Professional Affiliate Marketing Primer

If you’re new to the professional affiliate marketing Internet business playground, then you’re no doubt wondering what affiliate marketing is all about. In simplest terms, it is marketing and promoting some other company’s products/services on the Internet. You, the pro affiliate marketer, promote through whatever means is available to you (your ezine, blog, email, online advertising, etc.), which then sends traffic and customers to another company’s website, who then does all the work — develop, sell and support the actual products and/or services; close the sale; process the orders, take payments and make delivery; etc. — for the paying customer. You, as the marketer and source of that business, are then paid a commission for your work. That’s it!

The whole business arrangement is essentially revenue sharing. The company that provides the product or service being sold is generally called the affiliate merchant, and he shares the revenue they generate with you, the affiliate marketer, for sending business their way. In most cases, the affiliate marketer drums up that business through various forms of legitimate advertising techniques on a wide variety of online avenues and platforms.

Note that generally, the affiliate merchant does not pay anything for the “marketing” and promotion until a sale has actually occurred. This way, the merchant can minimize both risk and expenditures. Theoretically, the affiliate can then be rewarded more handsomely for taking on that marketing risk and expenditure. However, since the affiliate marketer does not need to take on the risk, investment and expenditure of developing and supporting a product/service and administering a sale, the relationship is very much considered a win-win arrangement, with each party focusing on the part of the business they are good at and interested in.

Tracking, Calculating and Paying Affiliate Income

How the affiliate marketer essentially gets paid for his work depends entirely on the affiliate merchant. In practically all cases, the arrangement is wholly managed through an automated system, with the merchant using Internet server-based software that gives an affiliate marketer a unique link code or ID which the marketer must then use to identify all the traffic and customers he sends to the merchant. This is really the only way the merchant can properly identify, credit and compensate the right affiliate for any business generated.

In some cases, an affiliate merchant uses the resources of a much larger affiliate network service (such as Commission Junction, LinkShare, etc.) to administer its affiliate program. Some other merchants, on the other hand, choose to run their own in-house affiliate system, keeping their program independent from everybody else’s. In practically all cases, however, the basics of how an affiliate program tracks and calculates affiliate commissions follow what is outlined above.

The merchant generally specifies the financial terms beforehand (pay periods, minimum payment thresholds, when money is paid and how, etc.), whether it uses the services of a 3rd party service or runs its own affiliate program in-house. How an affiliate is ultimately paid will depend on these predetermined specifics, and they can run the gamut from being paid online through services like Paypal, having funds wired directly to an affiliate’s bank account, to having a physical check printed and mailed directly to the affiliate.

Although there is obviously a level of trust in the merchant involved in this arrangement, it works because not only is it to the affiliate merchant’s benefit to maintain a good working relationship with its affiliates in order to grow its business and ensure its continued success, the community of professional affiliate marketers is fairly tight-knit with extensive communications channels that quickly reports any shadiness and negative business dealings. On top of that, affiliate programs that run on third party network services offer an extra layer of protection and trust to the affiliate, with the networks helping ensure that all transactions are properly tracked, calculated and compensated. This is one reason that many professional affiliate marketers often adopt a policy that they will only work with affiliate programs that are administered through these third party affiliate network services.

Affiliate Program Selection

You, as the professional affiliate marketer, are free to choose whatever affiliate program you wish to join and market. In other words, you essentially choose which products and/or services you’ll be promoting (through your blog, web site, ezine, advertisements, etc.). It is not a light decision, since your income is very much affected by how well you match your total “offer” to your “audience” or “market.” That, however, is essentially your job and is part of what you as the professional affiliate marketer is compensated richly for.

In many cases, what affiliate programs you do choose is usually determined by your preexisting markets and audiences, For example, if you already run a gardening blog, then obviously the programs you would seek out would be gardening related or ones that you’ve determined would be of interest to the audience demographic your gardening site attracts.

If you are approaching this affiliate marketing business as a pure marketer, however, where the decision on how to market a product or service would be highly dependent on what it is you actually select to promote, how you select an affiliate program can be based on many different factors.

Some professional affiliate marketers, for example, choose programs based on commission size (high payouts per sale) or market size. These are business decisions you have to make, again, part of what you’re getting paid for. Here are some suggestions for beginners, however, that may help you get started.

Choose products/services you are personally interested in. If you are interested in gardening or golf, for example, then focus on products/services specifically for those markets. The plain simple truth of it is that it is much harder to promote a product or service that you really couldn’t care less about.

Choose products/services that do not embarrass you and that you are comfortable having your friends and family associate with you. For example, even though it’s quite lucrative, some professional affiliate marketers are unable to promote dating sites and services for reasons of embarrassment and discomfort.

