Affiliate Marketing is about building relationships. While building relationships you learn what works best for your program or methods your audience responds to. An Affiliate program needs to be ever-changing to meet Affiliates’ needs and engage your partners, but the initial step should be creating the best possible first impression by taking the time to set up your program.
A very common question I receive from new Merchants in our network is “What do I do now?” It is so important to position the program from the start and determine certain factors, such as promotional techniques, types of Affiliates allowed, commission structure, Affiliate-directed promotions, etc.
Don’t be overwhelmed, just take it step-by-step. To help you out, I have provided 10 steps to do right from the start!
1. Review & Enhance Creatives
The creative inventory is a first impression for both current and prospective Affiliates so it is very important to showcase your program with a variety of options in size and style.
- Focus on including a variety of landing pages to different categories, specific products, or sales/offers to lead consumers to different parts of your website other than the homepage.
- Maintain a well-organized creative inventory by using category names such as, promotion, holiday, season or occasion, product-specific, etc.
- Do the banners have a call-to-action such as ‘shop now’, ‘get gifts’, ‘view products’? Your creatives must be actionable and drive viewers to click through the link from the Affiliates website.
2. Upload a Product Datafeed
A product datafeed is a crucial part of a Merchant program for content Affiliates as they are able to feature a specific product. The goal of a datafeed is to increase the conversion rate by providing product-specific information (image, name, price, description) and directing the consumer directly to the product page instead of possibly decreasing attention by searching from the homepage.
Common Question: Is the product datafeed necessary if I only have one or a few products?
Recommendation: Yes, the product datafeed is an essential part of an Affiliate program as it helps to create visibility within the Affiliate interface for recruitment AND engages Affiliates in your program. Even if you have one product, upload a datafeed file for your Affiliates to feature on their website with a product image, price, name, and description to attract their readers!
View the excellent ShareASale Blog “What Do I Need To Start An Affiliate Program? Part 1 of 5: Creative Inventory” for information on different sizes/types of banners, deep-linking, text links, and the product datafeed.
3. Setup Guidelines in a Program Agreement
The Program Agreement should be one of the first steps in setting up an Affiliate program as it will help build an overall structure and guidelines. A Program Agreement will also assist in finding a strategy that works best for the company, or how you would like the partners to advertise on their websites along with methods you would like to restrict from Affiliate-use. Technically without a Program Agreement, your program is running without any rules or regulations.
Common Question: What should I include in my Program Agreement?
Brian Littleton, the ShareASale CEO, provides great tips and suggestions on creating a Program Agreement in the ShareASale Blog “What Do I Need To Start An Affiliate Program?“
4. PPC Bidding Rules – Add Trademark Terms!
My first recommendation is to add the organization name – Do you want to compete with others bidding on your company name while you should be the first listed in a search engine?
PPC Bidding Rules are a great topic to discuss with your Marketing team as to not compete with the current online strategies in place.
Allowing PPC Bidding Rules: If you would like PPC Bidding as part of your Affiliate Program strategy, it would be wise to work closely with a few Affiliates allowing them access to bid on your Trademark terms with carefully monitoring.
Having a single Affiliate (or a trusted several) bid on your Trademarks is not a bad thing. After all, if someone doesn’t do it – your competitors will.
5. Present Your Best Self with a Program Bio
It is so important to create a great first impression to Affiliates by showcasing your program; this could be considered a “sales-pitch” as to why they should join your program over the competitors! The Program Bio should include program highlights, provide information about the company/products, and details about incentives or bonuses. I recommend using HTML code to segment the information in an easy-to-read format and include product images to give Affiliates a preview of the items your website offers!
6. Add Search Keywords – Help Affiliates Find You!
The most common way for an Affiliate to search for new programs is by keyword, whether it is an organization name, topic, or specific product. Make yourself more visible by providing keywords that relate to your company, products, or niche.
