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If creating an affiliate program for your company, create a community forum or blog community for you and your affiliates. When associates have an ability to network with one another and share ideas, it can be a great motivator for selling more product. As a company, you can gain insights into what is working and not working so you can improve upon your program. This is also a great way to communicate with your associates in an interactive way to tell them about new products or new promotions that can help them sell more. The more invested your associates feel in your program, the harder they'll work to make your company a success.
*You can start an affiliate business by creating a web site around some small niche that you enjoy:
• Get a good domain name and create your web site
• Write some articles about the subject area and post them on your web site
• Consider creating a blog about your subject matter (blogs are easy to update and make it easier and faster to add content to your site)
Once you are getting some traffic to your site, find some affiliate programs that offer related items for sale. Sign up for their programs and create some pages with good relevant content that include links to the affiliate web site.
When you start your own affiliate program, make sure your affiliate agreements are both detailed and legally sound. Hire an attorney familiar with the affiliate business so you are well protected.
The agreement should spell out:
• what commissions you will pay for what things (click, lead, or sale)
• what your minimum payout level is
• how often you pay
Remember that an affiliate agreement is legally binding. Depending on your specific industry, there may be certain rules and regulations of which you must be aware. You need to protect yourself and make sure your affiliates understand the exact rules when you start your own affiliate program.
When starting an affiliate business, most people begin by creating a web site about one of their passions or hobbies. If you are thinking of starting one, think about who your audience is:
• What would they like to read about or learn?
• How old are they?
• What related hobbies might they have?
Then, ask yourself where those types of people "hang out" and find a way to make your presence known there. Join discussion groups related to your niche. Concentrate on providing useful information in the groups and on your own site and people will begin to recommend your site. Word of mouth recommendations are very powerful as you start an affiliate program--even after your established. Check your referrer statistics and see how people are finding out about your site. If someone has a link to you on their site, send them a quick thank you note! Those kinds of links provide wonderful free publicity and help your natural search engine rankings.
When you go to launch an affiliate program, you need to budget to fund several items. First, if your company is well-established and you're just branching into the online affiliate networks, it's a good idea to hire an experienced affiliate manager to run the program for you. You'll also need to budget for the affiliate technology and the commission you will pay out. Finally, you'll need to pay someone to create the text links and banners (make sure they are well designed and effective). Your affiliate manager will track the different programs, keep tabs on the different affiliates, and make recommendations for various promotions.
Whether you're going to start your own affiliate program from scratch or sign up with a management company, it will initially be a lot of work.
While the big three search engines send the most traffic to sites, don't neglect the smaller niche-oriented search engines when you're ready to start your own affiliate program.
Because they have special themes, niche-oriented search engined attract people that are already especially interested in your niche. Pay per click advertising can be cheaper on them as well, since they are not as big or popular. If your affiliate business is focused on a certain profession, for example, query your intended customers and ask which search engines they use. Monitor your site logs as well.
If you've got a hobby or interest, can create web pages, and are able to write articles, you can launch an affiliate program in your spare time.
If you've got a web site that you started as a hobby, think about using it start earning some income. In addition to writing content for your own web site, write articles for other web sites and insert a link that leads to your site in the author biography blurb. If you give these articles away as free content to other sites, the incoming links and the traffic you get will be worthwhile. Plus, the more links you have coming in to your site, the better your natural search engine ranking will be, thereby driving even more traffic to your site.
In many cases, you can start an affiliate business without worrying about the shipping. Often times, you can simply send prospective customers right to the merchant site and the merchant site will take and process the orders. In other cases, you process the order and then send it to a merchant who offers drop shipping. Basically, this means that you take the order and collect the money from the customer. Next, you send the order to the merchant or manufacturer, who packages it and ships it straight to the customer. You don't have to worry about inventory or shipping.
Make sure you understand all the shipping costs involved so that you can sell products at a high enough price to make a profit. Some drop-shippers add a service fee to each shipment. Be clear about the return policy as well, so you don't get stuck with items your customer has returned.
There a few things to consider when selecting a domain name to start an affiliate business. You want people to be able to remember it as well as to be able to figure out the topic of the web site when they see it (using words that people might type into search engines to find a site like yours can help).
Make sure your domain name is fairly easy to type. If one of the words you want to use in your domain name is misspelled often, you might also consider buying the misspelled version of the domain name as well and redirecting it to your primary site. If you are using multiple words, consider separating them with a hyphen to make it easier to read.
Hiring affiliate managers for your associates is a good idea in order to help keep your associates focused and motivated. This is especially true if you have a busy company with a large number of associates. Having a group or territory leader for products or services helps grow your business. Experienced affiliate managers work directly with your field associates to help them sell more and act as a point of communication to the company which can save your company valuable resources.
Affiliate managers can be hired on a commission basis remotely so that you only pay out based on positive results.
You could even incent your super affiliates by setting them up in team structures and paying them a referral fee for increased sales under their territory.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|