The Internet entrepreneur is pioneering brave new worlds of partnership. Among the most powerful forms of Internet partnerships is the creation of virtual sales teams. Gone are the days when the entrepreneur had to interview, hire and manage a sales force or hire sales managers to cover territories. E-commerce technologies let you activate a winning sales team that operates entirely in cyberspace.
What Are Affiliate Sales Programs?
Most simply, an affiliate sales program is the Internet version of a retail company’s commission-based sales program. Think of it as the shop on the corner that sells a local craftsperson’s widgets and keeps a percentage.
The difference is, your affiliates won’t physically handle your products, and you aren’t going to show up at their shop each week so you can split the profits. Your affiliates will be scattered all over the world and best of all, they will be too numerous to track by hand. That means you need an automated system to manage them.
How Do They Work?
Every aspect of managing the affiliate sales force is automated: recruitment, hiring, training, resource provision, paying commissions, and even attrition. All you have to do is set up the system and let it work.
When people join your affiliate sales program, you provide marketing tools, they promote your product and services, and the resulting sales are tracked in your affiliate software using a unique code the system provides to them.
Since the computer software automates the entire sales process, affiliate signups and payouts, all you need to do after the initial setup is promote your affiliate program sufficiently to keep great salespeople on your team.
What Do I Need?
An effective affiliate program needs the following elements:
1. Great products and services to sell – without a good product, sales will be slow regardless of affiliate effort, and the best affiliates won’t stick around.
2. Terms and Conditions – state the rules affiliates must honor (e.g. no spamming).
3. Levels – decide whether you will offer higher commissions to super-affiliates and additional categories of involvement.
4. Commissions – identify what commissions you will pay, on what schedule, and by what payment methods.
5. Materials – create the documents and tools you need to support your program management (e.g. welcome letter, instructions), marketing (how-to advice, logos and links), and promotions (e.g. recruitment copy).
6. Software – decide what type of software you will use to automate the program, whether it’s an all-in-one web hosted system like www.easywebautomation.com; a mass affiliate marketing program like Commission Junction; or software you install on your own computer.
7. Promotion – get the word out about your affiliate program to your customers, partners and media.
8. Guidance – find at least one good how-to guide on recruiting, welcoming, training, equipping, paying, supporting and firing affiliates (See my e-book, “Affiliate Power,” at www.amybelanger.com).
9. Resources – offer helpful additional information to your affiliates on making profits.
10. Consistent implementation – keep your site up-to-date, address any software problems immediately, and find ways to encourage and congratulate affiliates.
Who joins your affiliate program depends a lot on your incentives and rules.For example, if you offer 10% commissions, only one promotional graphic and a last-cookie-wins policy, you will get fewer affiliates and they won’t be the most highly motivated. If you offer 30-50% commissions, excellent marketing materials and long-term cookie tracking, you will attract a more highly motivated, loyal affiliate.
The following kinds of people will join:
• People you know and recruit personally
• Existing customers who love your products and services and want to share them with others
• Your business partners and associates
• Other businesses whose products and services will be enhanced by yours
• Internet marketers who make their living through affiliate programs
Generally speaking, if you recruit mainly from among your existing associates and customers, you’ll have a smaller, more manageable sales team with higher motivation than one populated with people you don’t know. And if you add your affiliate program to Commission Junction and similar mass affiliate marketing sites, you’ll gain a larger sales force, but you’ll also have to watch out for scammers who abuse the system and spammers who compromise you.
Either way, an affiliate program is a win-win proposition that engages these motivated resellers in building your profits.
Guerrilla Marketing coach, Amy Belanger, is an entrepreneur, author and master of program development. Her company, Idealist Communications, delivers marketing, copywriting, and consulting to entrepreneurs and cause-related organizations. www.amybelanger.com.
The best way to learn about affiliate programs is to sign up for a few that offer products that you believe in. Check out products you own and see if they have affiliate programs.
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