Choose products/services you are already familiar with and fully understand. Even if you are not all that interested in automobiles or travel, for instance, you may already know more than enough about the products and services in those particular markets that you can actually sell in those market niches.

Select affiliate programs that provide you with the best sales support. This only comes up from prior research, of course, but it’s something you must do anyway. The sales support referred to here are things like training, advertising material and resources, extensive product information, etc. Obviously, the more tools they give you to sell with, the better your chances.

Remember: Being a professional affiliate marketer means that you are in business. Your business. Your success is ultimately determined by your decisions and actions. Good luck.

Small Company Marketing Consultants – Why You Need One And How To Select One

Having spent many years working with small and midsized B2B and B2C organizations on their marketing and marketing communications strategies and plans, I believe I’ve got a good sense of the issues facing them. Generally, at the top of the list, is the lack of a real marketing plan. How is it possible that something so basic is missing? My conclusion is that, despite possessing the skill sets that drive their organization’s success, founders and/or management simply do not have:

  • Time to think about marketing at all, because there is always something “more important or urgent” that needs their attention;
  • A real understanding of the power of marketing and how it can significantly improve profits and return on investment (ROI);
  • The resources, budgets and people available – marketing and marketing communications is “unfamiliar and scary”, and there are always other areas that need support first;
  • The knowledge of how to seek out and evaluate professional marketing help.

These are concerns regardless of the type of organization – start up, early stage or established companies, and even nonprofits for that matter. And, without real planning upfront, many brands are operating with a “Ready, Fire, Aim” reaction to the marketplace.

What Will Hiring A Marketing Or Marketing Communications Professional Do For You?

In order to accomplish short and long-term objectives you need to develop a meaningful marketing strategy and an integrated marketing communications plan and tactics. At its core, having a professional marketing program will improve a brand’s profitability and ROI. This task is often outsourced, frequently with a part-time Chief Marketing Officer.

The process starts with the outside consultant learning about the brand – its strengths and weaknesses, competition, distribution, business plan objectives, existing communication materials, employee involvement. During this learning period, the consultant also avails himself of any pertinent primary or secondary research. Most important, this period is also the time for establishing trust between the organization and the consultant.

While some tasks may be completed directly during this learning period, an outside professional would use this knowledge to prepare:

1. A marketing and marketing communications strategy, along with a positioning statement. The positioning statement is a succinct description of the core target audience to whom the brand is directed, and a compelling picture of how the marketer wants the audience to view the brand.

Sound simple? Take a minute and answer these four questions about your brand:

  • The target audience, in very specific detail?
  • The category in which the brand competes, and its relevance to customers?
  • The brand’s benefit and point of difference?
  • A reason for the customer to believe – the most compelling proof?

The positioning statement is the credo for the brand to live by. All marketing and marketing communications should flow from this positioning and be understood by all employees, agents, partners and management.

2. An integrated and holistic plan with tactical expressions – media programs; creative executions, including new and/or traditional advertising; public relations; content marketing (social media, articles, blogs, white papers, video); packaging; point of purchase; employee engagement; and, events.

The use of internal or external staff to create the above will be directed and evaluated by the consultant or, if necessary, specialists may be recommended.

3. Recommendations for primary or secondary research when clear cut answers don’t exist on specific subjects. Marketing depends on a complete understanding of the customers’ “wants and needs” as well as how they relate to your brand and competition. Not just what your staff thinks; rather, information. Facts beat opinion every time.

4. A procedure of measurement and evaluation of the objectives of the agreed upon plan, as well as the established objectives to be accomplished with each target audience and marketing communication task. Benchmarking and on-going analysis is key to successful marketing programs, allowing for change or refinement as you proceed.

5. A format for informing and discussing the reasoning behind the marketing planning, so that everyone in the organization understands why the specific strategies, plans and tactics were developed and implemented. The consultant becomes a “teacher” and the entire organization becomes brand advocates.

Marketing consultants have increasingly become members of the C-Suite because of today’s turbulent and rapidly changing environment.

What Talents Should A Marketing Consultant Have?

Look for a consultant, full or part-time, who is:

1. Willing to learn your business from the ground up and doesn’t have a “one size fits all” mentality;

2. An established professional, with extensive experience across industries and brands in B2B, B2C and nonprofit organizations, large and small. Expand your horizons and don’t settle for experience in only your niche or industry;

3. Media neutral and willing to embrace analytics to develop a variety of programs as well as to measure them. In today’s complicated marketplace, a consultant must understand new and traditional media, the difference between efficiency and effectiveness, “likes” vs. “sales”, the dangers of digital ad fraud, etc., etc.;

4. Apolitical and willing to tell it like it is, so candor will flourish in your relationship. Having your consultant free to demonstrate the discipline of marketing and marketing communications will build trust and a meaningful partnership;

5. Has an established network of marketing communications specialists who can be called in to provide solutions when necessary.

