The 8 Key Qualities of a Good Affiliate Program
If you're thinking of starting up an affiliate, or perhaps you're just getting into affiliate marketing as a publisher; the points for consideration below may be of value to you.
In most affiliate programs, the top few percent of affiliates generate the vast majority of sales; so you want as many quality, or "super" affiliates participating in your program as possible.
So what do these super affiliates want? The following are some of the features that quality affiliates look for in deciding on programs to participate in.
1. Solid product and merchant site
Before you consider implementing an affiliate program, ensure that your product is rock solid and your site is presentable. Affiliates certainly do not like the idea of sending valuable traffic to pages that won't convert or to products that do not work. Learn more about creating effective landing pages from the established affiliate marketers like Ewen Chia.
2. Trustworthy company
Put yourself in the shoes of the affiliate for a moment and visit your site' web pages. Do these pages provide enough information to instill confidence in a potential affiliate that your company is trustworthy?
The affiliate marketing industry is rife with stories of mysterious merchants offering great commission levels and then not paying on referrals; so it's understandable that many publishers are a little gun-shy.
Good affiliates really check over a company before joining a program; especially if they are going to be giving you broad coverage on their site, which is what you'll want.
It's a good idea to have a dedicated point of contact for your affiliate program and that person is prompt in responding to affiliate inquiries. Affiliates shouldn't be viewed as annoying, they are important partners in your business.
Use email addresses that has your company's domain name. For example if your company is Weathtreasure, your email contact should be [Your Name]@wealthtreasure.com.
If you should encounter issues in your program, be honest about it rather than defensive. Most quality publsihers are quite forgiving when it comes to glitches as long as you're honest about it and resolve the issue.
A regular newsletter can help remind affiliates of your existence - many affiliates sign up to programs and then get side-tracked; never actually getting around to publishing up promo material. A newsletter also helps instill more confidence in your affiliate network that you're proactive and the program is evolving. If you decide to offer an affiliate newsletter, flaunt this on your program details page.
If you receive feedback from your affiliates about improving the program; take it seriously. Bear in mind that quality publishers are masters of their trade. If they suggest something to you, then there's usually very good logic behind it. You want increased sales, they want increased sales - everyone wins :).
4. Recurring Commisisons
High one-time payouts can be a good way of attracting attention, but if you can; offer a residual commission option too; i.e. a percentage of the customers payments paid to the affiliate on an ongoing basis.
Offering residual commissions is especially attractive when in relation to high value subscription services. Quality affiliates know that one of the keys to success in the affiliate marketing games is to build up multiple residual income streams which can help see them through the lean times.
Residual commissions are most successful when based on the life of the account rather than a set period.
If possible, when calculating commission rates, don't just base it on the industry norm - take a look at your own customer lifetime value figures. You want to offer publishers the best deal possible, but not to the point where the clients they refer won't turn a profit for you.
5. Avoid the MLM stigma
2nd tier commissions, i.e. commissions paid on sales made by an affiliate who was referred by another publisher, are a great option to include in your program; but offering 3rd tier and beyond commission levels may give the impression that your program is MLM (multi-level marketing); aka network marketing. In essence, it would be. There have been so many scam MLM schemes both on and off the web in recent years that these types of commission structures can really scare off potential affiliates.
Some affiliate program directories refuse to list programs with commission levels beyond the second tier and if you're using PayPal to pay commissions, you may find they close your account due to the MLM stigma.
6. Promotional material
It's great to have attractive banners, but not if they weigh in at 100kb. Bear in mind that banners etc. can bog down an affiliate's site page load time; so keep your creatives pretty, but keep them light. Some publishers are adverse to using any sort of graphical banner, so it's important to include options such as basic text links.
Quality affiliates are very busy people - the more brain strain you can take out of the development of promotional material, the better. Further to banners and links, many affiliates find promo page content such as as paragraphs or full articles very useful. Often, they'll edit the text to suit their own purposes, but by providing these materials to them greatly decreases the amount of time they spend in developing pages.
7. Reporting and tracking
This is important. Publishers really need an interface where they can monitor their progress 24/7. It's certainly not enough to send out a monthly report via email as this doesn't allow the affiliate to make tweaks to their promotion on-the-fly based on their performance.
There's also the trust factor - quality affiliates are somewhat skittish by nature; usually because of previous experiences where they've been screwed by a merchant. The transparency that a reporting interface offers provides affiliates with a level of reassurance.
8. Payment thresholds
Commission payment threshholds should not be set too high - $25 to $50 is the industry standard. Any higher than that and an affiliate can feel it's a little risky to join your program..
If possible, also allow your publishers to be able to set their own custom commission threshhold above the minimum you have in place as banking/processing small commission payments may be somewhat a headache for the larger players.
You may wish to consider paying out on even lower threshholds than $25/$50. This minimizes the amount of liability your company has towards affiliates at any given time. Using an option such as PayPal does make lower payment threshholds quite viable and combine with the option of custom payment threshholds your payment terms can appeal to a broad range of affiliates.