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Is there value in launching an affiliate program?

By Ryan Mac Geoghegan, OfferForge Network Manager

It’s well known that an affiliate program can significantly boost your e-commerce revenue & generate high volume quality leads, but many businesses are still reluctant to try.

We undertook a perception survey has found that the three core reasons businesses are reluctant to start are:

1) A lack of time
2) No in-house expertise
3) A fear of making a costly marketing mistake

What most advertisers don’t know, is that an affiliate program is virtually Risk Free.

Properly implemented, an affiliate program is a sustainable & powerful tool to keep generating brand awareness, leads and sales for your business.

At OfferForge, we’re expert at building and developing affiliate programs with the key focus in taking them from the initial inception stage through to successful launch.

So, we decided to help you get started by sharing five key steps to launching an affiliate program the right way.

#1 | SELECT YOUR AFFILIATE PLATFORM

Step one of launching your affiliate program is to choose the right platform.

Affiliate platforms allow you to manage your program from one central location. You can recruit affiliates, upload banner ads, run tracking analytics, and manage commission pay-outs, all from one interface. By leveraging an affiliate platform, it makes the entire process of management and implementation that much easier and integrated so that your affiliate fits seamlessly into your current business operation.

There are several global affiliate platforms that offer tracking services. Choosing the best one will depend on your specific business needs & pricing. OfferForge.com provides global tracking but our affiliate base is predominantly from South Africa, USA, UK and Canada.

#2 | A WELL DEFINED AFFILIATE PROGRAM

The next step in launching your affiliate program is to define how it needs to be structured. This typically involves deciding how it will operate and setting some clear parameters. Do you want to pay commission for leads or just sales?

Will you pay on a flat fee or percentage of sale? How long after the visitor has been referred to your business will affiliates be credited with the referral? It might seem complex, but it’s really not. There are three core areas we focus on when developing a program structure:

COMMISSIONS
Deciding the value of the commission to offer the publishers is a balancing act. You need to ensure it’s high enough so that it encourages good quality publishers to join and promote you. It also needs to be low enough that your program generates profitable sales. We recommend working backward from your average order value and conversion rate to calculate how much a lead or sale is worth. What is costs on Google is also a good place to benchmark. Should you work with us, your account manager will help you develop a pricing policy that is a win-win for you and your publishers.

COOKIES & SESSION TRACKING
Cookies & 1st party tracking tools are used to identify which affiliates referred customers. They’re an integral part of affiliate marketing programs as they allow for correct attribution. Before you launch an affiliate program you’ll need to decide how long cookies are valid for. The standard duration is 30 days, which means that affiliates will be credited as the source for up to a month after the initial referral. However, each business is unique so we’ll work with you to develop a model that works for you. For instance, a higher commission rate with a low tracking duration can be as effective as a low commission rate with a high tracking duration.

TERMS & CONDITIONS
This is the agreement that underpins your relationship with your publisher. When working with a network, the publishers have already opted into the network terms and conditions, but you may need to add specific terms of your own. For example, you might decide that you don’t want them running any pay-per-click campaigns since that will cannibalize your own PPC bids. You could define that affiliates can only use opt-in email and social media to promote your links but can’t create discount codes or vouchers. You are free to change your terms during the life of your program, as long as you give your affiliates ample notice in advance.

#3 | BUILD OUT YOUR AFFILIATE MARKETING STRATEGY

The third stage of launching an affiliate program involves utilizing your digital marketing skills or our highly skilled team at Forge Agency. This is where you or we develop your strategy and the tactical actions that support it such as banner ads, high-quality images, html email creative, coupons and landing pages.

It’s important that all of these resources are ready before you launch your affiliate program so that new sales recruits can get up and running immediately.

Most publishers use a combination of content marketing (blogs, podcasts, emails) and social media to promote affiliate products, so think about how you can support your sales team (affiliates) in their efforts. What kind of promotional banners or product images will be most appealing? What type of copy should your landing page feature to convert brand new visitors? What are the optimal images and sizes for the various social media platforms we will use?

This stage requires more than a couple of banner adverts. Every online marketer knows that the key to successful campaigns is to align the execution with the overall strategic objectives. Which means you will need to define clear goals for your affiliate program before you run off developing new content. This way you’re less likely to get carried away with way out graphics, designs and more likely to create and execute an effective campaign.

#4 | RECRUIT YOUR UBER AFFILIATES

By now you’re just about ready to officially launch your affiliate program. You would have joined OfferForge or secured an alternative platform, you would have the structure defined, and promotional content created. The next step is to recruit high-quality affiliates who can promote your products or services effectively.

It’s important that you review potential affiliates during the initial few months of launching your affiliate program, either popping them an email or giving them a call. This helps you to prevent possible spammers or affiliates that aren’t really a good fit. Identify successful affiliates by partnering with sites that update their content frequently and have an engaged online following. You don’t need the largest individual sites but influential communities. Affiliates are an extension of your brand so quality is a far greater metric than quantity!

#5 | RINSE, REVIEW & REPEAT

Once you’ve got everything set up and key early adopter affiliates have started promoting your products, the program needs to be maintained and grown. You need to support your affiliates and answer their queries. Being responsive is super important. Affiliates are an extension of your sales force, but unlike your sales team, they’re paid on commission only, so when a link doesn’t work or a piece of creative is outdated they’re the ones that risk losing out on the sale. If you win them over by being proactive and providing them with relevant content and high-converting creative they’ll continue to spread the word on your behalf.

It’s also important to continually monitor your affiliate program and identify opportunities for improvement. Review your analytics reports to identify conversion optimization opportunities. It’s far easier to move your sales conversion by one percentage point than it is to double traffic! When your publishers see you’re proactively working to improve sales conversion rates they’ll be even more motivated to work with you for the long term.


If you would like to find out more about launching an affiliate programme and our managed service, we would love to have a chat. Reach out to us on https://offerforge.com/advertisers

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