Promoting An Affiliate Program

The Indian E-Commerce category is a burgeoning market. As per statistics in the business standard, it’s valued at $17 Billion as per 2014, and is slated to hit a $100 Billion valuation by 2019. Initially it was a challenge for businesses to encourage users to purchase Products & Services online since almost everyone was used to using their sense of touch and sight while deciding on a purchase. However, in the year 2014, around 1/3rd of the Internet Population i.e. roughly around 40 Million People in India were recorded making purchases online; and this number is also on the upward slope and is pegged to hit 65 Million people by 2015.

At the outset, a lot of the E-Commerce carving was done by the now giants Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and so on. However, with the steady improvement in infrastructure related to e-businesses like Broadband, Logistics and Portable Internet devices, a number of Startups proliferated and decided to venture in the space. The more the number of incumbents in a particular market or category, the higher the competition for survival becomes for businesses in the space. This led to Startups resorting to ingenious ways of promoting the value of their business, and one of them is setting up an Affiliate Channel.

However, just setting up an Affiliate Program is not going to help.

Promoting An Affiliate Program

So you’ve decided to setup an Affiliate Program, and with that add another Sales Channel to your business. This could spell to be a smart move since the growth of Affiliate Marketing is already seeing an upward rise in India, and the industry is slated to grow by approximately 500% (source = yourstory). A report in the Economic Times suggested that Affiliate Marketing is currently contributing to 17% of the total Online Retail Sales in India which is pegged at $7.9 Billion for 2015.

However, it’s important to understand that simply starting up an Affiliate Program won’t bring in the expected results. It requires a substantial investment of time from the business wherein the channel recruits the right affiliates, constantly engages and nurtures them, follows up on campaigns, devise great marketing strategies, test and repeat what works well.

It may sound like a lot of work with a new Sales Channel that you might not have expertise and experience handling, but it does deliver the results (around 20%+ of total revenue) which is why a lot of Startups in India are gauging the incremental revenue opportunities available through Affiliate Marketing. Moreover, the fact that it allows a business to only pay for a Sale ensures that the return on cost of marketing spend is mostly positive. I use the term “mostly” because there are businesses in certain niches that pay the entire value of the sales amount as Commissions to their Affiliates since they see a higher life time value on customers coming in through their Affiliate Channel; and hence make the reward to the Affiliate, for the referred transaction, a lot more appealing.

Promoting an Affiliate Program is essentially done to get more qualified and relevant Affiliates on board, and promoting your business. I am listing down five techniques that helped me promote the Affiliate Program at my last stint, and I am sure should help you promote yours. I am deliberately not including PPC as an option because the results aren’t very appealing, and this I am basing on opinions and feedback that I have received from other Affiliate Managers and my own experience. As a business you need Affiliates who understand the value of your product/service, and are excited about discussing that with their audience; it’s very tough to lure such Affiliates through generic display advertising.

5 Ways To Promoting An Affiliate Program

1) Focus On Affiliate Recruitment – some of the most prominent advocates of Affiliate Marketing stress on the importance of Affiliate Recruitment. Not just recruiting affiliates but concentrating on activating them is paramount inorder to have an Affiliate base that is working hard to promote the value of your business.

Surveys done show that Affiliates prefer learning about potential Affiliate Programs through either their own research, or by personal outreach done through emails sent by the Marketing or Affiliate Manager of a business. It’s an amount of effort similar to what would be invested by a company to drive and close potential Sales. Your product won’t just sell by setting up a product page on the website, Buy Button and offering payment modes; there’s a substantial amount of following up and information sharing that transacts in between the company and the potential buyer. This is done because the Sale is considered important.

Similarly your Affiliates are your future partners, and have the potential to bring in some of your high value customers. So research well on your Affiliates by going through their Blog, gauge whether their audience is relevant for you, analyze their social strength (number of social shares for articles) and reach out to them. Through this you’re displaying to your Affiliate the value of the possible relationship, and effectively promoting your Affiliate Program.

This could take a while before you see traction, but is worth it in the long run. I have done a separate article that talks about 6 Tools that will help you with the task of effectively recruiting content Affiliates.

2) Launch with a Network – some businesses decide to launch their Affiliate Program with a network. A Publisher Network aka Affiliate Network is a company that holds an inventory of Affiliates and Merchants. They assist with building the connection for both entities; after gauging the relevance aspect they get pertinent Affiliates to start promoting the services of specific Merchants.

