You’ve been getting a steady stream of business for a while now, but you’re ready to take things to the next level. You’ve been working hard to optimize your pages for the search engines, and you’ve just launched a new PPC campaign. Your email newsletter is going out to thousands of satisfied subscribers. What are you missing?
The answer could be an Affiliate Marketing plan.
Many eBusiness owners don’t realize just how effective the right affiliate marketing plan can be in terms of generating new revenue for them. Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies recently launched a Linkshare affiliate program to complement their existing marketing strategies. After several months it is now a significant and essential driver for the growth of their online business.
Choosing an Affiliate Network to Join
There are numerous affiliate networks for e-tailers to choose from, each with its own strengths, weaknesses and personality. Commission Junction or CJ, is one of the oldest, largest and well known affiliate networks. One of the key benefits with CJ is the high level of transparency provided to merchants and publishers (affiliates) alike. We have seen great success through CJ with clients such as Jildor Shoes. The Google Affiliate Network is one of the new kids on the block and offers automated payments, flexible commissions and a wide variety of conversion tracking and reporting tools. They offer flexible terms and the support of the Google brain-trust to build high quality technology for their platform. ShareASale is a more boutique network that is well respected and has a very loyal following. They offer a very reasonable fee structure that will fit into almost any merchant’s budget, plus grace periods to help new affiliate programs ramp up. LinkShare is another leader in the affiliate space and attracts Fortune 500 corporations such as Wall-Mart, AT&T, Macy’s and hundreds of other well-known consumer brands. We are currently integrating Infinity Shoes with the Linkshare network and expect amazing results.
Key Benefits of Starting an Affiliate Program
If you still aren’t sure how an affiliate program could benefit your eBusiness, consider the following benefits that make it an integral part of any successful online marketing plan:
– You Pay Only for Performance – If your affiliates don’t make a sale, they don’t get paid – so you only pay a commission for results. Compare this to pay per click (PPC) where you have variable costs based on the volume of clicks, whether they generate sales or not.
– Free Advertising for Your Business – When you join an affiliate network, your logo and brand name will be displayed on thousands of websites with no extra work on your part, making it essentially free advertising for you!
– You’re in the Presence of Larger Companies – When your product or logo is listed next to other well-known brand names, your business becomes associated with those brands “by extension.” For example, if someone were to search for Tory Burch handbags on TheFind, they would see that our client, JildorShoes.com is grouped together with other well-known department stores such as Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. A similar search for “cookies” on Savings.com reveals the David’s Cookies logo in the context of Cheryl&Co., Mrs. Fields and other players in the gourmet food industry.
How Do I Manage An Affiliate Program?
Knowing which affiliate network you want to join is just the first step toward effectively running an affiliate program for your business. You also have to integrate the right technology to suit your needs, know how to properly leverage relationships, negotiate for traffic and placement and how and when to approach the decision makers who hold the keys to your success. If you’re just starting out in ecommerce, then you may opt to manage a program yourself. However, it can take years to build a network and learn the ropes of affiliate marketing, and managing another fulltime staff member to handle this side of your business may shift focus away your overall growth. One alternative to in-house program management is to bring on an Outsourced Program Manager (OPM) who can effectively run your program from A to Z, allowing you to effectively scale your e-business. In either case, affiliate marketing, when done strategically, is a necessity to any business looking to scale their online presence and acquire new customers.