7 Things to Consider Before Launching an Affiliate Program for Your Company

There are so many things to consider before launching an affiliate program for your company. But it’s no wonder that you’d want to. There’s one company everybody knows that has the first mover advantage in being the first to launch an affiliate program. Now that company’s CEO is the world’s richest person. It’s Jeff Bezos, who’s now worth $110 billion.

Nowadays launching an affiliate program for your business is much easier from a technical and strategic standpoint than it was for Amazon in the 1990s. Still, that doesn’t mean simply offering large commissions on a wide variety of your products and services to as many people as possible is going to turn your business into the next publicly traded juggernaut. If launching an affiliate marketing program for your company is something you’re serious about, the planning, testing and launching of that program.

Before we dive deep, you must know there are three clear major benefits of launching an affiliate program for your company. If you want these benefits for your business, by the time you’re done reading, you’ll know how to evaluate whether or not launching an affiliate marketing program is the right move for you. Once you’re ready to launch, you can seek out the right affiliate management services.

The Benefits of Launching an Affiliate Program

Performance-Based

Affiliate programs are entirely performance based. That means you only pay affiliates for results (who doesn’t love positive cash flow?) This means affiliates are more motivated to get users to take the desired action.

Cost Effectiveness

Again, an affiliate program means having at least one marketing channel where you don’t have to throw money away well in advance on tactics that may not even work. Affiliate marketing means results only.

Increase Sales

Here’s the mother of them all. Sales is at the foundation of any business model. A properly designed affiliate program helps to scale traffic and ultimately convert it, which means business owners can keep the profits coming in.

Do You Have A Quality Product or Service?

It’s amazing how often people launch a business thinking they’re offering the world the next best thing. They go to a local business development centre, get some basic resources from a city advisor, put together a very basic marketing plan, put down huge money on suppliers and distribution channels and 18 months later realize the thousands of affiliates they thought would carry them to the Promised Land either didn’t sign up or didn’t like the product/service.

Test the product and prove to yourself that you have a big slice of whatever market you’re in. Take the time to analyze the effects of other sales channels you already use as well as the relationship marketing strategy you have in place to keep customers coming back to your brand over and over again.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is our product an impulse purchase or do we need to walk the customer through a long relationship building journey?
  • What is the average value of a customer that buys from us online?
  • Could we do better selling our product or service through door-to-door selling?
  • What about a brick and mortar retail outlet?

It’s important to answer these questions and dive deep into analysis because even if all of the above answers are obvious and the results are proven, putting more energy into those channels may actually be better than venturing into affiliate programs.

Know Your Audience

If your product or service sells, it’s a good indicator that you know your audience very well. As you make the decision to expand your marketing efforts using the affiliate approach, you again have to know your audience. If you know your audience you can support affiliates with better marketing materials, meaning charts, banners, infographics, blog posts and more. If you know your audience so well you can double down on robust content marketing collateral, you’ll have new customers buying, and quality affiliates signing up to promote your offers.

Supporting Affiliates with Clear Guidelines

Mathew Peranick is a brand development and growth strategist for 420interactive, an agency in the cannabis industry. He says it’s important to have a clear set of guidelines in advance of sending them to affiliates and initiating the onboarding phase. “guidelines should highlight approved marketing materials, assets, creative, copy, slogans, etc — along with copy and marketing tactics that
are NOT allowed and will result in termination of the affiliate partnership.”

Peranick raises a good point, especially given the CBD and marijuana craze is running rampant across North America right now. Rules are rules and they need to be in place. Especially in heavily regulated industries where the FTC or Food & Drug Administration might be involved. It’s also important to make sure that any potential affiliates don’t engage in shady behavior and promote your company’s offers in ways that compromise the brand.

Is There an Affiliate Market Ready and Waiting to Buy Your Offer?

Earlier we talked about doing market research prior to considering launching an affiliate program for your business. That research also extends to knowing the ins and outs of which brands, blogs, audiences and influencers are willing to promote your brand. Putting a robust list together of options and reaching out to those outlets to make sure they’re interested in what you have to offer is a good start.

Depending on how serious or relaxed the affiliate is about protecting their own image and digital properties, you may be able to get them to sign up right away, or they might want a product or service for free so they can formulate their own opinion about it before they try it. Most people who consider becoming an affiliate will pull the trigger as long as they think it fits the theme of their website, the people on their mailing lists and how your offer complements their brand.

A Robust Plan for How to do Exactly That

Nicholas Rubright at SalesFreaks speaks to how to dig up influencers and marketers that suit your brand. He breaks down how his company finds the right people and how they get ready to launch.

“…make sure there’s a large enough market of influencers that can help sell your products in either your direct market or an indirect market. For us, this works because there are *tons* of bloggers and YouTubers that talk about dropshipping (our direct market) and ways people can make money online (our indirect market).If there are, great! Get your affiliate program going and start building
relationships with influencers, then pitch them your affiliate program.”

Rubright does offers a word of warning though that you have to make the effort to warm up relationships with the right people first, the launch of your program may night get off to a flying start like you hope.  “Your success rate from cold email to a new affiliate is going to be under 5% and you’ll burn through your list of influencers too quickly. If there are, great! Get your affiliate program going and start building relationships with influencers, then pitch them your affiliate program.”

How to Build Those Relationships

Perhaps you already know how to build those relationships. For those that don’t Rubright offers his whole personal checklist sure to get your company on the right track.

“The key is to engage with them on social media, their website, or whatever
platform they use the most for a period of about 2 weeks before reaching
out. Here’s our pre-outreach engagement checklist that we go through before
reaching out and pitching our affiliate program:

  • Subscribe to their newsletter.
  • Follow them on their preferred social media site.
  • 2 comments on their blog or YouTube channel. Only do this on new
    content or content they’ve shared through social media or their newsletter.
  • 2 social shares of their content. This can be in the form of a retweet
    or Facebook share of something they’ve shared – just be sure to tag them.
  • 2 conversational comments on something they’ve shared on social media.
  • Once you’ve spent 2 weeks making it through this checklist, reach out to
    the influencer and pitch your affiliate program!”

Is an Affiliate Program Right for Your Business?

You now have a robust blog post at your disposal filled with things to consider before launching an affiliate program for your business. As with anything, making a decision to move forward means taking a chance, investing some money and potentially losing out in the short term. Just like launching a business itself, launching an affiliate program is a time to reflect on priorities, make a clear plan and put in the work. As long as you take that approach, your first foray into launching an affiliate program might just be the secret sauce that takes your business to new heights.

Remember, before you even think of launching an affiliate program, you’ve got to make sure you product or service is in high demand, that you have clear guidelines for affiliates ensuring both legal compliance and the protection of your brand.

Once all of that’s in place, it’s time to implement, test, refine and scale!

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