How to Create an Affiliate Program
An affiliate program, also known as a referral program, is when you pay a company or individual when they send you a lead that converts to a sale. A master of the affiliate program is Amazon. Chanimal and tens of thousands of other sites link their recommended resources (books, tapes, videos, etc.) to Amazon. Amazon does the rest. Their site contains additional information, reviews, and even recommends similar products in the same category. I have alliances with several vendors who create products that I personally use and recommend (such as Marketing Plan Pro, WebTrends, PR Blaster, etc.).
The main difficulty with an affiliate program is administration and providing feedback to the lead providers (with e-mails and tracking). There are several types of affiliate programs and software that automates this process:
- Custom development. Some companies, like Palo Alto (makers of Marketing Plan Pro), have their own custom developed affiliate software. Unless your needs are highly specialized, I don’t recommend it now (perhaps in the earlier days). Especially since you can modify some of the CGI based affiliate programs to handle your special needs–saving you hundreds of development hours.
- Shopping cart based. Some shopping carts contain affiliate capabilities built-in. In this case, you may wish to try it first if you already own it–since you already paid for it.
- Network, commission-based (such as Commission Junction). These networks are pre-built and optimized cloud applications. However, some have an expensive setup fee ($2,500 plus), and most “own” the names (you do not own your affiliates–they do. You sign up “their” affiliates to recommend your product). For this reason alone, I do not prefer this type of affiliate program. However, they have a massive network that can sign up on their own (you decide if you want automatic or manual admission). Just watch out for coupon sites.
- SaaS (hosted), monthly flat fee. These services host the affiliate software remotely, like the network affiliate programs. However, you own the names. They do charge a monthly fee, which can be expensive (up to $10k/month and more)–but may prove less than commission-based once you have sufficient affiliates and sales/lead volume. Many of these also have a strong network to help jumpstart your efforts. One SaaS product that has received good reviews to automate your efforts is My Affiliate Program.
- Software License, one-time fee. There are several companies that offer CGI based software you can put on your own server. You own the names, plus you only pay for the cost of the software (and upgrades, if desired). This happens to be my preference when first starting an affiliate program, and when you are able to do your own recruiting. The editor’s choice application (via Wilson Web’s reports) is Ultimate Affiliate Software by groundbreak.com. I have set this up with several companies so far and it was very simple and straightforward–especially since it has a version that works with MySQL (which is included in most ISP hosting plans). You can also customize the interface. Plus, it is only $199. (note: this software does not provide any support anymore–I now mainly recommend Post Affiliate Pro–but they dropped their license version and only do SaaS).
Legal Disclosure. NOTE: As of 2006, the Federal Trade Commission requires that word of mouth (including affiliates) marketing disclose they are compensated (see Washington Post article). This is why Amazon and several others require an obvious disclosure on the page. Chanimal, joins a lof of programs and is a coniseur of affiliate programs–mainly to have an opinion since it also sets up so many. The revenue is minor (and is not the primary purpose for the affiliate link–seeing how their affiliate program works is primary), but there is a blanket link on the bottom of each page and often close to the affiliate links.
I recommend using PostAffiliatePro.com on your site to capture all the leads you recruit (they also have one of the best integration alliances–so lots of other applications work with them). If you need a network, you can sign up for a network application and let it generate its own customers through its network–while you still link those you find to your own system – (why give up a commission percentage when you did the work). You can also entice the best affiliates away from the commission network to your own with higher margins–so you own the names of those that perform best. I would try to find their self-install version (much cheaper than their SaaS version).
If you use WordPress, then I recommend AffiliateWP. Their pricing is about 1/10th PostAffiliatePro and they have similar features. There are numerous positive comparitive reviews that show the features (I especially like the Gavity Forms and Paid Membership Pro integrations).
How To Promote Your Affiliate Links
As a channel manager, you have to help your new affiliates get jump-started. Following are several ideas on how to promote your channel program (this is posted in the marketing tab of the Chanimal University affiliate program):
Following are EIGHT things you can do to promote the course or products:
- Put a link on your own website. Start by putting a link on your website (remember to underline it if is not done so by default)–typically within an online review or in an area where you explain the product or course (in body copy, tables, images, side bar, or banner). Click HERE (opens in own window) to see an example of an affiliate link. On the bottom it talks about AffiliatWP–that is the software used at Chanimal for the affiliate program. If you click the link and purchase, Chanimal gets a commission for the sale.
