Affiliate marketing isn’t a new marketing invention, it has been around for a while (since 1989) and has been tested by Amazon.com from the very beginning. Even though it is far from a novelty, there are still a lot of people – experienced business persons, enthusiastic entrepreneurs or even proficient online marketers that may know a few things about it but they already have a set of preconceived or mistunderstood ideas when it comes to affiliate marketing.
This article doesn’t aim to bring an elaborate and complex definition of affiliate marketing, full of complicated terms. Conversely, we will approach affiliate marketing from a different perspective, that of usual day by day situations that we often come across. Advertisers or marketers who still have second thoughts about it can take a step back and think of affiliate marketing from more familiar view.
1. How does an affiliate marketing network operate?
How often are you going to the mall? I bet you are going often enough to understand how it works. The mall is a building that shelters several stores which are there to generate sales. Each store is paying a rent, depending on space they take and of the sales revenue they make, and is also obeying some general rules. On the other hand, it benefits from exposure to consumers, the mall customers, but also electricity, cleaning and safety services. The mall, through its advertising and marketing actions can send 10,000, 100,000, 1,000,000 people in front of a store’s window. But it depends entirely on the store how many will actually buy. What matters is the products – their variety and quality, stocks, prices, the way the store is decorated, the background music, the sellers’ attitude, etc.
An affiliate marketing network operates similarly.
It develops the platform, manages the operational and technical infrastructure, sets the rules and oversees that they are respected, attracts and motivates affiliates. The affiliates are like marketing agents that are able to attract potential customers to the store. If one of customers brought to the store will also make a purchase, you pay a percentage of the purchase value to the affiliate that has brought him. Eventually you will pay a fixed amount (the rent) plus a percentage of the generated sale value.
2. You decide to sign up in an affiliate network as an advertiser. What do you check first?
Every person takes part in a competition, at least once in a lifetime. Be it a sports one, a small football championship with the guys, a school competition, a drinking contest 🙂 or at least the unofficial race against your classmates. The first thing you do is check out your opponents. You would want to know who your are racing against, how is the team you are playing with, what they have done so far, what were their results, strategies, what are their strong or weak points.
When you join an affiliate marketing network and you are not familiar with the concept, it is better to check on what others are doing, how other affiliate programs in your category look and only after that to start designing your own affiliate program. Do you want to be promoted by affiliates? Find out what criteria they have in mind when opting for an advertiser.
3. When you start out you have a chance for more sales. If you make some extra effort, you raise your chance to sell more.
Remember what it was like in college. What is the main rule to pass an exam? To attend! Obviousily, passing it is not guaranteed. But if you don’t go, it is for sure that you won’t pass. And if you decided to go, why not take a look at the books you are supposed to prepare or at the notes you or some other collegue took in class. Any extra effort you are willing to make will increase your chance to pass, even with a good grade. If you study enough for it, you won’t depend on the professor’s mood on that day or if he likes you or not.
Affiliate marketing works the same way: it provides results proportionally to the effort made. Higher sales are achieved by the advertisers who offer a better commission, who communicate better and grow partnerships with the affiliates or who update their tools.
4. Your invoice looks too pricey?
When you are really hungry and you go for lunch in a restaurant, you take a look over the menu and you feel like ordering 15 dishes, plus desert and drinks. Also a couple of appetizers as they arrive quicker. The food arrives, you are really happy with your choices, you eat as much as you can, there is still food left on the plates, but it was good and you are content. Then you ask for the bill. When you get it, you check it twice as you can’t believe those figures on it. You don’t feel like taking out your wallet now. Your stomach is filled and you can’t understand why on earth you ordered so much food and how you are supposed to pay that much money for ONE MEAL.
Something similar is happening in affiliate marketing. You are hungry for sales, you can’t wait for the Analytics stats to explode. However, when you get the invoice, you don’t perceive it as a gain you have benefitted from already, you only see that you have a lot of money to pay for these sales that you would’t have had in the first place, without your affiliates.
5. An affiliate program enhances your discipline
If you have any kind of bank loan you might have learned a few things about financial discipline. If you are scrupulous with your personal finances, you know that you need to pay a certain amount every month out of your monthly income. And you don’t touch that money, it’s like it doesn’t even exist.
An advertiser knows that he has a monthly invoice to pay for the affiliates’ commissions and for the network fee (the store rent). A disciplined advertiser knows how much it will be, because he is the one processing the commissions. He is also aware of the fact that the money had already been cashed in and so the percentage destined for affiliate marketing is like it doesn’t exist, as it will automatically go to the afiliate marketing channel.
6. What makes you different fom your competition?
If the school you went to made you wear uniforms, back in the day, you might have felt a little frustration that you never had the chance to be different, to wear clothes that represented you as an individual or to show off some new trendy fashionable pieces of clothing you had recently bought.
So if you hated it back then, now that you have your own business, you should hate uniforms even more. Any kind of business you might have – an online store or a service providing company, it is essential that you position yourself differently from your competition. This way your potential customers or affiliates will be able to notice you. Find that something that you do or offer differently. Or make it up! It may be the way you recruit your affiliates, the way you activate them or maybe that you have the best product feeds in the platform.
7. You are an advertiser, but you don’t communicate much with your affiliates and you are not crazy about events.
Remember the cool kids back in highschool? If you don’t want to remember, you were probably not one of them :). What was so cool about those kids? Well they were going to parties and hanging out together, taking road trips and having fun. They knew everybody and everybody wanted to know them. Why? Because they were cool, they were fun, they were always hanging out and communicating.
What could we learn from them? In every business, just like affiliate marketing, networking and communication are very important. You have 10 affiliates who are doing a pretty good job, but you only talk to them via email and ocasionally on instant messager? Take any chance you have to get to know them personally, to talk to them, hear out their problems, share yours, make a joke, laugh together. This may change both sides’ perspectives.
8. What are your expectations?
It might have happened to you to find a cake recipe online or a How To article on pimping an old and shrivelled chair and figured you should try it yourself. Having the cake picture in mind, you dilligently started out to prepare the ingredients, the tray an you turned on the oven. After hours of asiduous work, you take a look at your masterpiece and you have to accept that it has nothing to do with the cake or the chair in the picture. It was all a lie! you’d say.
At first, you will not be aware of the fact that even if you followed all the instructions online, the cake didn’t turn out as expected because: maybe you have used different ingredients or you might have messed up the quantities, you may have a different tray – taller of shorter, your oven works on gas and not on electricity, you might have got the heat intensity wrong or you left it too much to bake. And another thing you may not realize, at first, is that the cake in the picture looks like that after multiple attempts and failures from which the person who posted it learned to perfect and refine his amateur baking abilities.
When you join an affiliate network, you expect everything to work great, by itself, if possible. It is a good idea to keep a positive attitude, as long as you adjust your expectations with some sense of reality, with the involvement level you are willing to grant it and with your business’ general performance level. You need to be open to test things and sometimes fail. Results and experience are earned in time, with patience and perseverance.