Sales. It’s the driving force behind business. Some owners enjoy it; most don’t.
Imagine you could take a good sales person, cut any salary or benefits, and go commissions only. No more payroll taxes or government paperwork either. And if they don’t perform, you’ll have no obligations. Next, clone this person over and over.
Instead of being handed resignation letters, to your surprise, everyone is perfectly happy. So happy, in fact, you can often have them refer more people – all willing to accept your terms.
Now, this may be a slight oversimplification, but an affiliate program is actually quite simple. It’s a performance-based marketing system where you pay people who sign up to promote your business (affiliates) a commission or fee when they refer a sale (or lead). No hiring whatsoever; all independent contractors.
Whether you’re B2B or B2C, if you sell online and you don’t have an affiliate program, here are the top 5 reasons why you need to make starting one your first priority.
1. Commitment-Free Access to a Global Sales Force
Maybe you love sales. If not, finding good, local sales people can be extremely difficult. The good ones know they’re good, and you’ll be bending over backwards keeping them on board and satisfied. Proper training, time-off, expense budgets, etc. There is a definite cost in adding quality sales members to your team.
You can’t stop your own marketing entirely, but adding an affiliate program is a great, almost cost-free method to expand your reach.
With an affiliate program, you (the merchant) have access to sales people from all over the world (publishers). They won’t be asking for sick pay or a company car, and they aren’t employees that come with all the added rules, regulations and paperwork.
More is usually better, but in this case, all of the affiliates that sign up won’t be rock stars. According to the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), a small percentage of your affiliates will account for the majority of your sales.
So, when you find these affiliates, treat them well through bonuses or increased commissions. Most affiliates are driven by one thing anyways: money.
Also, as independent contractors, you’ll have limited control over your affiliates. Don’t be scared to lay down some guidelines to protect your brand messaging, you’re the boss after all. If you don’t want affiliates promoting your business in certain places, or in certain ways, make it clear in your terms – and quickly terminate affiliates who break the rules.
2. Only Pay on a Performance Basis
Effective, commission-only sales members without any additional obligations is a pipe dream for many business owners.
An affiliate program, though, provides exactly that. Affiliates send traffic to your website through specially crafted links that track a sale all the way through to completion. They can send all the traffic in the world, but if none of it converts, you don’t have to pay a cent!
The tracking is all taken care of by affiliate program software, and you define the parameters.
Companies usually pay a revenue share on recurring billings or a percentage on completed sales (pay per sale); and they typically pay a flat-fee for submitted leads (pay per lead).
If dealing in the lead space, make your expectations of quality clear. If you don’t intend to pay for bad leads, the last thing you want is a reputation for lead scrubbing.
3. Market Everywhere for Free
Maybe you advertise on places like Google and Facebook. It sure can get expensive, right?
Would you turn down somebody wanting to advertise your business, and pay for it out of their own pocket? If you have a good product or service – and it makes financial sense to the affiliate – they will take it upon themselves to buy advertising and perform SEO to promote your product in unique and creative ways. You can focus on creating excellent marketing materials, rather than testing all the new advertising venues.
From social media marketing to media buys to advanced SEO, top affiliates have the ability to drive massive amounts of targeted traffic to your site. And don’t forget, you’re only paying for conversions – the marketing cost is all on their dime.
4. Low Start-Up Costs with Nearly Zero Risk
There aren’t many things you’ll come across in your business career that have a better risk-to-reward ratio than adding an affiliate program. The startup cost can be low, the risk is virtually nonexistent and the potential is almost unlimited. You’ll need to spend some time and effort recruiting affiliates, but the technical details are all handled by software.
To get your affiliate program running, you’ll first need to either install and configure an application on your own servers, or use an affiliate program provider that offers one as a SaaS (software as a service).
If you have some technical know-how – or are willing to hire it out – depending on your product category, going with an in-house solution like iDevAffiliate, PostAffiliatePro or Infusionsoft is an excellent choice.
Start-up costs are higher when going this route (thousands of dollars) but you’re essentially paying someone else to take care of the technical details – and for access to thousands of partially pre-screened publishers.
If you look at the bigger picture and compare any start-up costs to that of hiring and training a single new employee – one who may leave you at any time – it puts things into perspective.
5. Expand and Scale Your Business in New Directions
With sales increasing, you can focus on growing and scaling your business. Develop more products or add more services. Whatever path you choose, you’ll have an active and willing sales force waiting to promote your items.
If you’re giving affiliates a large commission, you’re going to have increased expenses to go along with increased revenue, but you have to look at the bottom line. These are sales (and now customers) you wouldn’t have otherwise had. And, you’re only paying after the sale is completed – so you’re not risking your capital on an untested whim. Even if the visitor doesn’t convert into a sale, you can still remarket to them.
The cost of acquiring new customers can be a huge expense, but with affiliates sending you warm leads practically for free, you’ll be able to grow much faster than if you were paying for each and every visitor.
Maybe you’ve never had the time, but try cold-approaching influencers in your market and let them know the benefits of your product or service. If they like what your company is doing, by offering them an affiliate link, you may just score some free promotion or a friendly review.
Wrapping It Up
Many things in business can be automated, but increasing sales usually require a human touch. If you have local employees, training and managing them can be expensive.
An affiliate program gives you access to a wide range of people wanting to promote your products and services. You only pay a commission on converted sales and leads while the extra traffic to your website is yours to keep.
The program can be outsourced and you can be removed from the day-to-day operations, if you desire, allowing you the time to grow, scale and expand your business in new directions.
Have you considered adding an affiliate program to your business?