Published January 12, 2012

Building a Successful Affiliate Program for Your Small Business

Creating an Affiliate Network

Online marketing is preferred by both small and big businesses today, because it is convenient and affordable. However, business owners may not be able to allocate enough time for it, to get the desired results. This is where affiliate marketing comes in.

Understanding Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a way of promoting your products and services via third parties or intermediaries called affiliate marketers. These marketers make use of the online marketing tools like blogs, articles, websites and online mailing lists to promote your products on the internet. So, the success of your affiliate program is largely dependent on the efficiency of marketers you select.

An affiliate program works irrespective of your industry or type of business, the size of your business and the product or service you are promoting.

Creating an Affiliate Network

Choosing the right affiliate network and marketers is important if you want to succeed. The ideal affiliates would be those that have, or create, a website or webpage that is relevant to the product or service you offer. Also, to attract the best ones catering to a product like yours, you need to create the best affiliate marketing program.

To create your own affiliate network, you can seek the services of affiliate marketing services or merchants that help you get in touch with the right kind of affiliates. After that, you can increase your network by designing a tier-based marketing program, where your affiliates can refer other affiliates and gain from it.

Developing a Successful Affiliate Program

Here are the steps for creating a marketing program that benefits you as well as your affiliates.

Provide Resources

Choosing affiliates or partners that are familiar with the products and services in your industry makes it easier for you to explain what they have to promote. However, considering that your brand and your products are unique, it is important that you give them the necessary resources for promoting your products. Here is how you should do that.

  • Allow affiliates to access and use the images of your product or service from your website.
  • Provide free access to the literature about your products. The information should include details about the features, its unique points, advantages etc. If possible, share a free ebook or PDF that the affiliate can share with a potential customer.
  • Provide a guide that gives complete details of the service or products you offer. If possible, give them a sample or a free demo version of the product. This makes it easier for affiliates to talk about it in their own words.
  • Share newsletters and email promos that the affiliates can share with prospects in their mailing lists
  • Provide information about keywords that the affiliates can use in their articles
  • Give them coupons/discount vouchers that they can share with the prospects

Provide Competitive Incentives

Understand that affiliate marketing is relatively cheaper when compared to other forms of marketing, which makes it great for small businesses. But to succeed in attracting the best affiliate marketers for your products, be sure to offer competitive commission percentages. Find out what your competitors are paying and offer an equal or higher commission percentage to your affiliates.

Having a tier-based program, in which your affiliates can earn well, is another way to reward them. Also, offer recurring commissions to every time a customer makes a recurring purchase. Though this may seem like a lot of commission, it is actually a very little percentage of your sales, and is a great way to keep your online marketing active all the time.

Also, it is best to avoid charging your affiliates for joining your marketing program.

Integrate Offline and Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is great in itself, as it has great potential to increase your website traffic and with it the sales. But integrating your offline marketing campaign at retail outlets - print media or direct mail advertising - with affiliate marketing can enhance the effect it has on your prospects. This could be in the form of a billboard advertisement, a copy of which can be used by your affiliates in their direct mail marketing and email marketing campaigns.

Using the Latest Tools

There are a number of tracking, statistics and financial reporting tools that can be used to keep a track of the referrals, clicks, sales, commissions etc in your marketing program. These links not only give an idea about the marketing campaign's success, but can also be used by the affiliates to keep a track of their referrals and learn about the areas they need to improve.

Focus on Conversion

The aim of an affiliate marketing program is to increase the conversion rates. Irrespective of how efficient your affiliates or marketing programs are, your conversion rates won't improve if you have a bad sales page. And if your affiliates are unable to sell the product despite the best efforts, they might lose interest in promoting. That is why, to make your affiliate marketing program a success, it is important to create an impressive, functional landing or sales page that can boost your conversion rates.