool of all)
c. pictures of your product and service, as well as a text link
d. free reports to post at your affiliates' sites
4. First Contact Sales Strategy: Give Them a Specific Offer on Their Visit
Perhaps the most common online marketing mistake is sending someone to a home page from an affiliate's link. Home pages are often filled with so many choices, so many products, so much noise that your prospective customers can't process it all. Focus them on one product, one choice, when you market.
Your target customers do not care about you or your product; they only care about themselves. If you start by focusing on the benefits, the reason your product or service is important to your customers, and position yourself from your competition with a clear, direct message, you will increase your sell-through.
5. Develop Your Lead Product, Back-End Product, and Other Related Products and Services
Think through your affiliate program and forge your long-term relationship with your customers by building a sales process that takes them from first contact to close, then follow up with more products and services--more reasons to visit your Web site and buy. It all begins with considering your product line, and the first product you introduce them to when visiting from your affiliates' sites.
6. Convert Them Quickly at Your Web Site and Build in Follow-Up Mechanisms Via Email: the Power of Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs are the best way to follow up; give your long-term customers status (special pricing, rebates based on buying volume, and added bonuses are good programs) as a benefit for giving you permission to contact them after they have visited. If you do not give them a reason, they will not understand the next time you contact them. Follow-up via email is a critical part of your success.
7. Create an Exit Strategy
Have you noticed that most Web sites focus all their energy on the entry point, either through a home page or a specific product/service entry page, but pay little or no attention to how that customer leaves?
This key is quite simple: your customers will leave your site. No one can keep them entertained forever. Once again you can build your affiliate program through the idea of an exit strategy: since your customers will leave, identify those pages that they will likely leave from and point them to related sites, even other affiliate programs. Many visitors will leave via a links page; turn your links into commission sales links by joining up with other affiliate programs.
8. How to Reward Your Affiliates, and Reward Your Best Affiliates Even More
An affiliate who generates many sales for you should be rewarded for performance. Many affiliate programs set the same fees for every affiliate; the person who sells one of your products makes the same as one who sells 100 of your products.
Create an affiliate program that follows the 80/20 rule; 20 percent of your affiliates will generate 80 percent of your business. Treat that top 20 percent differently by rewarding them with improved profit margins as they sell more; the best sales force is given reason to increase sales.
9. Testing and Sales: Tracking Your Process--the Importance of Repeat Business
Your ratio of repeat visitors is an essential part of your tracking. As Internet traffic grows, consumers will swamp all sorts of Web sites looking for what they want. Those who only sell them once, and leave it up to the customer to remember the Web site and to return, will likely lose their market share in the long haul. To build your market share, you must test your approach, and track the results.
10. Get Them to Remember You--Your Brand
The final key is to develop your business's reputation in the minds of both your affiliates and your target customer base. Be sure to:
a. Include your company logo or symbol in your advertising; it will develop a visual symbol that people can remember. From banner ads to a simple link with the company logo next to it, this means of "branding" simply puts your company's image in their minds. Without it, you only have text or a simple banner ad, which could apply to any company.
b. Spread the word about your program and get your company logo in important sections of other Web sites. When you go to a search engine and see Amazon.com's symbol, it reminds you that the company is seemingly everywhere. As people visit other affiliate sites, it builds up the consumer's retention of your business simply through good repetition.