What New Affiliates and Merchants Need to Know.

by Paresh Vadavia
February 4, 2010

Affiliate marketing is a much-coveted career path in the business of online moneymaking. After all, it’s convenient, it looks easy enough and everybody’s doing it. But make no mistake: it’s a virtual jungle out there.

Many affiliate newbies believe it is the cash cow of their dreams that will make them rich overnight: an unfortunate misconception, really, given the overwhelming number of well-established competitors who stand in the way of any newcomer’s success. And for those new retailers, merchants and advertisers who think an affi liate program will inarguably bring in the big bucks, it is a rude awakening when they discover they are swimming against a heavy current in the company of much bigger fish.

“So how does the new guy thrive against such ill-fated odds?”

Tips for the Affiliate Novice
Tip #1: Study your competition. Create a dummy email account and sign up to as many relevant publishers’ newsletters as you can to see what kind of deals they are offering their subscribers. Then explore their websites to see what promotional tips and trends you can pick up. You should be offering something similar or better.

Tip #2: Level your playing field. Chances are, because you are new and have virtually no credibility, advertisers will give you lower commissions than what they are giving better-known and more successful players. Sway them into increasing your cut by promising them a hot spot on your homepage and proposing a three-month trial at a higher commission. Then work hard at maintaining that privilege.

Tip #3: Make your merchants shine. Don’t just plop logos, links and coupon codes on a page and hope for the best; sell each brand. Create a merchant page that showcases images and logos, a proper look and feel, copy about the company and reasons why their product is worth buying. This takes time, but it also makes your affiliation seem legit in the eyes of wary consumers, and consequently optimizes your chances for click-through and sales.

Tip #4: Create a sense of partnership. Rather than promoting random coupon codes, ask your advertisers for vanity codes that include your affiliate site’s name, like OPM25 rather than 54321. And propose co-branded landing pages that ensure continuity and consistency in the messaging between your site and theirs. For instance, your logo, a customized welcome message and the offer you are promoting should appear in a greeting on the advertiser’s page. Again, this ups your credibility and makes you trustworthy to cautious customers.

Tip #5: Keep an eye out for new advertisers. More often than not, the bigger and better affiliates are too busy with long-lasting partnerships to bother fostering new ones. Jump on every opportunity to partner up with new retailers and advertisers that show potential and have an innovative product, because one of them might just be the pot of gold you’ve been hoping for. Remember: the earlier you build a relationship with the smaller retailer, the more you will get out of it when they finally succeed.

Tips for the New Merchant
Tip #1: Compare yourself to competitors. Set up a publisher’s account for yourself in the affiliate space in order to see what competitors are doing. What kinds of promotions are out there? How long are offers extended? How big are the discounts and how great the commissions? Who has the hottest creative? Compile what you find and assess it. Then turn yourself into a worthy opponent.

Tip #2: Give the little guy a try. Your first instinct might be to push for reputable affiliates to promote your product, but you’d be surprised at how much you can get out of a collaboration with a promising newbie affiliate. The green ones are so eager to succeed, they will give you better exposure and will work twice as hard to promote your brand. Keep in mind that every big guy started out small…

Tip #3: Give out the goods. Customize coupon codes and landing page greetings for the more devoted affi liates. Provide them with a list of top-performing keywords so they hit better rankings. And give them any marketing material they might need to properly promote your brand: copy about your company, logos in various sizes and any other relevant creative.

Tip #4: Begin with a bang. In order to get noticed in the affiliate space, you’ll want to kick start your program with aggressive offers and bonus incentives for your partners. This may cost you in the beginning, but it is a worthwhile expense in the long run. Think long term ROI: this isn’t supposed to be an overnight delight.

Tip #5: If you have it, spend it well. If you have the financial means to hire an experienced affiliate manager who has longstanding relationships with key publishers, do it. Whether it is someone in-house or from an outside agency, this is a sure way of growing your program much more quickly and ensuring faster returns.

Affiliate Conferences: Key to Success
Lastly, but most importantly, whether you are an advertiser or an affiliate that is new to the space, be sure to invest time and money in attending conferences. It is the best forum to meet the right people, build partnerships, seek opportunities and learn a fundamental lesson about the business: relationships go a very, very long way.

So go on: spread your wings and fly. (And network your way to the sky.)

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One Response to “What New Affiliates and Merchants Need to Know.”

  1. RyanDCS Says:

    Great advice Paresh. Really good info and a great resource.

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