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28 ways to inspire affiliate loyalty
Affiliate loyalty isn't easy to win. To encourage affiliates to be loyal to your affiliate program, you have to do something really special to stand out from the crowd.
Some of the the techniques I describe here require considerable time and effort. However, they're a wise investment because the alternative is so much worse - spending time and money hunting for super affiliates, who then switch to other programs.
If you succeed in creating loyal affiliates, they will not only stick with your affiliate program and promote it enthusiastically, they'll recommend it to other top affiliates.
Just in case you're wondering how important these tips are, consider this...
I learned many of these tips by studying an affiliate merchant who pays me four-figure and sometimes five-figure monthly commission checks. Yes, affiliate loyalty IS very important!
Here are 28 ways to win affiliates' loyalty and boost their sales.
(I'll assume you're selling an EXCELLENT product and have a site that SELLS - a site with a high conversion rate. Without those, your program might as well be dead.)
Most important of all, HELP your affiliates
Give them all the tools they need to succeed. Provide lots of precise, detailed, "how-to" marketing info online. Keep them enthusiastic with tips in your affiliate newsletter.
Help your affiliates by writing emails they can publish - or adapt and publish - in their newsletters. Some will will be prepared to use a hard-sell message while others want something more low key.
Give them sales messages and graphics they can paste into their websites. Provide a wide variety of banner sizes, ezine ads, forum signatures, articles and rebrandable reports for them to give away.
While providing these materials, teach them the enormous power of writing personal endorsements and saying things in their own words.
Consider adding a toll-free number for affiliate support.
Put someone knowledgeable in charge of answering affiliates' questions - promptly, in simple English.
A classic example of someone who went to extraordinary lengths to help affiliates succeed is the late Corey Rudl. Study how his company does it. He was running an affiliate program before Amazon.com and his company owes a lot of its $6 million a year revenue to the fact that it provides heaps of practical, helpful affiliate marketing advice. His company has a huge number of loyal affiliates, and has more than 100,000 affiliates.
Show your affiliates how your top affiliates achieve sales
Give your affiliates concrete examples.
Show them step-by-step, with all the precise details they need, how your top affiliates earn a good living. (Work with your affiliates on this. Not all affiliates will want such publicity. If so, respect their right to privacy.)
Pour special recognition on your high-earning affiliates
Send them flowers, champagne or chocolates. I still think very fondly of the affiliate merchant who gave me my first taste of Tattinger champagne.
Horrified at the thought of the cost? You'll spend a LOT more finding new super affiliates.
Create friendships and win enthusiastic supporters
The first time Ken Evoy phoned me from the other side of world for a friendly chat I was very impressed. That friendly phone call helped win my loyalty.
Phone calls can turn business relationships into lasting friendships. Turn your top affiliates into loyal friends. Remember, you don't want just a collection of affiliates. You want enthusiastic supporters.
You'll need to understand the difference between shallow flattery and sincere appreciation. Read or re-read Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Encourage your affiliates to speak up
You'll learn what they REALLY think about your affiliate program, and you'll learn how to make it better.
Praise your top affiliate marketers on your site
This serves three purposes. It teaches other affiliates what works. It rewards your top affiliates by sending them traffic. The public recognition increases affiliates' loyalty.
Recommend your top affiliates in email discussion groups
This is a way to build affiliate loyalty which won't cost you anything except a few minutes of your time but will have a dramatic effect on how loyal your top-earning affiliates feel.
Write to a popular email discussion group such as LED Digest and recommend your affiliates' sites or something they wrote.
Your affiliates will love you for this! (I'm extremely grateful for the public praise which AssociatePrograms.com and PayPerClickSearchEngines.com have received from affiliate merchants.)
Set those cookies fairly
If a customer returns the next day, the next week, or even a year later and makes a purchase, the affiliate should receive a commission. Track your customers in every way possible to make sure the affiliate receives the commission.
This is vitally important. If your "return days" period is set at zero, many good affiliates won't even sign up for your program. The absolute minimum "return days" period should be 30 days. The longer the better.
Consider paying lifetime commissions
Imagine the power of saying to your affiliates, "They're YOUR customers for life. Sell once, earn indefinitely." That's a powerful drawcard which will keep your affiliates loyal and enthusiastic.
See the article by Christopher Pearce How to start a lifetime commissions affiliate program. It also describes how to set up a residual income program - another excellent idea.
Pay your top affiliates bonuses
I received a pleasant surprise when veteran marketer Jim Daniels sent me $250 for being his top-earning affiliate one month. That helped him retain me as a loyal affiliate.
I really appreciate the hundreds of dollars worth of Amazon book vouchers I receive from other merchants and the Flash memory stick I received recently from Neil Shearing.
Pay special affiliates a special high commissions
You know that key affiliates in key positions of influence are very valuable. Pay them accordingly. Don't embarrass them by forcing them to ask for the special rate which they deserve.
