Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
A common belief is that founders need hefty sums to gain marketing results, but that is frequently not the case. Affiliate marketing — in which commissions are earned by others for promoting a company or driving a sale — is an affordable investment with a low-entry barrier, and one that’s open to brands of all kinds. It’s only true requirement is patience. It will not make you rich overnight: Instead, you must be ready to grow a product step-by-step, willing to search for opportunities the market has to offer and generate returns incrementally if you want to join this domain.
How to take advantage of affiliate marketing
The essentials of an effective affiliate-marketing partner program include finding those with the right traffic, developing an attractive offer for them and then providing them with the necessary tools — all of which require thorough research. Luckily, there is plenty of content on the web that explains each step in detail.
There are also straightforward and accessible tools that can help, such as Google Analytics, which enables you to create a system for tracking clicks and gauging partner sales. Another option is joining a trustworthy affiliate-marketing network (such as CJ, AWIN or Fiverr) that’s relevant for your business goals. For example, if you plan to enter the publishing business, you might opt for affiliate-marketing platforms such as the Amazon Associates Affiliate Program or Rakuten Advertising Affiliate Network. Or, if your business is looking to enter the travel industry, my company, Travelpayouts, is a solid option.
Such affiliate networks are often quite robust, and the best are both time-tested and popular among marketers, principally because they offer significant traffic volume and are easily accessible. Many of them do not charge onboarding fees, welcoming newcomers and helping them understand the field better. Others like CJ (Commission Junction LLC) have stricter policies, charging in their case a $5,000 connection fee and taking a deposit from the outset.
For the right sales tracking, you will also need to set up a website or mobile app. This usually takes several weeks. In good tracking systems, integration algorithms are highly advanced, which makes it easy to integrate small businesses. Such tracking and integration usually require minimal or modest investment from you.
How to help partners generate traffic and sales
But it is not just about integrating your platform. For affiliate marketing to truly succeed, you need to develop tools for partners to help them generate traffic and sales — a significant challenge in every respect. You can try and do it on your own, or you can take advantage of what the network has to offer: for example, a complete “toolbox” to form and generate links and create widgets.
We are no fans of platitudes, but it’s important to recognize that affiliate marketing is not just about increasing income. If you want to make the most out of it, you need to think outside the monetary box. For this brand of marketing, the key to success is teamwork and consistent attention; it is simply impossible to create a program and leave it to its own devices, hoping that one day it will turn into a cash cow.
Instead, you need to grow it one step at a time, reaching out to your partners and interacting with them recurrently. Think of it as a big family you are taking on vacation. Booking tickets and hotels is not enough: You also need to ensure that everyone has their things with them, feels well, takes the right plane, etc. So, to make sure that your partners back you up and want to cooperate productively, be ready to share your expertise and stats (seasonal sales, for example) and to launch various promos, which are the ultimate gear for generating traffic. This way, you’ll create bonds, hit targets faster and enjoy the adventure.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Your First Affiliate Marketing Campaign
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
A newly-created project should manage significant issues to survive the first year of operating. The key target to hit, especially in a highly-competitive market environment, is finding product-market fitting. Affiliate marketing is giving a variety of instruments to reach that goal. And even more: It engages potential customers, who can become a core audience — and some can even become brand ambassadors in the future.
Here are some bulletproof tactics of how to launch a new brand, service or app using affiliate marketing channels.
Why affiliate marketing can be an effective strategy channel to use
An affiliate partnership is based on a сost per acquisition model (CPA). The advertisement provides results in the form of sales and target actions, which gives direct profits. Worth noting, the affiliate marketing advantages are:
- The absence of reckless risk-taking investments.
- Promotion is taking place only among the relevant audience.
- The wide range of different niches to be efficiently used.
But the main thing is that the budget spent is under your control. The basic operating principle of affiliate marketing is you get what you pay for.
According to Publift, 86% of audiences are suffering from ad blindness, meaning they simply do not see the ads. To get confidence that the budget won’t be wasted on irrelevant clicks (cost per click) or views (cost per view), the affiliate partners’ reward depends on the success of the promo campaign.
Having all these advantages of affiliate-based tactics, it’s time to roll out our very first affiliate marketing campaign step by step.
Step 1: Creating an in-house affiliate program or joining a travel affiliate network
Building your affiliate program is not a cheap exercise. However, big brands like Expedia or Booking.com could do that. So looking for a proper travel affiliate marketing network would be a more realistic option. Their framework and experience combined with the right tools should help you as well. The cooperation with external CPA platforms (i.e. Travelpayouts, CJ, AWIN, Partnerize or others) seems more manageable, especially for the newcomers.
Step 2: Propose a suitable affiliate offer
It must be based on an analysis of competitors and companies’ ROI models. The proposal should include commission rate, cookies lifetime and payout policy.
The cookies’ duration is the length of time when a customer and an affiliate are associated together. It starts from a client’s click on the link and may last from one session up to a year. If it has expired, the partner won’t receive a commission from a purchase.
Also consider determining a payout policy: a variety of actions, which are taken into account as target ones and being paid. Pay-per-click (PPC), pay-per-action (PPA) and pay-per-impression (PPI) models are concentrated on different aims — the number of clicks, lead generation and sales guarantee, respectively.
3. Get a list of top-notch affiliates
The subscribers and followers of a partner should be your final target audience. For example, if you have a coupon service, the potential users’ audience from your partners should be interested in travel deals, coupons and discounts. Keep on the influencers with high-quality content. It’s okay if they’re local bloggers with fewer than 5,000 subscribers, compared to the more popular ones with 1 million or more subscribers.
The figures for the blogger subscribers are not as important as the quality of the audience — the major thing is how many sales a partner can attract. The affiliates with a low traffic volume can also become a great source for your actual sales among the loyal and active audience.
4. Sharing your brand’s values with partners
The affiliates will recommend your service to their audience, so they should be aware of your brand values. A simple solution is to create a promo or landing page to share with potential partners. On this page, you can provide product features, strengths, tips, etc. Go even further, and create a media kit with a detailed description. But remember, not all the affiliates are willing to go through a 30-page document. So be sure to create a summary that includes all the basics.
5. Analyze the efficiency of the campaign
Usually, at the launch of an affiliate campaign, it’s enough to provide partners with affiliate links. By using them, an affiliate would provide and drive traffic to your site or link for app download. Efficient cooperation can also encourage other ways to contact the audience in the future as well. It could be such effective formats as search forms, banners or APIs. While affiliate partners attract their audience, your task is to analyze the quality of incoming traffic.
The essential point of the first stage is to inspect the affiliate campaign’s effectiveness (to improve it for the future). The initial traffic flow and sales will indicate further actions to be done. For example, you can try reaching partners with different target audiences or using additional tools to attract a new audience yourself. You could also try changing program conditions or pushing extra promotions. Traffic analysis is an everlasting process for the affiliate program optimization, as well as the identification of anomalies and possible violations on the partner’s part.
Affiliate marketing is not a one-shot game. So be prepared for different experiments with advertising formats and channels. Perhaps, you would figure out that social media promotion is a better way than traffic from travel blogs or vice versa.
This process demands flexibility, constant self-improvement and deep analysis of audience behavior. Don’t panic if the first results of the campaign don’t match your expectations. Launching an affiliate program is just the beginning of a long journey. Affiliate marketing is, in our humble experience, the most cost-effective marketing channel worth taking a chance on.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money in 2022 (5 Steps)
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