Some of the best-known books and authors have captured their huge market share by providing an incentive to webmasters to link to their site. Look at titles such as Ken Evoy's 'SiteSell' info products or Declan Dunn's books. Each has thousands of loyal webmasters recommending their books in return for a sales commission.
Affiliate Marketing can be the most effective marketing method available to online marketers. After a small initial investment for a suitable tracking solution, you are then provided with performance-based advertising. No sale - no marketing costs. You simply pay an agreed commission or 'bounty' once you have made a sale.
However before you rush out to set-up your program, let's review some important points you need to know before launching your program -
1. Get your sites sales and conversions right before launching a program
If your site or info-product isn't selling then an Affiliate Program is not going to help. It will simply provide you with yet more visitors who 'look but don't buy' plus irritated emails from affiliate partners asking when you are going to improve your sites selling power.
Launch your site, test and improve your sites conversion rates. Then it's time to introduce an Affiliate Program to leverage additional traffic to your proven sales generating site.
2. It needs to be profitable for your affiliates too!
Well-paid affiliates are happy loyal affiliates who will continue to promote your book.
Too many program managers consider Affiliate Programs to be a method of cheap advertising or branding. Instead develop long-term strategic partnerships, remember that every cent earned by your affiliate represents a greater profit for you. Take pleasure in cutting your affiliate checks. Pay your affiliates well and pay them on time.
3. It's quality not quantity that counts
Often quoted is the 80:20 rule but really this is much more like 95:5 i.e. only 5% of your affiliate partners will actively promote your program or have the traffic or merchandising skills to send qualified visitors to your site.
Is Your Info-Product Suited to an Affiliate Program?
Think of your affiliate software as a tool to help develop strategic partnerships. Enabling you to partner with key sites that already receive large numbers of visitors relevant to your eBook.
Before launching your program spend some time researching sites that might be ideal partners. The easiest way to do this is to look at the sites holding the top search engine positions for keywords descriptive of your books topic. The object is to find quality, highly trafficked sites that already has an influence over your potential customers - these sites will be your best affiliates.
A successful program can be based around just a handful of key affiliates, are you able to identify sites suitable that are likely to join your program?
By now you should have a good idea as to whether launching an Affiliate Program will be right for you. Do realise though that it will not be an 'automatic sales generator', operating a successful program takes time and effort.
As well as recruiting and helping your affiliates you will need to provide your affiliates with tools that sell.
You need to take responsibility in providing your affiliates with tested link methods that generate results. Creating linking methods to include -
The worst performing link method, the banner, will probably be the most used link by your inexperienced affiliates. I have found far greater success by designing banners that look like text links as opposed to artistic, graphic banners.
Text and Email Links
Explain to your affiliates that they will receive greater success with the use of text links and provide carefully crafted examples. Encourage your affiliates to place links in context to their sites content.
Free Extracts and Downloads
As an info-product publisher you will have some great content ready prepared, use this to its full advantage. Create a free download or excerpts and make these available to your affiliates.
You could provide these as a series of emails, with the right affiliate software you can then embed the affiliate ID links into each email and even allow your affiliates to provide a sign-up form to subscribe to the report directly from their site.
For key partners you could even create an abridged version of your manual with their ID code embedded in the document.
Offer your affiliates a 'product link'. Provide the HTML that includes your book cover graphic, a strong headline and then encourage them to combine this with a review or testimonial for your book.
Book Reviews and Articles
Encourage your affiliates to do a review of your book and provide them with articles that they can reproduce on their site or within their newsletters.
Which Tracking Solution is Right for You?
There are a multitude of options each with varying costs and features.
Without very generous budgets it's unlikely that a networked solution such as Be Free or LinkShare will be viable. Commission Junction could be an option providing a reliable tracking solution, a pool of 'ready made' affiliates plus they handle check cutting and an in-house fraud detection team. However, don't expect their 'ready made' affiliate pool to be ideal for your program - the best performing affiliates will be the ones you find and recruit personally. Costs with CJ start at $1295 plus a 20% transaction charge.
For those with more modest budgets you can utilise a software-based solution.
Low cost solutions such as Affiliate Tracking Network start from $75 plus $29.95 per month. Look at these low-cost options carefully - they may not offer all the features you later discover you need and upgrading can be a very time consuming task.
ClickBank appears to be a very popular solution for info-product publishers especially as they also offer merchant account services. The tracking is adequate but personally I find the setting up of links as an affiliate a little clumsy and overly complicated for the novice HTML'er. You really do need to make the sign-up and placement of your links as simple as possible for your affiliates.
Don't skimp on the foundations. You wouldn't launch your books site without your own domain name so why launch what could be your most effective sales strategy based on a free or cheap tracking solution?
One of my favourite software based solutions is Kowabunga's 'My Affiliate Program'. It carries a slightly higher price tag than some of the other software based solutions but comes with many very powerful extras that really can make the difference to a successful program.
For example my eBook, 'The Practical Guide to Creating and Managing a Profitable Affiliate Program' offers a series of free extracts. These are delivered by email over a two-week period. Kowabunga's software includes a mailing feature to handle this automatically and even provides a signup box for the free extracts that enables affiliates to place on their site. This ensures every email is tagged with their affiliate ID code and provides affiliates with a much more effective linking tool than simply relying on the typically poor performing banner ad.
This article has only scratched the surface as to how to establish your program, you will need to plan your program carefully to ensure it's an attractive proposition for potential affiliates, be prepared to spend time creating pages to 'sell' the benefits of your program, invest time and effort in recruiting your affiliate relationships and working with your partners to generate sales but ultimately you will be rewarded with a steady flow of targeted visitors to your site interested in your info-product.
For more help and advice click here for free extracts from 'The Practical Guide to Creating and Managing a Profitable Affiliate Program'