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Successful Affiliate Marketing: What Do Affiliates Want?

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If you don't know what your affiliates want, you're not likely to stumble into giving it to them. Frank Fiore provides a detailed list of what your affiliate partners expect from your program, and why you should provide it.
This article is adapted from chapter 4 of Pay for Performance: Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants (Que, 2001).
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As affiliate programs on the Net mature, merchants are becoming more selective about the affiliates they choose. Likewise, potential affiliates are doing the same. Companies with successful affiliate programs become successful because they think like their affiliates. They plan their program from the affiliates' point of view. As in most business endeavors, what separates the successful companies from the ones that fail is focus on the customer. And in this case, the company's affiliate is not only its business partner but, to a large extent, its customer as well. When planning your program, it pays to think like your affiliates.

And for good reason.

At first sight, building an affiliate network seems like an easy and inexpensive way to market your e-business. But don't let the simplicity of the concept fool you. First of all, the percentage of affiliates that sign up for your program and then become active in your network is quite low. Forrester Research says that the average affiliate program has about 10,000 affiliates. But only 10% to 20% of the affiliate sites actually participate in the program—that is, those that actually place your affiliate link on their site. And of those active affiliates, only 20% of those are super-affiliates—those that produce the majority of the revenue for your program.

So why the vast discrepancy between affiliates that sign up and those that actually participate in a merchant's program? It could be chalked up to laziness or general apathy about their web site. But these answers are too simple. Maybe it's because the merchant's program doesn't give affiliates what they want, and once they sit down to execute the program, they find out that it's not all that it's cracked up to be.

Thinking like an affiliate, what program elements and level of service would attract you?

What Affiliates Want

  • Being treated as a true business partner

  • Long-term relationship

  • Good commissions or revenue-generating potential

  • Access to the lifetime value of the customer, with lifetime commissions

  • Restrictions on the number of affiliates in the program

  • Adequate communication with the merchant

  • Adequate training on the product or service

  • Good graphic and text links that sell

  • Adequate marketing support

  • Being part of a community with other affiliates

  • Good reporting and tracking program available for reports 24 hours a day

  • Honest and credible program with a credible merchant

  • Good service for customers sent to the merchant

  • Clear and fair affiliate agreement with no hidden restrictions

  • Offers that are continuously updated and fresh

  • Wide selection of products to sell

  • Payments made on time

Let's take a more detailed look at what it takes to build a successful and profitable affiliate program from the affiliate's point of view.

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