What Is an Affiliate Marketing Program?

An ecommerce website owner appoints affiliates who have some means of reaching a relevant audience. Affiliates could be website owners, owners of email marketing lists, or specialists in the arbitrage between pay per click advertising and affiliate commission.

First Principle: Help Affiliates Earn More
When new affiliates are evaluating your program, they will disappear in no time if conversion rates are poor on your website.

Help the Customers of the Affiliates
Your affiliates will often stake their reputation when promoting your product. It is important that you respect this fact. Three important methods by which you can do this are:

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
So someone clicks a link on your affiliate's site and reaches product A on your website. But this visitor does not purchase immediately. Instead she returns two days later and buys product B. A reasonable person will agree that it was quite likely the first visit that led to the sale in the second visit. This is the kind of sale you must credit to your affiliate. And they must earn a commission for this.

Help Your Affiliates Sell
What could be more obvious? But I am almost never convinced of the sincerity of an ecommerce business when it comes to helping the affiliate sell. Different affiliates approach their audience differently. So make sure that you give them images, animations, videos, articles, and more, so that they can effectively promote your offering.

Provide Your Affiliates With Analytics
Online business is highly conducive to business analytics. At the very least, you should be able to tell your affiliates:

  • Which ones of their URLs are sending in how much traffic.

  • How many unique visitors and page views are accruing because of them.

  • How many sales and chargebacks have occurred from their referrals.

Help Affiliates Access Their Money
Make sure that affiliates can easily check their present commissions, as well as historic reports. Additionally, make it easy for them to receive their money by several methods. Bank check, PayPal, direct deposit, wire transfer, and gift certificates are some of the methods.

Reward Affiliates for Getting More Affiliates to Sign Up
This is not cut and dry, but some ecommerce merchants report success with two-tier affiliate programs, or for that matter multi-tier affiliate programs. In this arrangement, affiliates are encouraged to sign up more affiliates. Then they earn additional money from the sales made to the customers of those new affiliates.

Train the Affiliates
Some affiliates might be so good at affiliate marketing that they could teach you a thing or two. Others might be rank newbies. Without talking down to affiliates, you should have manuals, articles, videos, webcasts, and any other tool you can afford, to train your affiliates. You need to train them, and also convince them that you think they are valuable enough for you to invest your resources in their development.

Communicate Regularly -- Communicate Effectively
Online relationships are fickle. Half the people I have talked to do not remember most of the affiliate programs they signed up for. So sending a periodic email is a good idea. But do not let it sound like you are sending an email for the sake of it. There should be something valuable you have to say each time you send an email.

Final Words
Implemented right, an affiliate program could be the best thing you ever did for your ecommerce website. Right from the single product one-man-show kind of ecommerce business to the Amazon.coms of the world, everyone can gain from effective implementation of affiliate programs. But make sure that you do not start thinking of your affiliates as a pain in the rear. And certainly do not act as if they are a threat to you.