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Archive for the ‘For Advertisers’ Category
Monday, August 30th, 2010
By Adam Ward
Whether working for a network or an advertiser, affiliate managers spend a lot of their time trying to recruit quality affiliates for their programs. Since recruiting is a two-way street, they also spend a lot of time vetting affiliates who want to join their programs, making sure they don’t accept the less-than-desirable publishers.
If you are an affiliate manager, here are some simple steps you can follow to ensure you’re accepting quality publishers into your program.
- Look at the email address. Does it look legitimate? If the affiliate site is www.companyx.com, you would expect an email address to look like firstname.lastname@example.org. Many affiliates use gmail for their email, though, since they often manage many domains. In that case, you would expect that an email address including part of their name would be more legitimate than something like email@example.com. If the email looks questionable, move onto the next step.
- Call the phone number. If you reach a business directory corroborating the company name, you should be fine. If you reach the person, ask questions to confirm the information they provided on the sign-up form. If they have trouble answering them, don’t accept them. If you get sent to voice mail, what type of a message is it? Is it a business message or a personal message? If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. To confirm your suspicions, move to the next step.
- Check out the business address on Google Maps. Using Street View, you’ll be able to see whether the business is a building, a home, or an empty field.
Although there are many publishers that like to work under the shroud of secrecy for fear other publishers will steal their money-making ideas, more legitimate publishers realize they have nothing to hide. And since your affiliates will essentially be your business partners, wouldn’t you rather know who you’re dealing with and err on the side of caution?
Monday, July 26th, 2010
By Adam Ward
The term “affiliate marketing” conjures up a lot of images for different people. To some, it conjures up a work-from-home-in-your-undies picture. To others, it is synonymous with online fraud. Even to those who know it is used by legitimate businesses to make legitimate sales, they often think it somehow doesn’t have to follow the same discipline as traditional marketing.
Affiliate marketing is, after all, marketing. It is just a different flavor, just like TV ads and print ads are different flavors of advertising. Sure, one may use a different medium, and have different terminology, but both try to build brands and drive sales.
Sales don’t just happen. Businesses spend a lot of time and money figuring out who their customers are, how to most efficiently convince those customers they should be buying their products, and what the proper triggers are that will get them to actually buy. They then develop well-trained sales teams to implement their proven sales strategies.
So it strikes me as more than a little reckless when these same companies, thinking that an affiliate program can increase their online sales, decide to dabble in affiliate marketing without giving it the same consideration as their other marketing efforts. They might think that because they only pay when they see results, there is little harm if nothing comes of their testing the waters.
However, there is always a cost. Advertisers have to hire an affiliate manager to run their programs, re-task an existing employee to do it, or hire an outsourced program manager to run it for them. They need to buy tracking software, develop it in-house, or join an affiliate network. None of those options is cheap.
Based on the number of new advertisers joining networks (AffiliateTip reported that LinkShare has added nearly 200 advertisers so far this year), we’re going to see more and more advertisers jumping into affiliate marketing. So for those advertisers, here’s some advice: treat your affiliate marketing efforts the same as your other marketing efforts.
- Do your research. If you already know who your customers are, figure out where they are online. Just like you would be more likely to place print ads in magazines that cover your desired demographic, there will be some websites that are frequented by more of your customers than other sites. Do those sites run affiliate ads on their sites? If so, what networks do they belong to?
- If you don’t already know, figure out your margins. Online publishers (your affiliates), will not only want to run your ads if they think they’ll see a high conversion rate, but also if they think you’re generous in your commissions. Since you can’t be profitable paying more commissions than you can afford, figure out how much you can pay before you start your affiliate program.
- If your competitors are running affiliate programs, figure out what they are paying in commissions. Can you beat that? Are there websites running your competitors’ ads? If so, those websites might be more eager to run your ads than if you’re pushing an untested program.
- Be prepared to treat your affiliates well. You can think of them as special customers, crucial business partners, indispensible distributors, or whatever. But the fact is they will be pushing sales your way. They may even pay money out of their own pockets to drive traffic on behalf of your program. If you communicate well with them, are open and honest in your dealings, and take care of them, they will want to work with you, even if you may not pay as much as others. Remember that they have limited ad space on their sites, and possibly hundreds of advertisers wanting their ads in that space.
- Transfer the best practices you’ve established in your offline marketing to your online marketing efforts. Give your affiliate marketing team the tools they need to be successful in their jobs.
Although there is certainly a learning curve with affiliate marketing, if you view it as a legitimate source for new revenue, you’re much more likely to be satisfied with your results than if you just jump in to test the water.
