For companies that sell products or services online, affiliate marketing programs allow for increased sales and exposure through promotion by other companies. By providing a commission to another company, affiliates will put resources toward selling your product to their online customer base.

If you sell your products or services online (eCommerce), starting an affiliate marketing program is a good way to boost your online sales. An affiliate is a company, organization, or individual who promotes your product to their online audience and receives a “commission” from the merchant (that’s you!) for every sale, lead, or click. If you’ve never heard of the term “affiliate marketing” before, be sure to read some some tips for Affiliate Marketing - for the Newbie Affiliate. This will give you information on what it’s like to be an affiliate, and will help you be a better merchant.

Before You Start

Before starting your affiliate program, you will need to designate someone to be your affiliate manager. This could be an outside contractor (if you have the funds), an internal employee, or if you’re just starting out, yourself. The affiliate manager will set up the affiliate program, manage the affiliates, and look for new affiliates.

Joining an Affiliate Network

Joining a trusted affiliate network is important when trying to secure serious affiliates to promote your products. An affiliate network works as an intermediary between the merchant (that’s you) and the affiliate (the people promoting your products). There are many affiliate networks available. Some of the most well know networks include:

These well known (and trusted) affiliate networks collect a percentage fee for transactions and often times will charge an upfront fee to register as a merchant.

Every affiliate network works a little differently, but what you can expect is generally the same. Your company will be listed as an available merchant and then the entire network of affiliates can read about your company product and commission rates.

If an affiliate thinks s/he could have success promoting your product, s/he will sign up as an affiliate and begin the promotion.

Items To Prepare

Once you select an affiliate network, you will need to fill out your account information. While every network is a bit different, some common things you will need to supply include:

  • A company description
  • Product description
  • Target market overview
  • Sales copy or a sales landing page
  • Marketing material

The latter, marketing material, is important because it will help the affiliate promote your products. If you have the resources, you may want to create an Affiliate Marketing Plan to help guide you. The major affiliate networks make it very easy to upload your material. Depending on your product and industry, your material will vary. Types of material you may want to supply include:

  • Web advertisements and banners
  • Product descriptions
  • Promotional video
  • Demo video
  • Graphics or images of the product or service
  • Customer testimonials
  • Sales copy
  • Online brochures or flyers

You may also want to review some Affiliate Marketing Best Practices to give you a jump start.

Attracting Affiliates

You don’t have to just rely on the affiliate network to attract affiliates. You can also advertise your affiliate program on your website and send out notice to all of your current business contacts. If you have a dedicated affiliate manager (whether in-house or contracted), s/he would be responsible for reaching out to organizations that you believe would be good affiliates.

Another important part of attracting affiliates is the commission structure. This could be anything from 1% to 50% (or more!). It will depend on the selling price of your product and how much you can afford to spend per sale/click/lead. Keep in mind that the cost of aquisition will be far less than the sale, and that affiliates will work harder to earn a larger commission. They can promote your company through many channels, including social media, email, blog and website ads, and will go the extra mile if the commission is lucrative enough.

After a few months, look to see how much income your affiliate marketing program is generating. If it’s a substantial percent of sales, consider expanding the program to additional product lines, or on more affiliate networks for maximum exposure.