Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
Online retailers welcome all the help they can get to be successful. To succeed in a crowded marketplace, business owners need to get their products in front of as broad and diverse an audience as possible. One way to get more sales is by creating affiliate partnerships, in which other website owners send traffic your way in exchange for a commission.
“Launching an affiliate program can be less risky than other online marketing channels,” says Jessica Griffin, senior sales and marketing specialist for Schaaf-PartnerCentric, an affiliate management agency. That’s because you only have to pay the commission if you make a sale.
Ready to enlist the aid of a virtual sales team? Griffin offers these four tips to help you get the most from an affiliate program.
Use affiliates to supplement an existing marketing plan. Don’t expect affiliates to take you off the hook for promoting your own product. Instead, consider them a tool for increasing sales once you have built a great website that you already know can make sales. “An affiliate program is more of a slow burn marketing effort,” Griffin says. “A new program will take anywhere from six to 12 months to launch and reach appreciable volume.”
Find website owners who complement your product. It’s important to take the time to find affiliate partners who are a good fit for your business. “Actual identification takes a lot of time and effort,” says Griffin. “If you don’t understand how they will drive traffic, you might not want to partner with that one.” Look for bloggers who already write about products in your industry or sign up with affiliate agencies who can help you bring appropriate partners on board.
Commission rates on affiliate websites can vary widely – anywhere from one to as much as 100 percent of the sale price, depending on the exact role the affiliate plays. For example, if the affiliate brings in a new customer you can upsell to later, it might be worth giving the affiliate 100 percent of the profits from the initial sale.
Actively manage your affiliate partnerships. It’s not enough to just bring on some partners and hope that the sales roll in. “There’s always going to be a rise and fall of affiliate partners,” says Griffin. Use tracking programs so you know which affiliates are coming through with sales and which are lagging behind. A few affiliate options are ShareASale, Rakuten Affiliate Network and Impact Radius. You should also be in regular communication with your existing partners to coordinate special offers, new products, and other marketing initiatives.
Avoid affiliate fraud. “Online fraud in general is rampant,” Griffin says. If you aren’t careful, you can bump into shady affiliates who use software to try to take credit for sales they don’t deserve, or who send over a bunch of orders only to cancel them after they receive their commission. Make sure you create and enforce strong policies to discourage unethical behavior and keep a close eye on your partners to catch any suspicious activity.
Affiliate partnerships shouldn’t be your only marketing tool, but with some due diligence, they can give a big boost to the bottom line of an already-promising business. “Make sure that your website looks good and your conversion rate is good,” Griffin says. “You have to actively manage the affiliate program to get the most out of it.”
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