Thursday, July 8th, 2010
By Adam Ward
If you are a business toying with advertising your products online through an affiliate program, you should know what an affiliate manager does, since you (or whoever manages that program in your company) will soon assume that title.
First, you’ll need to decide what your “program” is. This is basically taking a product you sell online, deciding how much commission (and for how long) you can afford to pay to affiliates that refer people who buy that product, and making sure you’ve got banner or text ads that those affiliates will place on their sites.
Second, you’ll need to get your program listed on an affiliate network (see An Advertiser’s Guide to Placing Ads in Traditional and Online Media). If you plan on running your program “in-house” (i.e. you won’t list it on a network), you’ll first need to have your own tracking system in place (see Newspaper Ad-Tracking Systems vs. Online Ad-Tracking Systems).
Once you have your program up and running, you’ll now need to attract affiliates to your program, make sure they actually run your ads on their sites, and then monitor the traffic they send you. This is broken down into three “ings,” which are Recruiting, Implementing, and Optimizing.
Recruiting (i.e. getting affiliates to join your program)
If your program is listed on an affiliate network, you can log into the network and browse the list of publishers in that network. Publishers will list the market verticals most compatible with their content, and include a description of their sites. If you see any publishers that you think would be a good fit for running your ads, you can contact them to introduce your program. Some networks want all such communications to take place within their software. Others provide contact information that you can use to communicate with prospective affiliates outside of their software.
You will also recruit by trolling websites you think would be good fits, and scrubbing them for contact information. Most contact information you’ll find consists of an email address, rather than phone number, so sending emails to prospects will be the primary means for recruiting. Once an affiliate joins your program, that publisher is no longer a prospect, but an affiliate.
Implementing (i.e. getting affiliates to actually run your ads)
Just because affiliates join your program doesn’t mean they will run your ads on their sites. In fact, roughly 90 percent of affiliates who join programs don’t end up running ads for those programs. Publishers have limited real estate for ad placement on their sites, and they want to make sure they fill those spots with the ads that will make them the most money. It is now up to you to convince them that your ad will convert better and be more lucrative to them than ads from the other programs they have joined. So you will need to continue following up with your affiliates. If they haven’t implemented your program, ask them why, and see if you can solve their concerns.
Optimizing (i.e. getting results from your ads)
Once affiliates start running your ads, you’ll want to make sure they are converting well. If publishers see ads that don’t make them money, you can’t blame them for replacing them with ads they think will convert better. Also, you may have two affiliates with similar websites and traffic, and yet one sends you much more traffic than the other. You’ll want to figure out why that is. Does your creative need tweaking? Is placement on the site an issue? Could someone else be stealing your traffic? Regardless, you need to continue to communicate with your affiliates to make sure both you and they are happy with your relationship.
If you make any changes to your program, such as payouts, specials that are time-sensitive, etc., make sure you let your affiliates know. They will appreciate your efforts to not only make their websites look good, but also make them the most money possible.
In affiliate marketing, where even large companies can have just a few people managing their affiliate programs, marketing yourself is almost as important as marketing your brand or program. As such, you will probably be blogging, be an active participant on online forums, and attend trade shows.
Friday, June 25th, 2010
By Adam Ward
I’ve written previously about using affiliate networks to advertise online. Although running ads through multiple networks can compound problems for advertisers, online publishers have more of an incentive to join multiple networks.
So the question of which networks to join comes up frequently. And that question is often followed by, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a list somewhere of all the affiliate networks out there?” Well, yes it would be great. And I’m working on building that list. Since putting a list like that on this blog would be too static, I’ve built the list on Squidoo. The Affiliate Networks Directory there allows anyone to add a network that isn’t already on the list. My hope is that Squidoo visitors (which are a lot more than this site gets) will help keep the list current.
We first put together an internal list of networks last year. When I was recently adding it to Squidoo, I checked each website to see whether the network was still in existence. I found 34 that weren’t in business anymore. There are probably at least that many new ones that have started up since then, which are not on the Squidoo list.
With such high turnover, it is wise for any advertiser or publisher to do their due diligence before joining a network. Ask around to find out how long they have been in business, whether people on the network have complained about fraud or lack of payments, etc. At the very least, do a Web search for that company name, to see if anything comes up. The last thing you want to deal with is a network owing you money, but shutting down before you have a chance to get any of it.
Monday, June 21st, 2010
By Adam Ward
Businesses that sell products online live and die by the number of consumers they get to their sites. They spend lots of money on SEO, paid keyword searches and affiliate marketing to attract eyeballs. They speak of “driving traffic” to their sites, as though it flows in a single direction.
