Brand affiliates are an extensive marketing channel for any online business. To put it simply, brand affiliates are advocates and/or partners who sell, promote, and engage with your product for a commission, usually based on the sales they produce for you.
Think of an affiliate as a long-game: they’ll produce sales for you, but it may not be immediate and it will takes time to set-up. And of course, your product itself has to be compelling enough to continue to keep your affiliates promoting It takes effort to set up, and then you have to keep your affiliates interested in continuing to recommend your products.
If you do that, though, affiliate marketing can make a dramatic impact on your sales.
You have two main choices when you set up an affiliate program: join a network or build your own system.
Build Your Own
This is what ShipStation does. Via our Refer-A-Friend program, we’ve organically built a network of affiliates around the country. We offer $30 for every trial that converts to a subscription so if you’ve been advocating for ShipStation, make sure you’re doing it right!
Join a Network
Most affiliate networks require a payment of some type. It might be a percentage of your sales or a monthly charge. But the main purpose of these networks is to get you in touch with an affiliate. The network will have a big group of affiliates they recommend, and the tools you’d need should be included (tracking, reporting, and payment processors).
Where can you go to find some affiliate networks?
- Rakuten Affiliate Network (previously Linkshare)
- CJ Affiliate (previously Commission Junction)
You could also try Amazon—they have the volume if that’s what you need, but you’ll have to give up a fairly big portion of your profits.
But to really make the most of an affiliate program, you’ll need to make sure you’re polished and prepared. That way your affiliates can pick and choose which products they want to promote. Remember: if they believe in the product they’re promoting, it’s going to resonate more with their audience.
Here’s what we think you ought to have to make the most of an affiliate:
- Professional, clean, easy-to-navigate site
- A product that can’t be beat
- An affiliate-specific email. This email should have a marketing kit ready to go: banners, best-selling products, and trackable links. If you haven’t already covered it, this email would be a good spot to include commission rates and the best avenue to contact you.
- Marketing materials. Anything from email templates and banner ads (in every dimension you can imagine) to product and culture videos. The less your affiliates have to do, the more they’re out in the social sphere advocating.
- A phone number for affiliates to reach you – that way they know you are a real person – and allow them to deal with you directly if any issues arise. You don’t want them to go public with problems on social media.
- Any upcoming promotions your affiliates can push. If any of these affiliates are active bloggers, have product and promotion information ready to go in case they need it!
- A compelling commission. Most folks will start around 10-15%. If you can offer 20-25%, though, you’ll increase the odds of attracting great advocates. You could always offer a whooping 50% commission to start, before reducing it to something more reasonable. As always, though, look at your margins to see what you can afford.
Now that you have a foundation, get out there and find your advocates/affiliates/influencers and get them working for you! You could start with finding bloggers in your same realm and narrow down to a niche from there. So long as you nurture your program, you’ll generate more and more.