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Feb 13, 2012 · 5 min read

Small merchants making bigger impacts

Smaller online retailers can make a big impact with the right affiliate marketing strategy.

If you feel that you’re the little guy or a small fish in a big pond — you’re probably right. With the enormous amount of online retailers coming into the marketplace it can be hard to stand out and get the attention of those big, amazing affiliates to see your potential.

Succeeding with affiliate marketing and growing your business can be done as long as you have realistic objectives in mind and collaborate with your affiliates and network representatives.

Top Tips for a Successful Affiliate Campaign

1. Be Realistic
It is important that you don’t perceive affiliate marketing as the answer to all your problems and the solution to your failing business. Affiliates can only work with what you have given them so if you have not optimised your website, don’t remain competitive and offer little in the way of promotional tools, affiliates may/may not be able to help you.

It is also important to realise that if you are a smaller brand or merchant you might need to offer a higher commission than that of your large-scale competitors as they generally earn affiliates a higher PPC.

2. Optimise Your Current Affiliates
If you already run an affiliate program and are thinking about approaching more bloggers, online magazines etc, it’s a good idea to ensure your current affiliates are happy. Get some feedback from your current base of promoters and see if there are areas you could improve upon and what you would need to do in order to get some priority placement with them.

3. Listen To Your Network
Your affiliate network do what they do day in and day out and are equipped to offer advice and ways in which you can grow your program effectively.

Large opportunities are likely to be presented to you by way of newsletter or an account representative contacting you about an opportunity that has arisen.

4. Targeted Communications
If you are going to contact your affiliates en masse be sure that it is targeted to what they do or their promotional method of operation.

Content or editorial style affiliates are not likely to be interested in coupon codes and vice versa. Quality networks should have the option to create affiliate profiles or groups based on certain criteria and the ability to send correspondence to these groups.

5. Return on Investment (ROI) Analysis
Ensure right from the start that you have sufficient margins to be able to offer a competitive commission rate to your affiliates. Don’t offer more than is sustainable — affiliates want longevity from a program, not constant commission decreases or closures. Your program needs to be profitable for everyone involved.

6. Communicate Regularly
Use forums, Twitter, Facebook and internal newsletters to keep your affiliates up to speed with what’s happening and to announce new promotions, coupons, banners etc.

Affiliates appreciate hearing from you but studies have shown once a month is more than sufficient. Affiliates are a self-managed sales team and do things at their own pace.

7. Educate Yourself
The affiliate or paid on performance world is ever-changing and requires that you keep a handle on latest trends.

When a merchant is new to affiliate marketing it can all seem a bit daunting at first but educating yourself and investing in your program means affiliates and networks will invest in you.

Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day, by Geno Prussakov

Commission Factory recommend this book for every new merchant or program manager. It is a fantastic resource and gives step-by-step and coherent instructions on effectively managing a campaign.

8. Recruit
One of the most under-realised tools of affiliate management and growth is the actual recruitment of affiliates. Whether you passively recruit with the addition of an affiliate program details and sign up page on your website or have a standard email that you send to webmasters of sites you come across. It’s all important and should be part of a weekly strategy, find some new affiliates or sites to promote you. It’s really not that difficult and affiliates haven’t got much to lose except a little time.

9. Develop Your Relationships
Affiliates should be an extension to your salesforce and therefore it’s a great idea to give them incentives and a reason to love being a part of your company.

Offer commission bonuses, sales competitions or samples of your products that they can try themselves for review or give to friends and family. It not only inspires loyalty with your affiliates but when they offer your products to others you are increasing your own brand awareness.

10. Ask For Help
If your program is not growing the way you would like then don’t hesitate to ask your affiliates and network representatives for some suggestions. Taking feedback and running with it is great for all to see you’re willing to grow and in it for the long-haul. Just ensure that if you ask for help you take it on board, it can have an adverse effect if you request assistance and then ignore all the suggestions you were given.

All things considered it’s important for merchants to realise that to become a big fish, you will only get out of affiliate marketing what you are willing to put in.

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