Friday, November 16, 2007

10 Affiliate Marketing Management Tips

Discover The Answer To The 10 Most Common Affiliate Marketing Management Questions

1. Is affiliate marketing right for my business?

Affiliate marketing is one of the most powerful and effective means of gaining new customers, regardless of your product or service. Affiliate marketing exposes your business to new customers and can get you out of your marketing rut. Additionally, when you initiate an affiliate marketing campaign, you're in control. You determine the commission rate you pay and pay only when your affiliates make a sale. It's a no loss operation for you because you only pay when a sale is made.

2. What are the startup costs?

When you start an affiliate program you have the choice of handling the operations yourself or having it managed by an affiliate network. The costs for either choice are reasonable and generally start around a few hundred dollars. Additionally, as a business owner don't forget that many of your costs may be tax deductible. To start an affiliate marketing program in house, costs will include:

Affiliate management software

Affiliate marketing support including a website that answers affiliate questions and a means for them to contact you if any issues arise.

Affiliate marketing materials including banner ads, copy, coupons, and promotional content.

An affiliate marketing contract agreement

Tracking software to track cookies, click throughs, payments, etc...

If you choose to hire an affiliate network to handle your program they generally charge a flat fee or a percentage of what you pay out each month.

3. How much time will it take out of my workday/workweek?

Most experts agree that it will take you about an hour and a half each day to manage your affiliate program. They also recommend you to budget more time in the first few months of your program, approximately two to three hours a day. Even the most efficient affiliate managers spend about 45 minutes a day managing their affiliate program.

Professional affiliate managers generally spend an average of 40-80 hours a month dedicated to managing, tracking and promoting your affiliate program.

4. Should I use an affiliate network?

Do you have an extra 3 hours a day for the next two or three months? Do you have an hour a day to devote to managing your program after the initial three month program is complete? An affiliate network, while it may be a bit more expensive on the outset, can help you focus your time on other profit generating tasks. Additionally, an affiliate network can help expose your affiliate program to a wide variety of experience affiliates, which means more money in your bottom line and more exposure overall.

That being said, there are a tremendous number of effective in-house solutions including some you're likely already familiar with like 1shoppingcart.com and affiliatepro.com. These programs will help you stay 100% in control of your affiliate program and are effective at managing your program.

5. How should I pay affiliates? What type of commission works best?

This is a very important decision because it not only affects your profits, the right commission rate will help you recruit top-notch affiliates. The general rule of thumb is to set your default commission rate at a rate you can afford to pay while leaving room for time limited commission increase offers, promotions, and private offers. For example, if you can afford to pay 50% of your gross profit margin, pay 25% instead and tier it so that after a sales goal is reached they earn 30% or you can bump it up to 50% during the holidays or during typically low sales times.

6. How do I recruit affiliates?

Your customers may be your best affiliates. After all, they already appreciate and enjoy your products or services. A simple link on your website is a good place to start. Here are a few ways to find quality affiliates:

Online forums. These are excellent places to meet and greet and connect with like minded individuals. They're also a good resource for affiliates who are interested in, motivated, and qualified to sell your products and services. Using a forum, you can announce your affiliate program. Be careful to not 'sell' on the forum as most forums look down on this and may kick you off. Additionally, you can include a link to your affiliate site in your signature.

Find websites that link to your competitors and approach them about being an affiliate for you. Likewise, you can find affiliates using your favorite search engine and contact them about joining your program.

One last way is to join an affiliate network or become listed on an affiliate directory. This will ensure that affiliate marketers who are searching for new products and services to promote. However, keep in mind that many beginner marketers also seek products and services to promote via affiliate directories and they may lose interest and motivation before they ever make a sale. This isn't a strong deterrent because they don't get paid unless they make a sale, however it should be noted.

7. What is the best way to communicate with my affiliates?

Email is the general tool of choice, which makes an auto responder a fantastic tool for basic emails like the welcome email, introducing promotions, coupons, sending links and banner ads, and answering Frequently Asked Questions. It is also generally advisable to have an email address, fax number, and telephone number available for when affiliates have questions that are not answered by your frequently asked questions web page or when they simply want to speak with you.

8. How do I motivate affiliates?

Money motivates no doubt about it. That being said, affiliates are also motivated by feeling that they're important to you. This means when they ask for your time, you give it. Additionally, promotions, bonuses, prizes, contests, and commission increases are all tools to motivate and inspire affiliates. Constant communication, like sending a weekly or monthly Ezine, will also help remind your affiliates that you're out there and invested in their success.

9. Do I need to hire an affiliate manager?

The answer to this question really depends on your needs. How large is your company? Do you have the time to manage your program? Do you have the skills to manage your program? An affiliate manager is the person that:

Recruits affiliates

Communicates with affiliates

Develops, tracks, and reports on promotions

Develops programs to enhance affiliate program

Motivates affiliates

Tracks sales and pays affiliates

Monitors your competition

These are all extremely important functions and if you have the time to handle them yourself, excellent! If you do not, then consider hiring an affiliate manager.

10. How do I find/hire an affiliate manager?

Outsourcing an affiliate manager is fairly easy to do. There are hundreds available with a quick online search. You can ask associates, inquire at online forums, or post an advertisement seeking someone to fill the position. Depending on the complexity of your affiliate program, you could consider a well qualified virtual assistant for the job. The skills your affiliate manager will need are:

Organizational skills

Communication skills

Attention to detail

Knowledge of online business, internet marketing, and basic ecommerce operations

Basic html and graphic experience are a plus

Because they're going to be representing you, you'll want to make sure they're personable.

Jeremy Gislason is a leading expert on membership sites, marketing and online business. For more Business Strategies, Resources and Affiliate Manager Software visit MemberSpeed.com

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