The marketing and marketing communications strategic and tactical challenges of today are growing exponentially. But, as with our uncertain economic and political environment, putting your head in the sand isn’t a viable response. As Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Why So Many People Crash In Affiliate Marketing

More and more people are lured into affiliate marketing and you might be one of them. Indeed, affiliate marketing is one of the most effective means of generating a full-time income through the Internet. It’s a fair deal between the merchandiser and his affiliates as both benefit from each sale materialized.

Like in other kinds of business, a great deal of the profits in affiliate marketing depends on the affiliates selling, advertising and promoting strategies. Everyday, as affiliate marketing industry expands, competition heightens as well so an affiliate marketer must be creative enough to employ effective and unique ways to convince potential buyers to purchase or avail of the products and services offered.

Compared to traditional advertising practices, affiliate programs are more effective, risk-free and cost-efficient.

Reasons people fail in affiliate marketing

So why do many people still fail in affiliate marketing? There are a lot of reasons and a lot of areas in the program to look into.

The most critical aspect in the affiliate program is advertising. It is the most important thing all other kinds of business as well; many affiliate marketers fail in this aspect because they lack hard work. Although it pays to be lucky, you cannot merely rely on it. Affiliate marketing isn’t as simple as directing customers to the business site.

You must invest in yourself

If you want to earn big, of course, you have to invest time and great amount of hard work in promoting the products. The competition is very high and customers nowadays are very wise, too, as earlier mentioned. After all, who doesn’t want to get the best purchase? That is, to pay less and get more in terms of quality and quantity.

Being prepared is critical in affiliate marketing

Lack of preparation is also a reason why one fails in affiliate marketing, whether he is a merchandiser or an affiliate. Part of the preparation is researching. On the part of the merchant, he has to be highly selective in choosing the right affiliate websites for his affiliate program.

In order to be sure he has the best choices, he must have exhausted his means in looking for highly interested affiliates whose sites are sure fit to his products and services.

The affiliate site’s visitors must match his targeted customers. On the other hand, the affiliate marketer must likewise research on the good-paying merchandisers before he signs up for an affiliate program.

He must ensure that the merchant’s products and services match his interests so he can give his full dedication and attention to the program.

He can get valuable information by joining affiliate forums, comparing different affiliate programs and reading articles on affiliate marketing where he can get tips from experienced affiliate marketers on how to choose the best merchants and products with high conversion rate.

Your website is critical to the success of your affiliate business

The website is a very important tool in the whole affiliate program. You should plan how your site is going to be, from domain name to the design, the lay-out, the content, and ads, as a marketer.

Some users are particular about what they see at first glance and thus when they find your site ugly, they won’t spend their time looking at your site. On the other hand, there are those who want information more than anything else. Marketers with “rich-content” web sites are usually the ones who prosper in this business because the content improves traffic to the site.

Websites with high quality contents and relevant keywords are the best optimized sites. Having the right information about the product and service and not just a bunch of empty hyped-up advertisements will allow you to earn big in affiliate marketing even when you’re asleep.

If you’re not able to sustain the interest of your site visitor, you won’t be able to lead them to purchase. No click-through means no sale and thus, no income on your part.

Selecting a top level domain name is also crucial to the success of the affiliate program. Lots of affiliate sites don’t appear in the search engine results because they are deemed by affiliate managers as personal sites.

Major search directories and engines would think of your site as a transient one and thus, they won’t list it in the directory.

Know first what you are going to promote, before you decide on the domain name. Even if they feature the exact products the customer is looking for, the customer might think the site is not relevant and becomes weary of the site contents.

An educated affiliate is a successful affiliate

Above all, an affiliate marketer must be willing to learn more. Certainly, there are still a lot of things to learn so an affiliate marketer must continue to educate himself so he can improve his marketing strategies. Many fail because they don’t grow in the business and they are merely concerned about earning big commissions quickly.

If you want long-term and highly satisfactory results, take time to learn the ins and outs of the business. Continue to improve your knowledge especially with the basics in marketing ranging from advertising to programming, web page development, and search engine optimization techniques.

Likewise, study the needs and wants of your site users and how different merchandisers compete with each other.

If your initial attempts are failures do not give up. Keep plugging away. Do not get disappointed. You see, thousands are attracted by the possibility of generating skyrocketing incomes through affiliate marketing and so they sign up in any affiliate program without carefully understanding every aspect of the business.

When they don’t get instant results, they quit and sign up for another program and repeat the process of just copying links and referring them to others. When you sign up for an affiliate program, don’t expect to get rich in an instant.

Work on your advertising strategies and be patient. Stay focused and become the best student you can be and you will not be one that crashes in affiliate marketing.

Robin signing out