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In the fast-paced world of e-commerce and digital marketing, staying ahead of the competition can be a daunting challenge. Businesses are constantly on the lookout for effective strategies to boost their sales and expand their customer base. One proven method that has gained tremendous popularity in recent years is the implementation of affiliate programs.
If you're looking to enhance your sales figures and build lasting relationships with online partners, you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll guide you through the process of creating and optimizing an affiliate program that can significantly increase your sales.
Congratulations! Your merchant account has been approved. Now what?
Each month, hundreds of companies launch affiliate programs on networks and tracking platforms such as ShareASale, CJ, Impact, Pepperjam, Rakuten, and Refersion. Many of the programs are launched by the owner of the company. They weren't planning on hiring an experienced affiliate program manager because it all seemed simple enough. The staff can handle the job.
Unfortunately, that is oftentimes not the case.
Affiliate marketing isn't easy and it takes time. It takes time out of your day and time for the program to mature. The best performance marketers are busy promoting your competitors and other programs in completely different niches. They live at the intersection of conversion plus commission equals consistent paychecks.
These dream partners don't know your program exists. They might not even know your brand exists. They need an invitation and proof they will earn healthy commissions before joining and creating content for your brand. Then they need attention, education, and motivation to create promotions and send clicks to your site.
Step One: Launch on a Proper Affiliate Network
Launching an affiliate program is an exciting step, but it's crucial to start on the right foot. Choosing the right affiliate network can make all the difference in the success of your program.
Affiliate networks act as intermediaries between you (the merchant) and your affiliates (partners who promote your products or services). These networks provide a platform where you can manage your affiliate program, track performance, and facilitate payments to your affiliates.
These networks go far beyond a simple extension or plugin on your shopping cart and offer robust management tools such as in-depth reporting, affiliate communication software, distribution of assets, and more. Moreover, large publishers and affiliates are already integrated with these networks, making adding them to your affiliate program seamless.
With the right affiliate network, you'll be well on your way to increasing your sales.
Step Two: Hire An Experienced Affiliate Manager
The first step toward a healthy affiliate program is to hire an experienced affiliate manager or an affiliate management agency. Affiliates respond to proactive managers who take the time to listen to their needs and follow up with tools and advice to accomplish their goals. They need managers who treat them as partners and follow industry best practices.
Good affiliate managers will build an attractive and competitive affiliate program. Then they will roll up their sleeves and recruit those partners who everyone will love. They will find bloggers who will try and review the products. They will find the review and comparison sites in the right niche and demographic for your customers. They will dig deep and recruit non-traditional partners and teach them how to promote your products.
Additionally, an affiliate manager can help you navigate any challenges that may arise during the program's operation. Whether it's resolving disputes or fine-tuning commission structures, having a dedicated manager can make a substantial difference in the success of your program.
An experienced affiliate manager can help you identify high-potential affiliates, provide them with the resources they need, and ensure they're aligned with your brand's goals.
Step Three: Develop a Strategy for Growth
Again, this is not a set-it-and-forget-it online marketing channel. Affiliate managers cannot act alone. We need help from the company owner on a monthly basis. Our job is to recruit and get the affiliates to send clicks. Conversion is solely upon the company website. Merchants need to improvise, adapt, and overcome technical issues to close those customers as soon as possible.
An editorial calendar is a great place to start. Let the affiliate manager share upcoming promotions with affiliates. Test giving some or all affiliates exclusive offers to promote. They can be the same deals that are offered on the company homepage to all visitors or they could be slightly better with a vanity code.
Consider using trusted affiliates to handle your paid search or shopping cart abandonment solutions. There are some very good partners out there who could save you money immediately or the trouble of trying to do it in-house.
Finally, I'm not shy about sharing this gold nugget: not all affiliates deliver the same value. I consider some top coupon and loyalty sites a vital part of the clickstream. Customers are driving this behavior and they are looking for your brand on their favorite deals or cash-back sites. But, Apogee doesn't pay these affiliates default commissions. We pay coupon sites 2%, across the board. You could pay them 100% and they wouldn't do anything different. Both of these models are also paid differently in our conversion line rules. We protect our influencing affiliates from losing their commissions to coupon and loyalty sites.
This part of our strategy allows us to save money and reinvest those funds into bonuses, sponsored fees and VIP commissions to the content affiliates who drive new customers. Our effective commission rate is nearly always lower than the default rate each month. Our programs grow and are profitable at the same time.
One of the main reasons using experienced affiliate managers adds value is that it shows affiliates the company believes in the potential of the affiliate channel. It shows that they treat it seriously as an integral part of their overall marketing plan. They are committed to its success and to the success of its partners who only get paid when a sale occurs.
Step Four: Understand Affiliates and Influencers Are One In The Same
Affiliates and influencers are often viewed as separate entities in the world of online marketing. However, it's essential to recognize that they can be one and the same.
Many affiliates are also influencers in their respective niches. They have built a loyal following who trust their recommendations. Leveraging these influencers as affiliates can be incredibly powerful. When they promote your products or services, their endorsement carries weight and authenticity.
To tap into this potential, seek out influencers who align with your brand and values. Collaborate with them to create content that resonates with their audience while promoting your offerings. Remember that successful affiliate influencers aren't just interested in quick payouts; they genuinely believe in the products they endorse.
By understanding that affiliates and influencers can be the same, you'll unlock a new dimension of possibilities for your affiliate program.
Step Five: Give It Time
Finally, patience is a virtue when it comes to affiliate marketing. The last keyword, “Give It Time,” underscores the importance of allowing your affiliate program the time it needs to mature and yield results.
Building a successful affiliate program is not an overnight endeavor. It takes time to recruit affiliates, establish partnerships, and fine-tune your strategies. You may not see immediate results, but with persistence and consistent effort, your program can gain momentum.
It's also essential to recognize that not all affiliates will perform at the same level. Some will excel right out of the gate, while others may require more time and support to reach their potential. Be patient and give your affiliates the support they need to succeed.
In conclusion, increasing sales with a new affiliate program is a rewarding journey that requires careful planning, the right resources, and a long-term perspective. By launching on a proper affiliate network, hiring an experienced affiliate manager, developing a growth strategy, understanding the potential of affiliate-influencers, and giving your program time to flourish, you'll be well on your way to boosting your sales and building strong partnerships in the digital marketing landscape.