Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Power of Affiliate Sales

On the Internet, the classic referral system has morphed into a highly automated and accountable affiliate sales program. Utilizing an affiliate program allows you to empower other people to sell or market for you in exchange for payment per lead and payment per sale, as either a flat rate or percentage of the sale. An affiliate program offers an extremely measurable return on your investment because you only pay when a sale or lead is generated.

There are two ways to approach an affiliate program. The first is to purchase your own affiliate software and establish your own distribution network through the people and web site owners with whom you have relationships. This is the very least expensive route as well, with software typically priced at $100 or more. You determine the price per lead or per sale and there are no additional fees.

The second route, which we tend to endorse more frequently, is the inclusion of your promotions in an established affiliate system. These systems typically cost a bit more to set up, but give your web site exposure to hundreds of thousands of potential affiliates and their clients. After setup, you determine the price per lead or per sale and the affiliate system provider typically charges a percentage of that price as their fee. Typically the fees associated with the system are in direct proportion to the number and quality of affiliates that can be brought to bear upon your campaign.

Once you are an established merchant within an affiliate system, you must then gain affiliates. Affiliate web site can range from link farms – sites with hundreds of links back to merchants and their products – to well-established and high volume specialty sites. My opinion is that no link is a bad link. I tend to apply very few filters, if any, to those willing to send traffic and potential sales my way.

After commission rates, the next item that attracts affiliates are the creative graphics and promotions that your company offers. Empowering your affiliates goes beyond just establishing yourself as a merchant. Once embarking on an affiliate program, time each month should be budgeted for evaluating the performance of your ads, creation and delivery of new ad campaigns, gauging hits versus sales (conversions) and interacting with your affiliate base. The more you do to help your affiliates succeed, the more successful you will be.

A final note is that affiliate programs are not overnight success systems. You are building a network of affiliates that requires time and maintenance to be successful. This network, over time, could be enormous and truly make the difference in the success or failure of an ecommerce site, but time must be allowed for that monitored growth.

The company we recommend most for affiliate sales is Based out of Chicago, has a very reasonable entry price, provides an array of tools for tracking and interacting with your affiliates and, most importantly, has over 100,000 affiliates available. Check them out at

Darryl Parker is the founder and President of Internet marketing and Charlotte web site design firm Parker Web Developers. This series on web marketing is intended to present useful tips for business owners and decision makers. The series precedes an upcoming book compiling these topics. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

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