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Successful Affiliate Marketing: Choosing Your Program Model

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It's important to choose the right program model for your affiliate program-one that matches your business model and supports the kind of affiliates you want to attract.
This article is adapted from chapter 5 of Pay for Performance: Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants (Que, 2001).
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Affiliate programs come in all shapes and sizes. If someone has thought of a product or service to sell on the Net, it's a good bet that there's an affiliate program for it. And if you have a product or service that's selling on the Net, you too can sell it through an affiliate program. In fact, selling it through your own affiliate program will help make it even more successful.

Developing an affiliate program that creates a collaborative commerce network is one of the most powerful ways today to market online. Here's another advantage: A successfully developed and managed network of affiliate partner sites can make even the smallest business or an unfamiliar product on the Net competitive with other e-commerce offers. A network of partners extends your product's reach, increases your product's visibility, and produces additional revenue for your business.

Affiliate Program Models

Affiliate program models have evolved quite a bit since their inception. Affiliate programs now work effectively for individuals, businesses, schools, and charities. But in almost every case, the models that are seeing success are those that that are becoming ever more context-centric. That is, what's being offered to site visitors closely matches the content of the site itself. The idea is obvious. Place the product or service in context and more people will buy. An affiliate site would have more success selling video games than lawn mowers on a site targeted to teenagers. It's presenting the right message to visitors in the right place at the right time. Whatever affiliate model you use, it must be context-centric to succeed.

You can affiliate with web sites in two ways—first, by placing offers on your affiliates' sites that link back to your company servers, where the sale is made; second, via hybrid models. The program models come in six basic types, and your company can offer any or all of them to potential affiliate partners:

  • Banner or text links

  • Storefronts

  • Pop-ups

  • Embedded commerce

  • Email

  • Two-tier programs

Combined, they represent the different ways your business can generate revenue, generate leads, and acquire new customers.

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