Affiliate networks are all about “Power to the People.” They’re groups of associated companies that offer products and services that are complementary and share leads with each other.
An affiliate network can be small or large, with the goal to offer referrals back and forth, sometimes engaging in cross-promotional deals and generating passive income from user clicks. In the digital world, a business lets others market its products and services, sending web traffic to its site. For that effort, the business pays the affiliate network a percentage of the sales.
Businesses can DIY an affiliate marketing strategy, but affiliate networks are a popular alternative. They do it all, from hosting merchant’s digital creatives to tracking and reporting on the measurements, and paying out commissions to the affiliates.
Companies looking for new customers but that don’t have the time or capital to launch a marketing or customer acquisition campaign can choose to pay the affiliate network for leads instead. Affiliate networks can be a powerful way to grow a customer base without having to do the marketing work yourself. But in order to be successful going this route, there’s much to consider. Here’s a look at seven key things that have to be weighed in order to achieve success.
Achieve Business Success Using Affiliate Networks
When it comes to affiliate marketing, you have plenty of options to choose from. To help in this process, we recommend the following.
- How Much You’re Willing to Share
Affiliate networks can drive traffic to your website, resulting in an uptick in sales, but they want to get paid for their efforts. That charge will eat away at your margins depending on how your products are priced.
Before you sign up with any affiliate network, consider how much of the sale you’re willing to share. If it’s 3% of the sale, is that ok? What about 10%? The more the affiliate network gets per share, the more traffic will be sent your way. As it stands, the average commission rate is wide-ranging from as low as 5% to as high as 30%. To cushion the blow, you may want to consider raising your prices before you sign on with an affiliate network.
- Know Your Audience
Before you begin researching what affiliate network is right for your business, you have to ensure you know your audience — and not just about the products they buy from you. In order to have success with an affiliate network, you want your business promoted where potential customers are hanging out online.
Let’s say you run an auto parts marketplace. You’ll want used car dealers, repair shops, and other related industries to be part of the network. In order to choose a network that works for your business, you have to understand a lot about your customers. Social media can help with that — post some questionnaires on Facebook or Instagram to get a better sense of your potential customers.
- Choose a Network That’s Right for Your Business
Your leads are as good as the affiliate network you do business with, so choose carefully. Affiliate networks take the time-consuming process of creating your own network out of the equation, but you still have to do due diligence.
Affiliate networks can specialize in certain segments of the market or target international clients, so what you want out of the relationship has to be considered before picking the right network. It’s not enough to simply say you want more customers if you want to achieve affiliate network success. Figure out which industries and regions matter most and start there.
The ability to track your sales is another important aspect. You want to go with an affiliate network that can track new and existing users, as well as mobile transaction in addition to other integration and analytic tools. The rate the network charges also comes into play. In the end, there’s a good chance that your budget will dictate what affiliate network you can use.
- Stick to One Network
Online merchants will assume the more affiliate networks they join, the better. What business doesn’t want to be all over the internet, right? The reality is that all it serves to do is inject more complexity and expenses into the initiative — you’ll end up spending more money than you’re making. Merchants with too many affiliate networks find that they spend more time juggling the network than doing actual work, and end up not seeing their sales increase as a result. The better approach is to do your research, picking the best affiliate network and sticking with that single one. Spend the time growing that relationship to its potential instead of spreading your attention and resources too thin.
- Determine How Much Control You Want to Give Up
When it comes to your affiliate network, you can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want. There are networks that do it all for you and others that provide different levels of service. The more services you’re using, the more you’ll pay. You need to determine ahead of time if it will be managed by you or if the entire operation will be outsourced to the affiliate network.
- Are You Protected?
Online merchants know all too well the risks that hackers pose. The internet is a hotbed of cybercrime, with the bad guys creating new ways seemingly every day to attack unsuspecting victims. The affiliate networks aren’t immune.
Because you are sharing links, you want to ensure you’re working with an affiliate network that has cybersecurity top of mind. It also has to be aggressive in sniffing out any fraud on the platform. That includes how they screen affiliates that join the network and kick off ones that commit violations such as cloning an affiliate site’s content to swipe traffic.
- You Get What You Pay For
How you think about paying an affiliate network can determine if you’re successful or not. If you view affiliate networks as something that should be a cheap way to send web traffic your way, then you aren’t going to pay top dollar… nor will you get top results.
But if you view it as a valuable service that not only sends traffic your way but gives you customers who could be repeat business down the road, you’ll succeed. When it comes to affiliate networks, you get what you pay for. If you go with a bare-bones package, then the results will match the service. If you go with a well-known, proven successful affiliate network you may pay more but you could land lifelong customers. The more generous you are with the payment the more the affiliates will want to send traffic your way.
Affiliate networks are a powerful way to reach new customers without breaking the bank. But in order to be successful going this route, you have to do your due diligence before signing up. Determine what types of businesses you want to target in order to tap into their clientele. Figure out how much of the sale you are willing to share, and dig into the network’s background. You want to choose an affiliate network that is secure and successful in order to boost your customer base with this marketing strategy.
Martin Saks is a marketing strategist. A Boston U graduate, he’s helped countless clients navigate the challenges of marketing — from putting together their first campaign to navigating the challenges of affiliate marketing and joining the proper networks for maximum success.