In the fall 2012 edition of this magazine I wrote an article, The CMO Guide to Affiliate Marketing, that established the basic principles every marketer needs to launch an effective affiliate marketing program. Now, I’m turning my attention to the entrepreneurial side — the affiliate/publisher.

As an affiliate myself for the better part of a decade, I know that none of the progress of the performance marketing industry would be possible without these entrepreneurs.

Being a publisher isn’t easy. In the digital age, many major media sources, as well as the state and federal governments, conspire to make it diffi cult for publishers to consistently and efficiently market their business. Even if a publisher makes it through all of those pain points and finds a great campaign to
scale, it requires significant financial support and a watchdog mentality to ensure everything runs smoothly.

The road to being a successful affiliate or publisher isn’t easy but it comes with many tangible benefits. Here are five such benefits worth considering:

1. 25 billion reasons and counting. The Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates that annual spending in the United States on performance marketing services will reach at least $25 billion in 2012. That is a 120-percent improvement over 2011 spend. Performance marketing accounts for 67 percent
of all online marketing revenue transactions, according to the IAB. It’s a growth sector and represents an opportunity for new and old affiliates alike.

2. Low barrier to entry. It takes a small investment to test affiliate marketing campaigns. There are multiple media channels to experiment with, offering publishers several ways to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Often, it takes $1,000 or less to accurately measure the effectiveness of a test campaign and to judge whether additional spend is warranted.

3. Affiliate network support. Networks are available to take most of the stress off of the sales, technology and client service needs that eat up labor expenses. They make it easy to access brand advertisers that would be difficult to otherwise engage as an individual or small company.

4. Lucrative potential. Few industries have produced the number of millionaires that the performance marketing industry has spawned. Performance marketing services are in high demand. If you test, optimize and innovate, there is the potential to make a lot of money.

5. Lifestyle. Affiliate marketing provides the freedom to work remotely since few office-based services are needed. Until physical working capacity is reached, and you need to hire multiple employees, there is little need to leave the comforts of home.

There are many more reasons to become a publisher. Let’s start with some of the more basic steps to get your first campaign launched.

Step 1: Choose Your Media Channel
It’s critical to decide upfront which media channel you want to utilize. Once the appropriate media channels are determined, you need to learn as much as possible from a variety of sources, particularly the experts in the space.

Expand your personal network and use industry publications and conferences to meet people. No one will give up their winning techniques. You can gain valuable resource insight regarding the amount of time, effort and money involved in developing and maintaining a successful affiliate marketing campaign by networking with the right people within the industry.

Worth noting, I specifically did not pluralize the word “channel.” It’s critical to start with only one media channel before engine marketer and then moved into display and email marketing,and eventually social media.

Don’t try to learn every media channel at once. Instead, determine which channels are best for your brand. Spread your affiliate marketing efforts across multiple performance marketing channels. Once you have mastered a single performance marketing channel you can hire and teach employees across
different media channels. This will allow you to invest in additional channels, or find business partners that can give the same undivided attention to another channel.

Step 2: Choose Your Network(s) Wisely
More than likely you will not be doing your own sales and tech work. It’s critical, therefore, to find one or a select few affiliate networks that will work with you as a trusted partner.

There are hundreds of affiliate networks, so you need to do your homework before engaging one. Talk to other affiliates in your media channel, read industry publications and get referrals and introductions from good affiliates.

Monitor conversion rates after launch. Test the same offer across multiple networks to ensure that tracking is being appropriately handled. Otherwise, you could miss out on valuable revenue.

A reputable affiliate network will have affiliate managers with results expertise and a client-service mentality. It should focus on helping you make as much money as possible. You should never be treated like a statistic, and poor communication is a sign you are working with the wrong affiliate. Affiliate
network contracts are rare, so if your relationship doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other places to take your valuable business.