Should You Start an Affiliate Program?

By , The Entrepreneurial Guru for Women

Solo-E Certified Solo Entrepreneur Expert

and

, Text Only Admin

Solo-E Certified Solo Entrepreneur Expert

Ali Brown - The Entrepreneurial Guru for Women

In a previous article, I shared some affiliate basics for those of you who have wondered what affiliate marketing is, and why it’s such a popular income stream.

In this article, I’m taking the topic a step further for those of you who are thinking about starting an affiliate program for your own business. It’s a quite simple concept.

First, know that affiliate programs really go back to business owners wanting to say “thank you” to people who send them referrals. Think of some of your loyal customers who consistently refer new clients to you. Wouldn’t it be nice to reward them for putting in a good word on your behalf? It’s good business karma, and a true win-win for you both.

When you create an affiliate program, you are giving others the opportunity to earn money by promoting your products and services. Typically, people can become an affiliate for free. And you pay them for results. That’s the best part. There are some programs that reward for leads or clicks, but today let’s focus on programs that reward for the true result… an actual sale.

When you’re first starting out, your affiliates will likely be others who are already raving about your offerings. They already believe in you. For example, around the time I launched my first ebook Boost Business with Your Own Ezine, people started asking me if I had an affiliate program. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of one before, and it took me a few minutes to realize these folks wanted to promote my ebook, so I didn’t delay in getting one set up.

That was the beginning of my own affiliate program. And still today, my affiliate checks are the happiest checks we send out all month. Your list will only take you so far, but when you’ve got a fleet of affiliates promoting to their followers, it really does expand your reach.

Over 20% of my sales currently come from our affiliates, and those are sales I likely wouldn’t have made on my own. That’s why I’m happy to pay others for helping to spread the word.

Expanding your reach is one big plus, but here’s something you may not have thought about: An affiliate program also lets you leverage your existing offerings.

If you’re constantly selling your current products and programs to your own list, you will eventually see your sales drop. You’ll get to a point you realize “if they haven’t bought by now, they aren’t going to buy”.

You’ll eventually exhaust your list with the same material over and over. But affiliates can launch your existing products to their list and introduce it as a fresh offering to a fresh market. It saves you from having to reinvent the wheel. When you need a little boost in sales, just launch a previously best-selling program of yours to your affiliates.

Let’s take a look at a few things you want to consider when starting an affiliate program…

Do you want an open or closed affiliate program?

Most online businesses have an open affiliate program, which means anyone can join and start earning commissions. Amazon.com is a big brand example, and of course my affiliate program is open as well.

A closed affiliate program is one that people must apply and be accepted into. If you have a very high-end product or service that you charge a lot for, and you want to limit the amount of commission checks you’ll be sending out, then a closed program might make sense for you. Example: One year I only allowed members of a certain high-end program I ran to become affiliates for the program itself, as an added benefit. That’s an example of a closed affiliate program.

How much commission should you offer your affiliates?

From what I’ve seen in my many years in the industry, standards for e-products and other products range from 10% to 50% on sales.

For my own affiliate program,  I offer 25% on sales for any commissionable product, program, course, or event. And, I offer 40% commission for referring people to my online business training program called Elevate.

If you’re offering a personal service, like personal training, or a VIP day, where it’s dollars-for-hours, then that is your “sweat equity” and your personal time investment, so you wouldn’t want to give 50% away. You’d probably want to do 10% or around there.

How will you engage and help your affiliates?

If you really want your affiliates to promote on your behalf, I recommend making it as easy as possible for them to spread the word. I give my own affiliates 3 sets of tools to help promote to their communities:

Pre-written Sample Emails – This is exact language for people to blast to their list. I often use my own promotional email copy to craft my sample emails for affiliates, but just tweak the copy slightly so that it works for someone to send out on my behalf.

Social Media – It’s easy to give pre-written Facebook posts and Tweets for people to just plug into their Facebook and Twitter accounts. This is a great way for your affiliates to introduce you to their communities—and it also is a good option for those affiliates who have their own busy email promo schedule or don’t have email lists of their own.

Graphics – Graphics are such an effective tool to attract clicks that I highly recommend offering your affiliates some graphic banners and any images that can maximize their promotions. Affiliates can post these banners on their blog or in their ezine. You could even provide them images to insert in HTML emails. For example, every time I’m promoting a video in an email, I always try to include a video still with a play button image in the email. People can’t help but click on that image! So, why not let your affiliates use that same image also?

Ali Brown is fast becoming regarded as the voice for women in business and success. After launching her first business from her tiny New York City studio apartment in 1999, she has grown it into what is today Ali International, a multimillion-dollar enterprise with 50,000 members that ranked in 2009’s Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the nation. Forbes.com recently ranked Ali as #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter. Ali is dedicated to helping women start and grow their own businesses via her coaching and publishing company the Millionaire Protégé Club; her female-centric Ali Magazine; her online Ali Boutique; and Shine, her annual fall conference where Ali delivers the best in business-building strategies for entrepreneurs of all levels. www.AliBrown.com.

© Copyright 2012 Ali Brown

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