Introduction to affiliate programmes – and why you should have one

An affiliate program can be a great way to boost your online sales without having to spend large amounts up front. Almost any kind of business can benefit from having an affiliate program, but there are many things to learn and consider before taking the plunge and starting up your own. Over the next few articles I’ll go over everything you need to know about setting up your own and to determine if it will work for you….

So what is an affiliate programme?

An affiliate program (sometimes called a referral program) is simply an arrangement where you pay other business owners (affiliates) commission on purchases made as a result of their recommendation of your product.

Usually, an affiliate is given a special link (a tracking link) they can use to promote your offer. When a user clicks on that link he/she is redirected to your website while the affiliate program software silently records in the background that this particular user is referred by this particular affiliate. Should the user end up buying something from you, a commission will be paid out to the affiliate according to your payment terms. How much you pay affiliates, and on what terms, is completely up to you.

Why Have An Affiliate Programme?

The biggest advantage of having an affiliate program is that you can increase your reach (sell more stuff!) without having to pay for sales people or advertising up front. Setting up and running the affiliate program has a cost, yes, but you’re only paying affiliates for actual sales delivered.

A successful affiliate program enables you to cover virtually all channels of online marketing. If your in-house PPC advertising efforts are mostly geared towards Adwords, for example, you’ll be happy to find that your affiliates will advertise for you on their own marketing channels in an attempt to boost their income. You can cut down on your own advertising efforts and let affiliates do a lot of the marketing for you.

Another benefit of having affiliates advertise for you is that even if they’re not making any sales, your brand is still getting exposure, and it doesn’t cost you anything at all.

How will affiliates promote your offers?

You’d be surprised to see how creative some affiliates are in devising promotion strategies. As competiton is often fierce, successful affiliates must learn to think outside the box to separate themselves from others and find methods that allow them to turn a profit.

It is, however, entirely up to you what types of promotion you want to allow. Some affiliate programs allow affiliates to use practically every method they can think of as long as it’s legal and ethical, while others are significantly more restrictve in what they allow. As a general rule, the more methods you disallow the harder it will be to attract and keep affiliates.

A few of the most common affiliate promotion methods include:

  • E-mail (promoting your affiliate program to an e-mail list with subscribers who are potentially interested in your offerings)
  • Coupons (affiliates offer visitors a discount coupon, which encourages them to click on a tracking link and purchase your product)
  • Social media (reaching potential customers through either social media sharing or paid advertising on social media platforms)
  • Banners and text ads (buying adver>sing space on websites promo>ng your offerings)


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