Are you looking for an effective way to market new online customers? Don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a marketing plan that doesn’t even work? Then an affiliate program could be right for your business. In this article we cover the definition of an affiliate program, what affiliates look for in a program, and how you can offer these features to increase your sales.So, to begin, what is an affiliate program? An affiliate program is a feature offered by tens of thousands of online stores. Companies offer money, usually a commission, to other businesses for help in promoting their companies’ product/s or service/s. It’s like paying for marketing only when you receive a sale. A successfully designed affiliate program puts hundreds or even thousands of affiliates to work for your company. If designed well enough, you will have to do very little marketing in order to sell your products.As stated earlier, there are thousands of affiliate programs. Unfortunately, many of these programs are more or less worthless. Affiliates have become educated, and rarely join these poorly developed affiliate programs. It is increasingly important to create an affiliate program that presents affiliates with something worth their time.According to Jim Gribble, founder of LinkProfits.com, affiliates look for many of the following qualities in an affiliate program:
First and foremost, payment is given for sales made
Payments are made at least monthly
There is a believable payment threshold
Quick customer service responses
Most affiliates research potential programs with great scrutiny. There is no room in the online community of affiliate programs for those who do not pay their dues. Businesses that run their affiliate programs with late or nonexistent payments do not last long. Also, affiliates researching your company do not easily trust programs that make their payments at increments longer than 1 month. It is best to pay weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. As affiliates research your program, they also look for a payment threshold that seems believable. A program that pays up to $1,000 per week is unlikely to be trusted by an affiliate. Too many companies have offered such high thresholds without the funds to back them up.Another important aspect of affiliate programs is customer service. Affiliates want responses and they want them quickly. According to Gribble, many potential affiliates send an email to affiliate programs that they are interested in joining. He says that they base their interest in the program upon the timeliness and usefulness of the response given. Although great care must be taken with affiliates, the work they can provide for you is well worth the effort.Now, let’s discuss the more important issue; developing your affiliate program.How do you effectively begin an affiliate program? Well, to begin, you should use the resources that you already have, your current customer list. If your business does business to business transactions, you have a wealth of resources. However, even business to consumer companies have potential to gain affiliates by speaking with their current customers. As long as they are not spamming, customers can tell their friends about your great product/s or service/s. And with money involved they may be much more interested in giving referrals.Once you have petitioned your current resources, you need to branch outward. There are many resources, paid and free to help you in this effort. As stated on the previous page, there are many online affiliate directories where affiliates can search for your program. A quick search on Google for "affiliate program directories" will bring up a handful of great companies that you can register with.Besides these often free directories, there are also paid affiliate consultants. These professionals help those managing affiliate programs to find affiliates. For those with the money to invest in one of these professionals, will more than likely find great success with little or no effort.As with becoming an affiliate, one of the most important aspects of managing an affiliate program is getting the word out. Let other businesses know the benefits of your program. Be open and honest with those researching your program. Place links in newsletters, on banners ad programs, in offline advertisements and in any other marketing you do for you business. If you are truly offering good benefits that you can actually provide, with the appropriate marketing, you are guaranteed potential affiliates.