Your website is getting amazing traffic, your social media shares are through the roof, and your online sales are growing every month. Well done. What’s next for your online business?
Have you thought of launching your own affiliate marketing program?
Affiliate marketing will introduce your brand and products to new customers, reward loyal customers who love your brand, and give you a new revenue stream. If you’ve ever wondered how to get involved with affiliate marketing from the merchant side, keep reading.
In this article, we’ll go over the details of affiliate marketing, what the best platforms newbie merchants should use, and how to start an affiliate program for your business.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Affiliate marketing is online revenue sharing between merchants and the people who promote their products. As the owner of an affiliate program, you pay out commissions on sales that come through the links your affiliates promote for you. Affiliates are people who earn commissions by promoting another company’s products through their marketing channels. Merchants are companies who run a program that shares revenues with people who promote their products by providing customized and trackable links for those products. They’re responsible for paying commissions on sales made using the affiliate links, either by sending payouts directly to affiliates or through an affiliate platform (which often charges for this service.)
Setting up your affiliate program takes a bit of time and effort up-front, but after that, it’ll pretty much run itself. That said, you want to make sure to set it up right so that it’s viable for your business and valuable to your affiliates and customers.
With the right approach and incentives, an affiliate program can help drive aggressive growth for your business. Let’s take a look at how you can set up an affiliate program for your business today.
Step 1: Have Products Ready to Sell
Before you start up your affiliate program, you’ve got to have products ready for people to promote. Otherwise, it’ll be hard to attract people to sign up as affiliates. You don’t have to have a formal eCommerce store with these products to start an affiliate program. Many bloggers and smaller website owners start programs with a few digital downloads that they already offer through a landing page on their website.
Step 2: Choose Your Affiliate Program Software or Platform
There are many different affiliate platforms out there you can use for your program. There are two categories you can use. The first is an affiliate network or platform like ClickBank or ShareASale. The second is software you can install on your site to launch and control your affiliate program, such as Affiliate Royale and Affiliate WP.
Take the time to research each one to see if it’s right for you. Most of them require a monthly subscription, which they use to run the back-end software that tracks clicks and sales, generates sales reports for merchants and affiliates, and more.
Here’s a quick summary of a few of the more popular options.
Click Bank (Platform)
ClickBank is one of the oldest affiliate companies around. They work with both merchants and affiliates, handling the management of all programs, including payouts. They have over 100,000 people promoting their products globally and process over 30,000 sales daily.
Start-up costs: $49.95 one-time fee after first product approval
Monthly fees: None
Transaction fees: 7.5% + $1.00 fee on each sale through your program
The ShareASale platform works for any kind of affiliate product, including digital products and software applications and they work with both merchants and affiliates. Merchants receive excellent onboarding help and training, while their customer support team is always ready to help out.
Start-up costs: $550 one-time access fee + $100 deposit (which is used to pay out your affiliates at the start of your program)
Monthly fees: $35 if no sales are made in any given month (not charged in your first 30 days)
Transaction fees: 20% on every affiliate sale
FlexOffers provides merchants with several services levels for their programs, from self-managed to one fully managed by the FlexOffer team.
Start-up costs: $500 one-time fee ($400 start-up fee + $100 escrow deposit that’s used for affiliate payouts)
Monthly fees: $25 if you don’t have at least $25 worth of sales in the month / 0$ if you sell more than $25 per month
Transaction fees: 1% or 5%, depending on the campaign type you’re running
Affiliate Royale (Software)
Affiliate Royale is an affiliate program plugin for WordPress site owners. You install it on your WordPress site, set up the program, and manage it through your site.
Start-up costs: $85 one-time fee to purchase the plugin and install on one site / $165 to purchase the plugin and install on multiple sites
Monthly fees: None
Transaction fees: None
AffiliateWP is an affiliate program that you can run through your WordPress site. Install the plugin, set up your program, and you’re ready to go. Expand your program with free and paid add-ons that or stick with the free one, your choice.
Start-up costs: None
Monthly fees: Plans range from $99-249 per year for 1-unlimited sites / One-time fee $499 for lifetime access to the plugin for unlimited sites, all the pro add-ons, and more
Transaction fees: None
Affiliate Manager (Software)
Affiliate Manager lets you run your affiliate program through your WordPress site and integrates with many shopping cart and eCommerce store apps. Install it quickly and create your affiliate program right away. It’s free to use, though there are premium add-ons available to expand your program and functionality.
Start-up costs: Free to download / $39 for premium add-ons (single site) / $97 for premium add-ons (unlimited sites)
Monthly fees: None
Transaction fees: None
Step 3: Invite People to Become Affiliates
Now that you’ve set up the foundation of your program, it’s time to find the people who’ll become affiliates for you. You need a network of people to promote your products in their marketing channels.
To create your network of affiliates (or publishers, as they’re sometimes called):
- Reach out to your email list: These people are already interested in you, and what you have to offer, so they’re the most likely to sign up to be an affiliate. Send out periodic messages to your email list about the program, since not everyone will read them all the time.
- Create a landing page for the program: With a central spot where you can sign up new affiliates, you can link to it in your emails, in the footer of your site, and on your social media profiles. A landing page is the best way to explain the value of your affiliate program and why people should join.
- Reach out to satisfied customers: Another group of people who are likely to be interested in your affiliate program is your satisfied customers. These people are the best kind of affiliates you want since they already love your products and can speak to how it helped them. Plus, it allows you to reward their loyalty.
- Reach out to people in your network: These could be others in your industry you met at conferences or social media influencers that you “met” online. Spread the word that you’ve started an affiliate program and let them get the word out through their marketing campaigns.
Remember to let everyone know what makes your product unique and how your affiliate program is worth checking out. After all, the main reason people join is to make money themselves, not necessarily to help you grow.
Step 4: Reward Your High-Performing Affiliates
Once your program has been running for a while, you may see that certain affiliates are bringing you more sales than others. Reward them with higher commission rates when they reach certain levels. Also known as tiered commissions, affiliates can earn more from each sale the more they sell. For example, 3% commission for 1-10 sales, 5% for 11-25 sales, 10% for 26+ sales. This incentivizes affiliates to promote your products over any others and brings in more revenues for you.
Step 5: Review Your Program Regularly
Publishers join affiliate programs to make money, so review your program regularly to ensure you’re offering competitive commissions. Take a look at other affiliate programs in your industry to see what rates they’re offering. Change your rates if you think you’re too low, as you want to make sure affiliates are getting value from being part of your program.
Many platforms help publishers by providing banners, ads, and other graphics they can use to promote products, so consider adding some to your program if you don’t have any. Get them professionally done by a web designer so they look good and are mobile responsive. Then, let your affiliates know when they’re ready and monitor how they work.
Now you have everything you need to run your own affiliate program: the products, platform, and marketing plan. Once you’ve got it set up, you only need to spend minimal time every month managing it, making it the perfect revenue flywheel for your business. Small pushes can bring you significant revenue over time.
Have you started an affiliate program? Share your experience in the comments below.
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