- Create a reference section. At Chanimal, I often get asked about which books I recommend. So, I link to books on Amazon in my Books & Magazines section (opens in own window). However, I am also an Amazon affiliate, so I earn commission from qualifying purchases (not a lot–but enough to remain active with Amazon as connoisseur of affiliate programs).
- Write a blog. Here is a blog about Pitching to the Press. I have used Todd for years–incredible results. He always does a great job for anyone I refer to him. On the page is a link to his website. He doesn’t have affiliate software, but if you mentioned that you came from Chanimal, then I get a small ongoing referral fee. Our relationship is reciprocal.
- Post in other blogs & forums. If you are in a blog and someone wants to know about channel training, you can post a link with your response. Or, you can link to the course in your signature (if allowed).
- Social Media. Often folks post questions on Facebook or Linked In (especially within the groups)–perhaps a marketing topic. You can respond to a question and provides a link to the Chanimal University training resource.
- Newsletter. You can add a description about the channel training in your company newsletter with a link.
- YouTube. Create a simple video about your experience with the course and post it on YouTube. Some folks make their entire living posting reviews and getting the associated commission. You can also reply to YouTube videos with a link.
- Landing Page. Create a landing page about the topic and provide links and personal testimonials.
Remember the requirement to disclose your affiliate role. See details HERE.
Here is a great sample of how this is emailed from Thinkific:
Hey it’s Paddy from Thinkific here!
Welcome to the Thinkific affiliate program.
We’re glad to have you here and are looking forward to seeing you spread the word.
First here is your unique tracking link.
Want a head start on some promotion ideas (and earn a nice bonus?) Here’s how:
- Write a Thinkific vs. ______ (The Course Platform you switched from or looked at), publish to your blog and pop it out to your email list.
- Got a YouTube channel? Are you a content creator?
Post a video of your experience using thinkific (and how much you love it!)
- Add details about Thinkific, along with your affiliate link, to any pages or posts you have on how to create an online course or membership site.
- Drop a social post @thinkific saying how much you love the platform!
- Got an audience that you think would benefit from live training? Drop us a message and we can make those arrangements for you!
- Add Thinkific to your Resources page on your blog as your recommended course platform provider.
Here is a one month free on Pro+Growth bonus you can offer to your audience.
Note: This can’t be redeemed against your own account or any account that would be classed as a self-referral.
If you do all the above in your first 30 days and send over the information to verify. We’ll pay you a $100 bonus and increase your commissions to 30% for the first 90 days.
If you generate 5 Leads in your first 30 days you’ll earn $25
Any questions or if you need something specific, give me shout and let me know.
This is exactly how it was sent to me within an email. Paddy does a lot of right things here.
- Responsive. First, she is very personal (talking with a person, not a company), and responds within days of signing up. Most affiliates get excited about referring, sign up, but then don’t put a link on their website or do much of anything else–so they need a reminder and an incentive. With resellers, we would usually respond within minutes of their application with an approval email, but also a phone call. As an affiliate, I was shocked when I got a phone call from the makers of Marketing Plan software. He said I was one of their top referral partners. I was so flattered by the recognition that I even created more content to push their software.
- Special Offer. Next, she includes multiple promotions. An offer for me to provide to my friends–so they save. An offer to make more money – $100 bonus, plus a 10% commission increase for the first 90 days. And finally an extra bonus for my first five leads.
- Impending Event. She adds a sense of urgency with an offer within the first 30 days and another offer within the first 90 days. We setup a jump-start bonus for all partners within the first 90 days since most resellers go inactive if they don’t do something (get the product on their website, register a deal, schedule a demo or close a deal) within the first 90 days.
Resources – Affiliate Program
Register to download the Chanimal Affiliate Kit. This contains complete templates, instructions, a PowerPoint, agreements–everything needed to setup your affiliate program from scratch. Or you can purchase it within the Chanimal Store.
Following are links and banners to affiliate programs that Chanimal is part of, or are being used to TEST affiliate software (have to post it somewhere ;-). You’re welcome to select any of them to see how they work from a user perspective.