What is an Affiliate Program?
Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing where an advertiser remunerates a publisher (“affiliate”) for each customer introduced via their channel’s promotional activities.
The affiliates get paid only once the visitor made an agreed action on the advertiser’s website.
The action expected to occur in exchange for remuneration is specified and described in the context of an Affiliate Program.
The actions can be anything ranging from a click on an advertising banner to a lead form being filled-up by the visitor, or a transaction made on the advertiser’s site.
Each action has a different remuneration plan.
The Program involves four players:
- The brand
- The Network
- The affiliate
- and the customer
Each of these players is being involved in the process at different stages and with different roles and expectations.
The benefits to advertisers using affiliate marketing are many:
- It’s trackable and measurable–
Unlike other forms of advertising, affiliate marketing is easy to monitor and measure; the trackability of performance marketing isn’t based on estimates: instead, it is based on real-time results, down to mouse click accuracy.
As tracking can be done in real-time, your marketing teams are able to provide you with accurate reporting and insights into the performance of the programs across a variety of metrics.
The measurability of the programs’ success allow the advertisers to make adjustments if deemed necessary.
- Performance marketing extends your advertising reach and builds your brand reputation–
Every affiliate has its own unique audience. Working with affiliates is the equivalent of having an army of website publishers promoting your brand, products, and services.
Often, these publishers are influencers, which have tapped into very specific niche markets that otherwise would take you years to reach.
Having built a common language and trust with its audience, the affiliate may adapt the message of the advertisement to perfectly fit his crowd and generate interest in your brand, leading to traffic to your site. This increased exposure also benefits your SEO, as the more your brand is being mentioned on the internet, the better your website will organically rank.
- It helps diversify your revenue stream-
You won’t be relying anymore only on your existing sales channels for generating traffic and sales; instead, when partnering with an affiliate, you are seamlessly adding another method for generating revenue to your portfolio.
- Cost-effective –
Advertisers are remunerating affiliates only based on results, while in the traditional advertising formats the payment is due regardless of whether it converted to an action or not. This allows your business to work with a wide range of publishers with a variety of performance metrics without fear of wasting budget or increasing cost per sale metrics.
Ultimately your staffing-cost is also being reduced as out-sourcing your marketing efforts negates your need for a robust in-house marketing team
- Quick results –
When working with experienced, successful, and trusted affiliates, results can be reached much faster than other forms of traditional marketing.
Partnering with a Network will allow you to be matched with trusted affiliates and reach those results even quicker by matching you with the right publishers for you.
- Adding efficiency and creativity to your marketing strategy–
Because affiliates are being remunerated by the traffic they are driving to your website, affiliates do not hesitate to be creative and aggressive, riding any new trend and method available and use it to their favor- which ultimately translates to be in “your favor”. Because they are breathing this market they are often more judicious and are able to launch a new campaign in just a couple of days, whereas it would take your company weeks to coordinate the effort.
How to start an Affiliate Program
Setting and planning an affiliate program consists of several essential steps:
- Choose to work with a network or run the program in-house
- Arrange a recruitment page
- Set commission plans ( make sure to be competitive)
- Determine your Affiliate Program Policy & Rules
- Produce advertising material and product file
- Implement Tracking & Reports
- Network at industry events
- Work with super affiliates and affiliate directories
- Invest ad money behind it
Choose to work with a network or run the program in-house
Before launching your first affiliate program, you’ll need to decide what works best for you: how you are going to track the traffic and who you are going to work with are only a few of the parameters to take into consideration.
Running an in-house Affiliation Program requires a lot of know-how, resources, supervision, and time.
You will have to work hard to gain visibility for your program to recruit spontaneous in-bound applications from affiliates.
It is generally done by creating complex funnels meant to attract publishers to reach your on-site landing page and make them click on a section called “promote this site”, for example.
That section will have to clearly feature relevant program information such as the commission rate, cookie duration, and the criteria for earning a commission.