Traffic flows both ways, though, and by failing to think of the traffic leaving their sites, they may not be using their online marketing dollars as effectively as they could be.
A couple of months ago I attended a panel discussion where Tony Zito, CEO of MediaForge, said merchant webpage abandonment is 98 percent (i.e. only 2 percent of visitors buy anything) and shopping cart abandonment is 80 percent (which means only 20 percent of visitors who started pulling out their wallets finished the transaction). He said most of the people who get to a merchant’s website (the traffic that their SEO and keyword purchases bought) leave product pages to go out to blogs and social media sites to find reviews on those products. Can you imagine 80 percent of customers in a Target shopping center wheeling their carts to the checkout line, only to leave them there and walk out of the store to ask whoever is standing outside whether they should buy such-and-such a product? Crazy. And yet that is exactly what happens online.
Savvy merchants allow reviews of their products on their own sites, but people are naturally distrusting of those comments, even when written by consumers who probably have no financial tie to the company. The irony is that the “independent” bloggers who review that company’s products on an external site (the very blogs where potential customers land after leaving a product site looking for “unbiased” reviews) are probably getting compensated for writing those reviews. Although federal regulations now require bloggers to disclose financial compensation for products they review (see Jeremy Shoemaker’s disclaimer where he says he benefits “financially or otherwise from everything [readers] click on, read, or look at” on his site), many readers ignore those disclaimers.
I’m not saying it is wrong for bloggers to benefit financially from pushing merchants and products. Quite the contrary: right or wrong, consumers trust the bloggers, so the bloggers should be compensated for the value they bring. In fact, I am saying that online businesses should allocate even more money and resources to these bloggers and review sites. Since that usually comes in the form of affiliate marketing (i.e. the merchant creates an affiliate program for a product, a blogger joins the program by running trackable ads for that merchant on his or her blog, and gets compensated for each sale made thanks to the consumer clicking through the ad prior to the sale), these businesses should increase their affiliate-marketing efforts.
Merchants engaged in affiliate marketing often lump those dollars with expenses used for SEO and paid searches. Although affiliate marketing is great for driving new eyeballs to the merchant’s site (like SEO and searches), it is also a great tool for capitalizing on lost traffic. Regardless of how potential customers got to a merchant’s site, once they leave, it isn’t the SEO that is going to get them back. They’ll come back 1) if they find what they are looking for (i.e. a favorable review on the blog) and 2) if the blog they’re on makes it easy for them to get back. By merchants making sure they have an ad on that blog, they are increasing the chances that the consumer will get back to their site and finish their purchases.
To do this, merchants should put themselves in the shoes of their consumers. For each product they sell, they should do a search for that product and see what the top blogs or reviews for that product are. If there are negative reviews, that’s a separate product issue that they’ll need to deal with. But if there are favorable reviews, the merchant needs to make sure they have an ad on that site, ready to redirect the consumer back to their own site. By doing this, merchants are essentially using affiliate marketing programs to cast a wide safety net to catch potential consumers who stray from their site. Getting back to the Target example, that’s like anyone in the store’s parking lot telling the wayward shopper that not only are the items in the abandoned cart good, but also walking the shopper back to the front of the checkout line to finish buying the goods.
If just a small portion of the 80 percent of abandoned shopping carts come back to buy, that’s money well spent on bloggers.
Monday, May 17th, 2010
By Adam Ward
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is one of those tools that, once you start using it, you can’t imagine how you got along without it for so long.
So often we get wrapped up in the idea of making money for us or our business that we forget to focus on the specific steps we have to follow to bring the money in. Often, our success is impeded by our lack of (or dread of) organization skills. It is common for us to feel like we have too much to do and not enough time or people to do it. We don’t know whether we’re working efficiently because we don’t have time to evaluate our efficiency.
Using a CRM system is one way to offload some of the day-to-day tasks that we have to do (but don’t necessarily enjoy) in order for us to work more efficiently at the parts of our jobs we like best.
Growing sales and new business contacts without CRM is kind of like building a car from scratch. It is going to take longer, have more gotchas, and be harder to replicate than cars built on an assembly line. Whereas a good CRM tool becomes the assembly line.
We have a business advisor at eSilverBullet who has a PhD in engineering. He worked for IBM and started Iomega. He views sales the same as he does product development: as a process of small, replicable steps that, if followed the same way, will produce predictable and favorable results.
By putting each of those steps into a CRM system, the CRM’s workflow can then walk you through them, or walk a new employee you bring in off the street, so that either way, you’re going to get the same results: more customers, more money, and more time.