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Affiliate Programs ... A Not THAT Easy Start To Your Own Online Business (Part Two)

Posted on July 11, 2000

by Elena Fawkner

[ Article continues from previous issue (Issue #145) ]

Choosing the right Affiliate Program for your Business

So, keeping in mind what affiliate programs can and can't do for your business, let's turn to what you should look for when choosing an affiliate program or programs to promote in your business.

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=> Synergistic Products/Services

First off, and this is a cardinal rule, only promote those programs which will allow you to create synergies with your site. This means selecting programs that naturally complement the subject matter of your site and that will therefore be of interest and relevance to your site visitors. This will ensure your prospects (ie your site visitors) are pre-qualified which will result in a relatively higher conversion ratio (the ratio of visitors to purchases) than would be the case if your traffic is untargeted (which will be the case if you promote unrelated products and services from your site.)

=> Quality In All Things

Keeping the need for synergy uppermost in mind, look for quality programs first and foremost. The last thing you want to waste your time, money and reputation on is a shoddy product or service. There are just too many quality programs out there to settle for anything less.

=> Stability of Company

Look for a company that's been around for a while and that's reputable and stable (both financially and in its management). Any reputable company will have full contact details readily available so do your research.

=> References

Look for testimonials and references from other affiliates. If the company you're interested is not forthcoming when it comes to putting you in touch with other affiliates, move on.

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=> Affiliate Agreement

Look for a professional, considered and detailed affiliate agreement (contract). This shows that the company is serious about its business.

Watch out for exclusivity clauses and other restraints. Some affiliate agreements will require that you not promote competing businesses' products and services. This is not to say you should avoid such agreements. As a general rule, it is your interests not to promote competing programs anyway. Just be aware of what the agreement says on the subject to avoid getting yourself into hot water.

Look also for an agreement that treats spammers harshly. This protects not only the company but other affiliates as well. The last thing you or any other reputable affiliate needs is to have your reputation and the reputation of the product/service you are promoting besmirched by these sorts of tactics.

=> High Commissions

Promoting someone else's affiliate program necessarily requires that you divert traffic away from your site and towards someone else's. Make sure you're properly compensated with a high commission structure. And be sure to set up your link so that when the visitor clicks on it, a new browser window is opened for the target site. This at least keeps your site in front of the visitor so they can go back to your site once they've finished at the site your link has taken them to.

=> Lifetime Commissions

Look for affiliate programs that will credit you with not only THIS sale but all other sales the customer may make in the future. Many programs are set up so that the customer is identified as "yours" so that when the customer returns to the target site in three months time, the sale is recorded as having been generated by you.

=> Residual Commissions

Include programs that offer residual commissions in your portfolio. Good examples are webhosting services, autoresponder services and the like where customers sign up for a continuous service that requires periodic, regular payments. You receive periodic, regular commissions as a result.

=> Tracking of Commissions

Look for programs that allow you real-time access to your stats so you can keep easy track of your commissions.

=> Reliability of Payment

When checking with affiliate references, find out what the business's record is on paying out commissions. If they're slow or there appears to be a pattern of problems, keep looking.

=> Frequency of Payment

Make a note of payment schedules too. Some programs pay weekly, some monthly, some quarterly. Some only pay once you accumulate commissions of a certain amount. None of these arrangements are necessarily good or bad in and of themselves. Just be sure you know what to expect.

=> Programs that Require Payment Up Front

Two words MOVE ON!

=> Affiliate Support

Finally, take a look at what support the business offers its affiliates to make sales. Do they provide resources such as sample ads, banners, logos and the like? Do they provide useful advice about maximizing your sales? A good affiliate program provides affiliates with a LOT of support in these areas.


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Making money from your Affiliate Programs

OK, now you know what to look for in an affiliate program. Here's how to maximize your sales of those products and services and, therefore, your commissions

=> Get Your Own Website

No ifs, no buts. DON'T rely on the you-beaut self-replicated job the company provides all its affiliates. Link to that site from your main site.

=> Get Your Own Domain Name

This presents a much more professional image. Many people won't give the time of day to a business that thinks so little of its prospects that the owner won't shell out 70 bucks for a domain name. So mean business and look like it.

=> Get Traffic To Your Site (Duh!)

As a rough guide, you will need at least 500 targeted unique visitors a day to your site to make reasonable money from affiliate programs.

=> You Must Have A Site That Will Attract Repeat Visitors

If your website is nothing more than a splash page consisting of little else other than banners for umpteen different affiliate programs, forget it. Your site must be worthy of your visitor's time and interest before you can even begin to think about converting that visitor into a paying customer. So create a real site with real content that will keep them coming back for more.

=> Personal Testimonials

A personal testimonial will result in more sales than a mere link or advertisement. So take the time and trouble to write a personal endorsement of the product or service you are promoting. And, of course, it goes without saying that in order to write a personal endorsement, you must know that of which you speak. NEVER promote a program you haven't first purchased yourself. If you don't think enough of your program to invest in it, how do you expect to persuade others to?

=> Promote With Your Sig File

Include a link to your site in the signature of every email you send.

=> Promote In Your Own Ezine

Finally, if you're not already publishing your own ezine or newsletter to stay in touch with your site visitors, start. It's a great way to promote not only your site but also the affiliate programs you promote from your site.

Making serious money from Affiliate Programs

The only way of making SERIOUS money from affiliate programs is by creating your own product or service and recruiting affiliates to sell for YOU.

The affiliate program phenomenon is one of the Internet's true success stories. It provides a toe-hold for the would-be internet entrepreneur to begin a real, live business of his or her very own. But the real beauty of affiliate programs lies not in what they can do for you, as an affiliate, but what they can do for you, as a recruiter of affiliates for your own program. By all means jump on the bandwagon and start promoting other people's products to get your start. But don't wait too long to start developing your own product line. There is a ready-made salesforce numbering in the millions ready and waiting to sell it for you.

Elena Fawkner is editor of the award-winning A Home-Based Business Online ... practical home business ideas, resources and strategies for the work-from-home entrepreneur.


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