It’s not essential that you start your Affiliate Program with a network, however, doing so can help your business leverage on the large available Affiliate base that they offer and get you started immediately. Networks ideally launch a Merchant by including their campaign details on their list which can be filtered and reviewed by Affiliates. Sometimes Affiliates use the information available within Networks to do research, and be aware of the Merchants available within their category or niche. It’s easier for a Publisher/Affiliate since Signing Up is free, but it does involve a fee for the Merchant.

If you decide to set up with a network ensure that you have clearly highlighted details regarding your Product & Services, this can be done in the Product/Service description field that the network asks you to fill before getting you listed. Select the appropriate category and sub-category that your business falls under. For instance, if you’re an E-Commerce business offering T-Shirts then you may select Internet/E-Commerce as your category, and retail as the sub-category.

This will help you promote your Affiliate Program better to relevant Affiliates.

Some of the popular Affiliate Networks in India include: Tyroo, VCommission, Clickzoot and more

Promoting An Affiliate Program Through Networks

3) Setup An Affiliate Page – once you’ve decided to setup an Affiliate Program for your business, ensure that you’ve a dedicated page highlighting the critical points of your program with a link on the home page that subtly screams for attention. I use subtle and scream in the same sentence for a reason; this is because as a business you shouldn’t attract your potential Affiliates attention by using marketing liners like “Earn Highest Commissions Here”, “Become Rich With Our Affiliate Program”, “Earn a Lot Of Money with our Affiliate Program” and so on, and it’s also important to make people aware of your Affiliate Program. The former mentioned tactics can be a turn off for some really valuable Affiliates and could prove to be unfavorable. A simple mention of the Affiliate Program whether in the header or footer of your website, or within the Menu should do great.

Promoting An Affiliate Program On The Homepage

ResellerClub includes information of their Affiliate Program within the Header.

Promoting An Affiliate Program on Home Page

Smacktom includes information of their Affiliate Program within the Footer.

Some businesses choose not to include information of their Affiliate Program which is counterproductive for a business. When a potential Affiliate learns about a new and exciting business within their category or niche they’re eager to check if there’s a monetization possibility on promoting your service; and the first place they would like to do this research is on your website. Not having this information available translates into you losing a possible Affiliate with the potential of driving you the best conversions. Additionally place more emphasis on the layout of the Commission Information, Contact Details and keep Sign Up easy.

Even if you’re operating an Affiliate Program with a network please don’t hesitate to include that information on your website. It helps the Affiliate with direction on how they can consider partnering with you.

4) Coupon & Cashback Websites – if you’re an E-Commerce website and you offer online voucher discount Coupons, then please make sure that you’ve your Coupons listed on any of the popular Cashback and Coupon websites online.

Coupon sites like Coupondunia, Pennyful, Cashkaro and others are some of the most frequented websites by users that are looking out for some serious offers. Apart from the advantage of incremental traffic and conversions, these websites help you with Affiliate visibility as well. Most of the times you have other smaller Coupon or Content Affiliates doing their research for potential Merchants to promote, through such Coupon websites. You will have an increase in the number of Affiliate Signups once you have your business listed on the popular Coupon Sites.

It’s then a responsibility of filtering and activating the ones that are useful.

5) Appealing Commission Structure – apart from everything that was discussed above, an Affiliate Programs Commission Structure also helps promote the program for a business. If you have competitors in the same space operating their own Affiliate Program, it helps to do research on the commissions they offer. When a potential publisher lands on your Affiliate page they sift through information available to make their decision; the Commissions offered is an important piece of information they consider.

So if incase your competitor is offering “X” amount or “X%” on the sales amount then assess the possibility of matching that or doing better. One of the important aspects that enthrall Affiliates about a program they join is the earning possibility available, it helps with motivation and has the Affiliate sometimes promote Affiliate programs they appreciate.

Conclusion: With the revenue generating potential that an Affiliate Channel can offer your business, it pays to invest extra effort in Promoting an Affiliate Program. As mentioned earlier, it does take a while in the beginning to get thing started, but the results gathered through your Affiliates are well worth it.

How do you promote your business’s Affiliate Program, and what strategies have worked the best for you?