Affiliates and Partners and Referrals
Some of the best and warmest traffic you’ll ever get is when someone else directly refers traffic to you. Because think about it – we are much more likely to do something when someone we know, like and trusts tells us to do it (versus if we see an advertisement about it). That’s why you’ll want to consider installing an affiliate program or other partner referral program.
But heads up – this traffic and list-building strategy may not work for all store owners. The #1 thing you need to consider is whether you have the margins to be able to share a cut of the profits with affiliates.
TIP: Check with other store owners in your niche are offering affiliate programs. If no one else is doing it, there may be a reason – the margins just aren’t there.
If you’re a dropshipper, then chances are the margins are too small. The exception is if you are in a very specialized or high-end niche where you’re not competing on price with others.
If you’re selling your own products, then you’ll need to consider whether your pricing strategy supports affiliates. If you raise your prices, will you still maintain a good conversion rate? If not, will the extra sales make up for the loss of profits? (Keep in mind that backend sales are a big part of it.) Can you offer enough of an incentive (in the form of a big commission) to attract top affiliates to sell your wares?
Still another thing to consider is whether your business model supports breaking even or even taking a loss on the frontend by giving affiliates most of the profits. In this case, your goal is to build a list of buyers and make the bulk of your profits on the backend.
You’ll need to consider all these issues carefully. If you do decide to set up a partner referral program, you’ll pick from these options:
1. Set up an affiliate program. Generally, you’ll offer a commission on every sale referred to you by affiliates. Depending on what you’re selling, commissions on physical goods usually range from between 5% to 25%, with most products right around the 10% range.
2. Set up a customer referral program, where customers (or even prospects) get rewards (instead of commissions) for referring their friends.
Let’s look at these two options separately.
Set Up an Affiliate Program
Before you set up an affiliate program, you need to get your email list up and running. That’s because an affiliate program isn’t going to be very profitable for you, unless you are already marketing to your customers on the backend.
In other words, your margins are going to be small on the frontend, so your affiliate program is only going to be a big success you have a plan for monetizing the backend of your business. This may include:
· Sending promos via email on the backend. (This is the most important thing you can do to increase sales on the backend.)
· Sending promos along with shipments.
· Adding upsells on the order form.
· Adding promos on the thank you/confirmation page.
So, let’s talk about how to get your affiliate program set up…
Step 1: Decide on Commissions
Here’s the simple truth: the higher your commissions, the more high-quality affiliates you’ll attract. That’s why selling a high-end product with a generous commission is going to help you build a better affiliate program than selling low-priced items that offer affiliates very little incentive to promote.
Step 2: Install Your Affiliate Program
Depending on your platform, you may be able to use an app or plugin to create your affiliate program. For example, if you’re using Shopify, then all you have to do is pick from one of several good affiliate apps in their app store.
On some platforms (like Amazon), your affiliate program is already built in, though you won’t have any control over the program, nor will you even be able to contact affiliates. (That’s a big disadvantage of using these sorts of platforms.)
Step 3: Create Marketing Materials
Your next step is to make it easy for your affiliates to join your program and start promoting immediately. You can do this by creating “cut and paste” type promos and graphics for your affiliates to use. These materials may include:
· A variety of graphics, including banner ads and smaller graphical squares.
· Short text ads for platforms such as pay per click advertising.
· Short promos for social media platforms like Twitter.
· Longer promos for other social media and blogs.
· Articles that are part content, part promo for blogs and newsletters.
· Rebrandable reports.
In other words, create a variety of both text and multimedia content for a variety of platforms. Then be sure to ask your affiliates what else they need or want to promote.
Step 4: Recruit Partners
Now you need to build your affiliate team. You can do this by:
· Including a link in your store where you advertise for affiliates.
· Let your social media followers, blog visitors and newsletter subscribers know you’re looking for affiliates.
· Directly advertise your affiliate program on affiliate-related websites.
· Seek out the top affiliates in your niche and contact them directly to join your affiliate program. Basically, anyone who is already working in your niche is a good candidate to become an affiliate, including:
- Other product vendors or service providers in your niche.
- Those with big platforms, including big blogs, social media platforms, forums, well-trafficked sites, and newsletters.