You should also specify the basic information about your programs such as the frequency and method that your affiliates are paid, but this should be included in your Terms and Conditions, written by a specialized lawyer.
Remember that you are fulfilling the functions frequently handled by an established affiliate network, so your affiliates will need to be reassured that they will receive the same basic services they get from programs run by reputable networks, which include:
- Competitive remuneration programs compared to what is available in the market ( requires a lot of expertise)
- Access to an intuitive CRM to track their performance
- Technical person of contact to provide them with APIs and integrate their pixels
- Multiple options of payment through specific banks, PSPs and prepaid accounts ( for each you will have to open an account and pay a monthly maintenance fee)
- The list is still long.
You will have to engage also in proactive out-bound affiliate recruitment, which means scouting the web in search of the perfect affiliate for you: this might prove itself to be a challenging task.
After much efforts, and once you have on-boarded affiliates, you will have to provide them with a CRM where they will be able to track their conversion(s) and monitor their efforts; this CRM (often very expensive) will also serve you as an advertiser to calculate the commission you will need to pay on a weekly/ bi-weekly or monthly basis.
Calculating the commission’s results often is a headache, as usually in a program you propose a variety of remuneration option and promotions; your reputation as an independent, not endorsed by any network, depends on making no mistake in the pay-checks for your affiliates, as one wrong pay-out could mean the end of a collaboration you invested a lot of time and effort into starting!
You will need a designer, online marketer, and dedicated accountant to create banners and landing pages, pull-out analysis, and issue payments…… What a headache!
Before going any further with the whole operation set-up you need to invest to manage your affiliate program in-house, let’s go over the advantages of working through a network: choosing to work with an Expert Affiliate Network in your field will drastically cut the workload and the expenses for you.
The network structure is built for taking care of, and providing you with, everything you and your affiliates need, allowing you to concentrate on what you do best… running your business.
An expert affiliate network will provide you with a CRM, tracking links, qualified and relevant affiliates to your field, and will also be handling the headache of the commission calculation and payment to these affiliates, …
An affiliate network makes the finding of qualified and experienced publishers much easier, as they already have an army of specialized affiliates working with them.
But there are more advantages of working with an established Network;
- Require minimum effort-
Because the affiliate network created its own resources for both the advertisers and the affiliates, the merchants can utilize all the available resources, tools, and expertise made available to them by the network.
- Access to industry experts-
By choosing a specialized network in your industry ( in this case real estate, mortgage, etc), you are partnering with a field expert who is aware of the latest trends, and how to get the best out of your affiliate program. This means that a constantly innovative approach is being taken in regard to your account.
Keeping your program relevant and attractive for publishers is their top priority and main focus.
- Professional tools–
Networks also provide you with the necessary tracking software and access to detailed data, dashboards and intuitive reports.
This software negates the need for a big in-house marketing team, analysts staff, and a team of accountants, as it makes all the calculations and reports intuitive and trackable for you.
- Specialist insights and recommendations –
Serious Network will also attribute you with a dedicated Customer Success Representative which will recommend you with marketing strategies, tips, and tricks and give you insights about your campaigns if and when needed or requested.
- Affiliate management central point of contact and care–
By using a Network you will find all your publishers centralized in one place, cutting the tracking headache of handling them through multiple systems, it also makes you more visible to potential new collaborations with strongly established affiliates to start advertising your projects in one click.
- Saving you on third party providers fees such as CRM and PSPs–
Also, The Network is the one taking care of confirming the commissions total and dispatching payment for you to every single affiliate, cutting your need of closing different Payment Solution Processors agreements to satisfy the payment preference of each of your affiliates
- Very few established affiliate networks like realestateaffiliates.com are also FREE to join and use.
The best way to choose the right affiliate network for you is by paying attention to the following characteristics:
- Monthly maintenance fees and costs;
- Fraud detection and prevention;
- Quality assurance;
- Reports & Tracking;
- Trial version & pricing;
- Affiliate Payments;
Continue reading here.