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A description of the Affiliate Marketing Experience through the eyes of the Affiliate

Affiliate Marketing, the Affiliate Experience
The sum of every contact point you have with your affiliate sales partners creates the overall affiliate experience, beginning from the point he/she considers applying to your program. Remember - there is rarely a second chance to make a first impression.

The experience continues into the application and decision stage, and builds throughout the affiliate´┐Żs participation once accepted into your program. The experience you create depends on your approach to affiliate marketing.

What are affiliates looking for when joining programs? How can you differentiate your program from competitors?

When recruiting affiliates, take the time to make your affiliate program stand out from others.  Your commission rates should be reasonable, your affiliate agreement well-written, and your promotional creative eye-catching.  

Step 1: Program Information, Recruiting Potential Affiliates
You can communicate information about your affiliate program in several ways.  Affiliates may learn about your program through your web site.  Make sure your affiliate program link is prominently displayed throughout your web site.  Many affiliates often use Affiliate Directories and you can read more about them here

The information promoting your affiliate program should compel affiliates to apply to your program. Check out your competitors affiliate programs and make sure your program stands out from the competition.  Be sure to clearly state your commission rates, guidelines for approval, and explicitly state what types of content and activity are acceptable.  For example, it is common today to not allow affiliates to purchase competing Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on search engines such as Overture and Google.  It is also comment to not allow email marketing.

Now that your affiliate agreement and commission rates are clearly stated, the affiliate is ready to join your affiliate program.

Step 2: Affiliate Registers for your Affiliate Program

The affiliate has agreed to your terms/conditions and submits the application for your program.  It is important to make sure your affiliate signup page is straightforward and does not require too much information.  A lengthy signup process may deter potential affiliates.  Also make sure the signup process is Secure by using an SSL certificate.  This is especially important if affiliates are submitting a VAT number, Tax ID or Social Security number.

As soon as the affiliate hits the application's submit button, it is time for the affiliate manager to make a big decision.

Step 3: Approving or Rejecting the Affiliate's Application

Although most affiliate software solutions, including Affiliate Wiz, allow you to automatically accept all affiliate applications, it highly recommended that you use a manual approval process.  It is typical to get many unqualified affiliate applications.  In fact, it is well established in the affiliate marketing industry that the top 5% of affiliates will bring most of your sales.

As soon as the affiliate has joined your program, an email should be sent automatically by your affiliate software notifying them of the approval process.  This email should stand out to get read by the potential affiliate.  Apply the same tactics as you would for direct marketing consumer e-mails - make subject lines and messages personalized and attention grabbing.

If you decide to reject the affiliate, a similar polite email should be sent to notify them why they were rejected.  Although the affiliate may not have been appropriate for you as an immediate sales partner, remain open to the potential for a future relationship.  The manager of a site that is inappropriate for your affiliate program is still a potential customer for your products or services.

For those affiliates you accept, send them an eye-grabbing email welcoming them to your program.  Provide a link for them to login to your affiliate software program so they can begin the next step of the affiliate process which is creating links for their web site.

Step 4: Creating Links/Promoting Your Web Site

Now that the affiliate has been approved, it is time for them to place links on their web site and begin sending traffic your way.  The advertising creative that you supply to your affiliates should be well thought out.  Text links have become an important part of any affiliate program as the success rate of traditional banner ads has diminished.  Other popular creative include flash ads, submission and search forms, product images, etc.

Be sure your links are categorized into intuitive categories so affiliates can easily obtain the links of interest.  You affiliate software should allow affiliates to easily copy and paste the links onto their web site.  Highlight top selling products and key categories to promote.  Include information on best converting links and seasonal products.  When new links are added to your affiliate program, send the links to your affiliates by email.  In Affiliate Wiz this is accomplished in the tools section using "Email Affiliate Links to Affiliates".

Step 5: Driving traffic to your web site

Congratulations, now that you have successfully recruited affiliates, your traffic volume should increase.  Along with increased traffic should come higher sales.  It is vital that you monitor your affiliate program to see which affiliates are providing the best conversion.  Use the "Clicks, Leads, Sales Summary" report in Affiliate Wiz to monitor conversions.  Consider raising the payout rates for your top performing affiliates to entice them to optimize their affiliate marketing strategy.

Step 6: Paying Affiliates

Now that your affiliates are driving revenue-generating traffic to your merchant web site, it may be time to reward the affiliates by sending them their commission check.  To earn respect from your affiliates, it is important to pay them at regular intervals.  Paying on a monthly basis is a reasonable period.  Most merchants choose a minimum payout such as $50 to avoid printing checks for a low amount.  Affiliates who earned less than the payout amount will continue to accrue commissions until they meet the minimum payout.  You might also consider using PayPal to pay your affiliates.  Affiliate Wiz supports exporting the payment data for upload to PayPal, or for importing into accounting software such as Quicken and Quick Books.

Want to learn more about how affiliate software solutions track affiliates in step 5?  Read How do Affiliate Marketing Software Programs track sales, leads and clicks?

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