Affiliate marketing is one of the most efficient methods of online business advertising.

As such, it has seen the success of many business ideas and consequently more people looking to understand how it works so they too can follow suit.

In this article, I will be discussing the basic tools you need to launch an affiliate program yourself.

The concept behind affiliate marketing is simple yet effective to say the least.

The idea involves promoting other people’s products and/or services and in return, getting paid in commission for sales generated from your promotional efforts.

It applies the basic principles of revenue sharing whereby you own a product, want to make more sales of it so you offer a financial incentive to promoters in the form of affiliate marketing.

Anyone can become an affiliate.

If you don’t own a product yourself and are familiar with a certain niche say mobile technology, then you can always pick a product in that line and share it with your readers to go along with your content.

If you do own a product, you can still cross promote with another product owner for two reasons; you want them to promote your product to their lead/customer base or you think your two products can work great together and target more sales.

Though the former may not be common, there are good examples when two or more brands are joined to form a better product than if it were one.

An example of brands from different companies sold as a stack to complement the unique qualities of each other happens most with health supplements or technology gadgets and accessories.

Don’t get tangled with the examples just yet, it gets simpler really.

Affiliate Tracking

This is the process of tracking and managing affiliate promotional activities using a range of specialized software and other plugins incorporated in the affiliate websites.

These marketing activities include sales, clicks, leads and conversions and are used to measure both the product and affiliate performance.

Tracking helps determine which affiliates perform best in generating sales and traffic so as to offer proper compensation.

Affiliate tracking is hence popular among online businesses as it offers insight to every affiliate performance and the network as well.

There are plenty of affiliate tracking systems you can choose from depending on your business model, and most come packed with graphs and other metrics used to calculate and show performance.

Launching an Affiliate Program

There are two options you can utilize when starting an affiliate program.

In House Affiliate Program

This is one of two options and includes setting up and managing your own affiliate program. You can achieve this in two ways; building your very own affiliate tracking platform customized for your business, or simply acquiring one of the popular models already being used by other businesses.

Regardless of the path you pursue, the most important thing is the relationships you cultivate with the relevant publishers in your niche towards promoting your products or services.

Like any other field, having an in-house program enables you to have more control over your marketing strategy both in terms of who you choose to work with, how to calculate the response among your target audience responds and more control over the overall cost.

Since budget is a reason for this option, you will be glad to know that the direct ties you forge with publishers when working via house programs can help you save money in the long run.

Below are just some of the most used softwares for in house affiliate programs

Leaddyno

Refersion

Post affiliate Pro.

Of course, this model may not be for everybody. In house programs may become heavily reliant on specific affiliates over time. Also, recruiting specialized publishers with the right knowledge and experience of the niche can be a hassle.

If a larger head count in terms of affiliates is what you feel works best for you, then you might want to consider the next option, affiliate networks.

Affiliate networks

Although you can have affiliates promoting your products on a shared revenue basis where you agree to a certain fee for sales, an affiliate program work best with an intermediary between the affiliate and the brand.

With a network, you are able to put a more authoritative tone to your program as these networks handle payments and commission allocation automatically.

In many cases, affiliates have to go through an affiliate network to be able to promote products. This however, only happens if the advertiser/brand owner currently manages the program on the network exclusively.

With affiliate networks, you are able to enjoy the best of both worlds. Networks boast a wealth of experience and well established relationships with the biggest players in the business.

Hence, networks are able to connect you with the best deal makers and experts who know the business inside out.

For affiliates, a benefit of joining an affiliate network is the ability to choose from a large database of products that you can promote in any particular niche.

Below are some of the most popular affiliate networks;

The option you go for depends on how much you have/want to invest in your affiliate program. If you are doing this for the very first time, you have to decide whether you can go at it alone or partner with an already established network.

Commission Structure

Before launching your affiliate program, you should establish your default commission structure as compensation for affiliates in your program.

This is the commission that applies to your standard affiliates. Of course, all affiliates are not the same, and you can always customize the commission to reward high performers in your program.

To determine your base commission, it is important to consider all the stakeholders involved in any one transaction. It could be performance based, but with all the parties involved ie network, and affiliates getting a cut, you will want to manage the margin and settle on something realistic.

If you are not sure where to start, why not take a look around you. Check out the networks to see what similar companies to yours are offering as base commission, and how much they reward their best performers. Commissions can be anywhere fromm 1%-50% and sometimes higher depending on program and what it aims to achieve, so the final decision is up to.

Cookie Period

The cookie period in affiliate marketing is the period of time that the affiliate is still eligible for commission after a transaction occurs. It can be anything from 1-365 days depending on program.

Big players like Amazon have a cookie period of 1 day because most of their transactions take place within 24 hours.

Remember, short cookie periods make affiliates worry about their commission and you don’t want them passing on your program based on that.

When setting up a cookie period, make sure to consider all affiliates and their promotional methods.

The most acceptable cookie period among affiliates is 30-90 days. Again, you can look around to see what other advertisers in your niche have settled on and offer something similar or better.

Target Quality Prospects

For every niche, there are a number of already established and seasoned affiliates that are able to drive brands to new customers on a daily basis thanks to their ever-growing affiliate networks.

These are the guys you want on your team. Whether its technology, health, sports or entertainment, take your time to dig the best publishers able to take your brand to the next level.

Promotional Materials

Banner Ads

From banners ads to affiliate videos, text links to promotional and swipe emails, you need all the tools necessary to create awareness of your brand across your promotional channels.

Banner ads are some of the most used tools of display advertising and are popularly used in affiliate marketing to create visual awareness of your brand.

Regardless of size, shape or design, banner ads offer creative ways to catch the eye of your target audience. For any affiliate program, it is important to have a fully stocked section of banner ads that can be accessed by affiliates and added to their websites, blogs and other channels of promotion.

Over time, banners have been used in blogs for different campaigns and below is a compilation of the sizes that are most popular with promoters and they can guide you when launching your own banner ad campaign;

Promotional Videos

These are videos made to review a product as well as teach the user how to go about it.

With YouTube vloggers and other video affiliates having great success with video reviews, you want to join the queue with quality, well recorded, well voiced videos that teach the user the basics of how to handle and use your product.

Affiliate Page

To show your site readers that you have an existing affiliate program, it is important to include an affiliate page on your website that your site visitors who would like to promote your products can click to access details of your program including how they can sign up, how much commission you offer and whether the program is in-house or within a network.

Outreach Recruitment Templates

Affiliate marketing relies heavily on publishers such as bloggers, social media influencers, vloggers (video based), product reviewers, coupon sites, shopping and comparison affiliates etc.

To get these type of affiliates to join your program is not automatic so you must make an effort of approaching them and to get them interested in your program.

Just like other partnership proposals, knowing how to write a proper email is important in your recruitment plans and determines whether you receive good feedback or your emails are ignored. With the huge number of prospects in different niches available for recruitment, arm yourself with polite, well-structured recruitment emails that affiliates will want to respond to.

There you have it. If you are looking to start an affiliate program of your own, want to change a few things about your program to improve performance, you can use this article as your guide.