Picture the following scenario: Your monthly recurring revenue numbers are beginning to look impressive, but you still want to gain more market share and increase your revenue in the next quarter – so starting an affiliate marketing program seems like a great idea.
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You’ve also seen your competitors (or other brands) run successful affiliate programs. But you’re wondering… should I do this? Other than its steady growth and seeing other brands doing well at it, is there anything else you need to know before creating an affiliate marketing program of your own?
The first thing you must decide: is affiliate marketing the right fit for your company? Time, money and your team are finite resources. You want to make sure that you’re working on a strategy that has a significant impact on your company’s bottom line.
Here, we’ll cover seven questions you must ask before starting an affiliate program
Question #1: How easy is it to get your products?
Your affiliates are not limited to a specific locality, as affiliates will likely be sending in traffic from different parts of the world.
Software and other digital products (online courses and books) don’t pose a huge challenge compared to physical products. How easy is it for customers to get your physical products once they purchase them?
If your delivery is limited to a specific locality, then you can’t serve customers beyond your location because you aren’t in a position to deliver them.
If that’s the case, an affiliate program might not be the best move for your business right now, unless you plan to expand your delivery to a national or international level.
Once you do this, affiliates will be excited to promote your products to their audiences, helping you expand the reach of your brand.
Question #2: How are your landing pages converting?
If you’re struggling to convert the traffic you’re already getting to your landing pages, then it will be harder for you to convert the traffic you get from affiliates.
Different elements such as your copy, images, testimonials and the offers on your landing pages determine how your web visitors behave. And if these elements aren’t compelling enough for them to sign up or buy your product, what will make web visitors from your affiliates convert?
In case you’re unsure what a reasonable landing page conversion rate in your industry looks like, take a look at these benchmarks:
And that’s not all…
Affiliates are savvy digital marketers. They already have sizable audiences, and they can tell if you’re an excellent merchant or not. They want to make money, and if your conversion rates aren’t good enough, they won’t work with you.
Your checkout process and refund policy also matter to potential affiliate partners because they affect your conversion rates and, consequently, the amount of commissions they get.
Do you have a smooth checkout process? Do you have a cart abandonment solution in place? Good affiliates will take notice of these things, especially your customer support.
Speaking of which…
Question #3: Is your customer support ready for this?
Customer support will have one of the biggest effects on your company’s advocacy. Good affiliates will test out your product and will demand that customer service supports their needs and the needs of their audience.
One of the big questions affiliates want answered is “does your company honor your refund policy?” Can you prove it to an affiliate through customer testimonials?
If you check out Zoma Sleep Mattresses’ warranty page, you’ll see how they plan to handle customer complaints in case a customer isn’t happy with their products.
In the below example, it turns out that we’ve got one unhappy customer. And the Zoma Sleep Mattresses team is honoring the promise they made on their warranty page.
Take a look at how they’re doing it:
Not everyone will be happy with your products. How you handle unhappy clients inspires confidence in both your affiliates and the traffic they send to you.
Another aspect to customer service success is whether or not your team can handle affiliate channel support. Once you have an affiliate program in place, there will no doubt be questions about it.
If you’re able to hire an affiliate manager, they can take the brunt of these questions, but your customer support team will, at the very least, need to filter and transfer these requests. You’ll need the right plan of attack to ensure affiliates have a good experience.
Question #4: How much revenue are you making per month?
Launching a successful affiliate program requires you to make enough money each month to fund your program’s activities. Your program will need affiliate management tools to succeed and a small team to help you run your program successfully.
In addition to any paid tools, you’ll need to hire, train and retain your team without compromising other budget allocations within your company.
If you don’t have a vast customer base, you might want to test other methods of scaling your business to bring in more revenue before jumping into affiliate marketing. Work toward it through a referral program with your existing customers using incentives such as discounts and free products.
Question #5: Are you making a profit?
Since you’re dealing with a revenue-sharing model here, you need to look at the bigger picture.
Profits build up over time, and three things influence them:
- Your business expenses
- Your customer retention rate
- Your customer lifetime value
Your affiliate marketing program should fund itself over time, and an excellent way to tell if it will do so is by looking at your existing net profit margins. If your profit margins are 10 percent and above, then this is a sign that you’re doing well.
You’ve managed to keep costs down while retaining loyal customers who are willing to spend with you. This profit margin also guarantees that you will get back the money you invest in your program because the customers you get will stick with you.
Question #6: Have you optimized all your traffic channels?
What’s your primary source of traffic? Search Engine Optimization? Google Adwords? Social media? If you’re ignoring some channels because it’s challenging to drive traffic from them, an affiliate marketing program won’t solve your problems.
Say, for instance, you’ve been relying on Google Adwords to drive traffic to your site. When you look around, you learn that your competitors are also using blogging and search engine optimization to drive traffic—and these are channels that you’ve not paid attention to for a while.
Start driving traffic to your site by publishing high-quality content. Outdo your competition by showing up on the top search results for your target keywords by getting high-quality editorial links to your content, which Loganix specialists describe as: “A strong link profile is still one of the best indicators of success for ranking high in Google.”
These links help increase brand awareness and are a guaranteed way to get consistent organic traffic over the years due to high rankings on SERPs. So, before you start an affiliate marketing program, work on the channels that you haven’t optimized and can increase the traffic you’re already getting.
Question #7: Are you willing to commit to it?
Failure to fully commit to the affiliate program is the biggest pitfall that companies fall into. So many companies try to cut corners with this channel and fail to put the right people in place to create and run the program. The main reason is that companies do not recognize the time and dedication necessary to create a successful affiliate program.
Affiliate marketing is a marathon. You need to recruit the best affiliates you can, and these are hard to find. You’ll need an email sequence to connect, nurture and get partners to join your program. The first email hardly ever gets a response; you need tenacity and the right tools in place to help automate follow up:
Once you connect, you’ll have to persuade the affiliates to settle on a payment method and commission that works for both of you. Always try to steer the conversation to a purely pay-per-performance basis.
Affiliates want to promote your product with the lowest risk on their end. For example, if you’re doing a product launch, you’ll want to incentivize them with bonuses for sales they help generate. You’ll need to convince them that your product will help their audience, it’s better than what your competitors have, and you pay great commissions on time.
As you negotiate with your affiliates, you also want to know which angle they use to promote your product and make sure that it’s in line with your brand.
If you’re working with content affiliates, you want your products to stand out to their audiences. You must give them the marketing tools to do so. This will increase the perceived value of your product, which will improve the likelihood of their audience clicking on the relevant links and buying your products.
The bottom line is that an affiliate program is a big commitment. If you’re not willing to commit six to 12 months of learning and developing your program, then you’ll want to give it a pass and focus on other channels to drive traffic and sales for your company.
Creating an affiliate program without a well-thought out plan will ensure the program fails. However, with the right guidance and the right pieces in place, a well-tuned affiliate program can represent anywhere between 20 to 50 percent of your overall revenue.
Having gone through these questions, do you feel like an affiliate marketing program is right for your business?