- Those who are actively working as affiliates in the niche, including those who are currently selling your competitors’ products.
Step 5: Motivate Partners
If you are on a platform where you have control of your affiliates, then you’ll want to stay in touch with them on a weekly basis and motivate them to promote. You can send out weekly emails with the following kinds of content:
· Coupons for affiliates to distribute.
· Announcements about upcoming promos
· Announcements about new products.
· Showcasing popular products.
· Announcing affiliate contests.
· Providing new marketing materials for affiliates.
· Highlighting how well other affiliates are doing (along with tips of how they’re doing it).
And anything else that will motivate your affiliates.
Note: Recruiting and motivating affiliates isn’t something you do once and then never again. These two steps are an ongoing process, something you should be doing every single week. If you want your affiliate program to grow, then work on both recruiting new affiliates and motiving the entire team on a consistent basis.
Now let’s take a quick look at the other method for getting referral traffic…
Set Up a Rewards Program
If you don’t have the margins needed to offer cash commissions to your affiliates, then you may consider setting up a rewards program instead. This is where you offer people – often your existing customers and prospects—gifts for referring customers to your store.
Note: You can offer a direct reward for every referral. Alternatively, you can offer “points” for referrals, which your customers can then exchange for gifts. The more points they accumulate, the better gift they’ll receive.
Now whether you’re offering direct gifts for each referral or you’re working on a points system, you’ll want to think outside the box. Specifically, consider what type of gifts you can offer that have a high value to customers, yet actually are a low-cost and easy-to-deliver item for you.
Here are some ideas:
· Discounts on future purchases.
· Gift cards for your store.
· Free products from your store.
· Discounts or free products from your marketing partners’ stores. For example, if you sell wedding supplies such as bridesmaid gifts, tiaras, decorations and the like, then you may offer discounts with a marketing partner who caters to the same niche but doesn’t sell the same sort of products. (E.G., a jeweler, a bridal gown store, etc.)
· Related digital products, such as apps, videos, reports or even access to live events such as webinars. For example, if you’re selling bodybuilding supplements and equipment, you might offer a training video or a meal-planning app.
· Related services. For example, if you’re selling weight-loss goods, you might offer a free consultation to help design a custom meal plan and training program.
You get the idea. Point is, try to come up with rewards that your prospects and customers will really value, yet they won’t bankrupt you.
No Cash Incentives or Rewards? No Problem…
If you don’t have much in the way to offer in terms of cash or gifts for referrals, there are two other ways to get referrals:
1. Joint ventures.
2. Viral traffic.
A joint venture is when you team up with other marketers in your niche for mutual gain. Go back to the example above – if you sell wedding favors and accessories, then you might team up with someone who sells bridal gowns. That way you can help each other without competing with one another.
How do you help each other? Simple: by co-promoting each other all through your respective sales funnels.
For example, you can swap endorsements and promos in the following places:
· Emails to both prospects and customers.
· Social media.
· On thank you/confirmation pages.
· In content you co-create, such as lead magnets (reports, videos, etc.).
You might even do events together, such as holding a live webinar where you promote both of your stores at the end.
The second way to bring in referral traffic is by creating and launching viral content on social media. This traffic won’t be as warm as other sorts of traffic, because your prospects will be passing around the content that happens to include a promo, rather than specifically telling their friends to buy from you.
Here’s a classic example of viral content: BlendTec and their famous “Will it blend?” videos on YouTube. This campaign was launched over a decade ago, and it still continues to draw views.
Here’s how: This company regularly shows off their product line of blenders by creating humorous, eyebrow-raising videos where they blend items such as iPhones. The videos show how well the product works, but the videos also go viral since they’re unconventional.
Need more inspiration for viral content? Check out Facebook pages and YouTube videos in your niche to see what’s hot. This content may include videos, memes, infographics, and more.
Two good ways to start getting partner traffic is by starting an affiliate program and offering a rewards program. You’ll need to check your margins and your business model to see if these types of programs make good financial sense for you. If not, then two additional ways to get traffic is by partnering with other people in your niche and launching viral content. These two methods are good additions to your marketing arsenal regardless of whether you have an affiliate or rewards program in place.