The Affiliate keyword search will pull from 4 locations within a program: Search Keywords, Product Datafeed, Program Bio, and Organization name. The Datafeed will allow the opportunity to provide product-specific keywords, so make the Search Keywords more general but still relevant to the company and products. As Search Keywords are so important for recruitment and creating visibility, make sure to use up all 255 available characters!
Common Question: How do I determine which keywords to include to make it easier for Affiliates to find our program?
Recommendation: Think like your consumers — which keywords you would search for to find your type of products/services? Do you sell kitchen tools and grilling essentials? Provide keywords that relate to this topic and niche along with common variations. There are a number of keyword generators or planners to help in this process. Use a common search engine to find the keyword generator that is right for you!
For more information on creating the best possible set of Search Keywords, view the ShareASale blog “Presenting Your Best Self-5: Keywords“
7. Setup Auto Deposit – Preferred By Affiliates
Utilizing the Auto Deposit in your account may seems like such a simple task, but many Affiliates prefer to work only with Merchants offering this feature. Enabling the Auto Deposit ensures Affiliates that the ShareASale links placed on their website advertising your Merchant program will always remain active. When a Merchants account balance reaches $0 or below, Affiliate links are no longer active and will not direct to the designated landing page. Without active links, Affiliates will not be able to generate sales to your program, therefore, will not be qualified to receive a commission!
Prospective Affiliates are able to view if a Merchant has Auto Deposit enabled along with the recent Uptime History, or a record of when the program has been offline or reached the low funds status (account balance less than $50).
8. Develop Template For Communications
Communication with your Affiliates is essential as they need to be informed of any program updates, new creatives, datafeed additions, top sellers, demographics, seasonal or holiday products, selling tips, etc. Use the Newsletter tool in your account (under Affiliates tab) to create well-constructed and personalized messages at least 1 time per month.
Common Question: What should I include in my Affiliate Newsletters?
Recommendation: As Affiliates are like your outside sales force, be sure to send information that will help them to better promote your company, products and program. Personalize the emails using the Macros feature and include information that is relevant to the type of Affiliate. For example, if you are contacting Bloggers provide content ideas and possibly an incentive for featuring a specific product within text. View the ShareASale Blog ‘Best Ways To Find Newsletter Information’ for more tips.
9. Engage Affiliates With Auto Reply Emails
When I purchase a new product or service, I always prefer receiving information on the next steps — now what? Use the Auto Reply: Approval Email as a ‘welcome letter’ that includes all of the necessary information to engage Affiliates. Get them to begin promoting your program immediately!
Common Question: What information will Affiliates need to begin promoting my program immediately?
Recommendation: Use the Approval message, or the ‘welcome letter’, to provide any selling tips such as top products, demographics, seasonal best sellers, etc. Also, include links to top performing text links, banners, datafeed products from your program for the Affiliate to use right away. Include useable links to the program creatives through the Macros feature.
For further information and tips for creating engaging as well as actionable messages, view the ShareASale blog “Presenting Your Best Self-4: Reply Emails“
A good rule of thumb is, the more you strive to help new and existing Affiliates, the more they will be able to help you!
10. Coupons/Deals Database – Not Just For Couponers
Uploading a coupon or deal to your program could be as simple as offering one of your existing deals, but tailored for Affiliates. Many new Merchants do not see the potential in the coupons/deals database as the notion of solely working with the content Affiliates trumps the idea. In all actuality, adding a coupon/deal will only help add visibility for your program as a notification through the ShareASale RSS feed is sent out to all Affiliates in the network.
This is a great opportunity to showcase your program to potential Affiliates that might not work with Merchants in the same category or niche. I recommend adding a new coupon or deal one time per month, even if it is the same offer, to continue creating exposure within the network.
Complete the Merchant Checklist
Upon activation, ShareASale will mail you (yes, real mail!) a New Merchant Welcome Kit! The booklet includes a week-by-week setup checklist for the tools/features along with best practices for a number of those items.
View the New Merchant Welcome Kit PDF Here!