First, a quick thank you to John for accepting guest posts here on Blogging Karma. If you’ve never accepted guest posts on your own website before, you may not realize the monumental effort it takes to sort through all the poor submissions. Thanks for helping us all on the SEO front John, we greatly appreciate it.
Ok, so a quick order of introduction for me. I’ve sold wine online for about a decade. I owned and operated an online wine club with a top 10 affiliate program in the niche during that time, and now I have my own affiliate site (Wine Club Reviews).
I’ve sat on both sides of the table in the affiliate marketing industry and wanted to share a bit of what I know because I think it can help both affiliates and business owners. Basically, the entire affiliate marketing industry comes down to one basic tenant in my mind: building trust between the affiliate and the business they are promoting. Trust is everything.
Without further ado, here’s how to build trust between affiliates and businesses and how that trust will get you both paid.
Negotiate Your Affiliate Marketing Payments
I always thought it was a massive lost opportunity for affiliates, but no one ever asked me about recurring payments for subscription businesses that they referred to me. Some years ago, we might not have been able to track where each customer came into our business as time went by because they’d all be thrown into the same pool. Still, for affiliates with significant traffic, I would have gladly offered an ongoing commission.
Plus, the back-end technology to do this is close to free through Woocommerce and others. For a large enough set of referral traffic, I’d have gladly provided a full customer list monthly, with revenue projections and more.
So, as an affiliate, it doesn’t hurt to ask for recurring commissions, and this ask could more than double your revenue within 90 days. While the established players in your niche may well say no thanks, the startups and new businesses have every incentive to say yes, and those businesses may be the leaders in your niche tomorrow.
Don’t negotiate cookie duration and commission rates by themselves, be smart and ask for ongoing commissions for recurring sales. Simply asking and being willing to have a real conversation about more closely working together builds trust.
Sign Up For Every Affiliate Program
Too often, when I first opened my business, I’d reach out to established affiliates only to be told that my conversions weren’t good enough to warrant any traffic or that they were happy with who they were promoting. Eventually, one major player in my niche closed their affiliate program. Many of those same affiliates came to me asking for increases in their commissions after refusing to work with me at all.
Of course, I was happy to take on the traffic, but it was clear by that point that those folks were never going to be partners. We had no trust; how did I know that they’d actually deliver any traffic if I increased their payout percentage. Heck, once we first opened, I increased an affiliate’s payout percentage based on a promise, only for that affiliate to use the increased payout to increase their site’s sales price.
My advice for businesses is to accept every new affiliate with a legitimate site within your niche. You never know who the next big player is going to be. Likewise, for affiliates, you don’t have to send a ton of traffic to a new business in your niche, but why make an enemy right away when you can simply review the business and create a landing page for that review?
You can always tell the business owner that you can send them more traffic as the searches for your business grow. Instead of acting as adversaries, working together from day one makes so much more sense for everyone involved. Plus, it builds trust from day one.
I can’t even count the number of times that I sent a sample shipment to an affiliate, only to end up having to ask them repeatedly to actually write about it. It was infuriating not only because of the wasted time but because the amount of money I spent sending that product out would have looked better in my kid’s college fund.
Likewise, now that I’m an affiliate, I wrote a rather negative review about a company after having first asked for a sample shipment only to be denied and then having paid for the shipment myself. I just didn’t like what they sent. The company contacted me to ask me to update my review for some free products.
If that free product was available, why wouldn’t they have sent it originally? One of the quickest ways to build that trust is delivering either a product as a sample or writing about the product you received. Then you work together on the more complicated stuff, especially if you’re promoting e-commerce businesses. How telephone sales are attributed is always a tricky one, as an example.
Pay Me. Make Sure I Get Paid
We have all been there; affiliate programs go offline. It happens. Ok, well, it really shouldn’t because you can automatically refill your account as a business with a credit card. Ok, back to the problems if you aren’t automatically refilling your account.
You, as an affiliate, send some sales, and the business says, thanks. By the way, we are back online now. So as a business, you can build trust by automatically refilling your payment accounts. If something goes wrong, credit the affiliates for their sales. Oh, and don’t tell me you can’t track these; Google Analytics does a credible job of this for free, with zero effort on your end.
One of the most successful parts of my online wine club was gift baskets. They were pricy, $150 for some stuff and a single bottle of wine. But, they came in these awesome-looking hardwood boxes, and around Christmas, they paid my warehouse rent for the year by themselves.
How did we come up with those gift baskets? Some great internal thought process? A project management course from Google? Nah. We asked our largest affiliate about their other sites, and they mentioned that their best performing site was about food-related gift baskets and that everybody did the same stuff.
While those gift baskets never really converted well for consumers, businesses have a budget for corporate gifts. They don’t really care about value, only quality, so they fit perfectly in that niche. That conversation and collaboration between our business and an affiliate was the best use of 30 minutes we probably ever for my business.
Ok, so there you have it! A handful of ways to build trust between businesses and the affiliates that are promoting them. Work together, make sure everyone gets paid promptly, and negotiate ways to bring in even more traffic and sales. I truly hope this helps you consider ways you can improve your affiliate marketing no matter which side of the table you’re sitting on.
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