Before we get started, there are terms you should become comfortable using: advertiser, publisher, and affiliate.
Advertisers are people or businesses with products or services and they pay publishers for their promotional efforts. Advertisers are also sometimes referred to as merchants.
Publishers create content online. Publishers are also referred to as content creators. Creators are influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, etc…anyone publishing content online.
Once a publisher signs up for an affiliate program, they are referred to as affiliates.
If you’re here, it’s because you’re an advertiser with a product or service and you’re interested in affiliate marketing because it is a win-win-win situation:
Win #1 – You can acquire new customers.
Win #2 – You pay your affiliates for the promotion they’ve done to help you sell your products or services.
Win #3 – Your new customers have found products or services that are a fit for them by way of the relevant, educational content that their favorite publishers created.
Step 1 to starting your affiliate program: Choose a platform.
A platform is what you use to keep track of your affiliate program, including, but not limited to:
- all the publishers who have applied for and joined your affiliate program;
- all the traffic those affiliates create;
- all the leads or sales those affiliates helped generate; and
- all the payments to those affiliates.
You really have two options when it comes to the platform for your affiliate program:
- Impact.com – yes, that’s an affiliate link!
Yes, you can search Google and you’ll find lots of other options that could be more or less expensive, but for both advertisers and publishers, these two platforms mentioned above are ideal.
“An affiliate program platform is a requirement for working with the biggest and best publishers. A platform like Tune provides real-time data we can collectively use to improve all metrics and make more money!”– Emma Johnson, owner of Wealthysinglemommy.com
Sign up for demos with both companies. Ask for referrals. You know, do your due diligence, but you’ll soon see why we are big fans.
Note: Platforms have fees, most commonly subscription fees and transaction fees. Thus, you’ll see pretty quickly why you should have decent margins to work with if you’re going to launch an affiliate program.
Step 2 to starting your affiliate program: Choose a payout.
Perhaps the most difficult decision you’ll have to make is the payout. While there are a handful of payout schemes, the most common are CPA and CPL.
CPA refers to Cost Per Action
You pay your affiliates AFTER customers buy something from you. Most common for retailers.
CPL refers to Cost Per Lead
You pay your publishers/affiliates BEFORE potential customers buy something from you. Most common for insurance companies and the like.
CPL + CPA
You pay a fee before the sale AND after the sale. Something to consider if your industry allows it because it could be attractive to your top publishers/affiliates, i.e. those who have the greatest potential for sending new customers to your website.
Note: Regardless of the payout scheme you choose for your affiliate program, this fee will be in addition to any fees assessed by the affiliate platform you choose. Again, it helps if you have decent margins to work with when setting up your affiliate program.
Step 3 to starting your affiliate program: Find one publisher.
After you choose a platform, integrate the service into your website, test thoroughly, and identify what you’re paying your affiliates, it’s time to start making connections.
Your most experienced publishers have been pitched thousands of times by companies new and old, so keep that in mind before you decide to search Google for “best [fill-in-the-blank product or service] review” and fire off emails to the first 10 publishers showing in the search results.
When you’re looking for your first publisher to work with, see if they mention you or a competitor. Read everything that publisher has ever said about you and your competitors. Sign up for that publisher’s email list. Follow that publisher on all the social media channels where they’re active. Get familiar with that publisher’s style to see if you feel they would be a good fit.
As you draft that initial email to this publisher you want to work with, keep in mind that you have the potential to start a relationship that could last for years. You have a lot to keep up to keep your affiliate happy. Remember:
- Communication. You’ll want to keep in touch with this affiliate monthly, at the very least, about what’s happening in your business and to ask how you can support theirs. Be as transparent as possible because “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
- Conversions. You’ll want to ensure your own website loads quickly, products are in stock, pricing is up to date, social media is managed, all the links on your site work, and that the sales process or lead-generation funnel is as short as possible to maximize conversions. And you’ll want to ask your affiliate what they need from you to promote your products or services.
- Payments. You’ll want to pay as quickly as possible. Net-90 terms are out of the question.
So, starting an affiliate program still sounds like it could work for your business, DIY-ing your affiliate marketing managing dozens of affiliates? Too much work. You wear a lot of hats already, and affiliate marketing manager doesn’t have to be one.
Well, you could launch and manage your own affiliate program with just one publisher/affiliate — no need to have dozens of affiliates when you’re just getting your feet wet. And sometimes the volume generated by the right affiliate might be just want you need.
You could also look into affiliate marketing agencies that are equipped to help companies like yours launch and manage affiliate programs. If you go this route, look for agencies that have worked with your competitors because it will make it easier for the agency to find publishers that are a fit.
You could consider hiring an employee who manages your affiliate program, if you know that affiliate marketing is going to play a big part of your marketing plan.
At DIY Marketing, we have a passion for education. While we don’t manage affiliate programs for advertisers, we can answer any questions you have about launching an affiliate program or growing an existing affiliate program — use this link to schedule a 60-minute, no-B.S. call for $599 to get actionable takeaways from our own affiliate marketing veteran, Claudia Pennington.