Residual commissions and two-tier commissions also win favor with affiliates.
However, don't assume that a high commission alone will be enough. You have to get everything else right, too.
Before you launch a two-tier program, ask yourself if there are affiliates in key places of influence who are likely to want to recommend your program to other affiliates. If there aren't, forget the idea.
Two-tier commissions aren't nearly as effective as they were several years ago. This is because these days affiliates tend to switch rapidly from one program to another, always looking for something better. Instead of having two tiers you might be better to pay one large commission.
However, affiliates are always going to be interested in earning residual income or lifetime commissions. I can't imagine them ever going out of fashion.
Let them buy at discount prices
Give all your affiliates favored treatment. Give them special discount prices. However, don't allow them to buy your products through their own referral links. That's not fair to the affiliate who sent them to your site.
Provide individual product links
If you sell more than one product, provide individual product links. Don't force your affiliates to link only to the main page of your site.
Mention loyal affiliates at affiliate marketing conferences
Give them a warm glow. Use their site as an example in your presentation. I love it at conferences when speakers recommend AssociatePrograms.com to the crowd.
Learn from your inactive affiliates
Do a survey of your inactive affiliates. Ask them what is wrong. Until you know why they're inactive, you won't know what to fix.
Inactive affiliates and under-performers could be next month's or next year's winners.
Learn from your best affiliates
You'll probably receive a far more useful response if you ask your loyal super affiliates how to improve your program. Many of these winners will know the best features of the best affiliate programs on the Net. They'll be happy to give you useful tips on how to improve your program.
Study what your top affiliates do
You'll probably find that they're earning money in all sorts of creative ways you've never thought of. Their knowledge can help your affiliates earn more.
Make affiliates feel part of your team.
Find ways to build a sense of community. Consider setting up a forum for your affiliates. However, be aware that this can be very time-consuming. You don't want to have your forum ruined by a disgruntled former affiliate. Don't start one unless you have someone available to moderate it.
Visit your affiliates' sites
Here's a good tip from Joel Gehman.
"We have someone on our affiliate marketing team personally visit the site of every super affiliate every month. All super affiliates get a personal email with specific comments and suggestions. We offer tips on which links are performing best and propose new placements on the site for our links. We also try to broaden the depth of the affiliate's relationship with our program by suggesting new products or services for possible inclusion."
Add new items automatically
When you add a new product to your product line, make sure your affiliates are rewarded when someone they refer buys that product. Don't force your affiliates to sign up individually every time you launch a new product.
I love it when I see in my stats that I'm earning commissions from the sale of a product that they havebn't even started promoting.
Piggy-back on the winners
Some affiliate merchants provide excellent resources for their affiliates. Encourage your affiliates to sign up with those merchants and learn from their tips. You can even earn a commission when your affiliates make sales in those programs while learning how to help you - and saving you time!
A good place to start is: SiteSell.
Imagine you're an affiliate
See things from the affiliates' point of view. Visit our Affiliate Forum and read what affiliates complain about. They're worried about lack of response to emails, late payments, bait-and-switch tactics, high payment thresholds, low payouts.
Do whatever you can to avoid those mistakes, or your affiliates will dump you fast.
Don't send them junk. Every time you contact your affiliates, sending them something useful, such as new artwork, a search box, top-performing links, search engine hints, and other tips on how to maximize their earnings.
Now that you're imagining you're an affiliate, have another look at your affiliate agreement. Is is fair? Would you want to sign a contract like that?
Notify them of sales
Provide immediate email notification when the affiliate makes a sale. This reinforces good behavior and encourages more sales.
Give busy affiliates the option of switching off these messages. One affiliates merchant often sends me 30 or 40 email sales notifications at once - and no way of switching these off.
Send a weekly stats report
Affiliates find it terribly time-consuming checking stats on many sites. Make it easy for them. If you provide complex stats, make sure there's a link which gives the most important stats at a glance.
Consider emailing affiliates a weekly report of click-throughs, sales and commissions.
Pay affiliates in two ways
Consider paying them per click and a commission. For example, you could pay your best affiliates pays 5 cents per click and 20% commission on sales.
Pay affiliates for position
Persuade your top affiliates to promote you "above the fold" on their main page. Offer them 5% or 10% more if they'll do this.
Pay them monthly - or more frequently
Don't make your affiliates wait three months for a check. Pay them monthly - or even twice a month for your super affiliates.
Pay them promptly
After the end of the month, pay your affiliates as quickly as you possibly can. Imagine the powerful impression you'll make if YOUR check is the first one an affiliate receives after the end of the reporting period. Paying fast shows you care about your affiliates.
Some affiliate merchants have even experimented with daily payout via PayPal. This impresses some affiliates but may not please really successful affiliates who don't want the added "paperwork". If you plan to pay daily, give affiliates the option of receiving monthly payouts.
Allow affiliates to set minimum payments
Affiliates in many countries have to pay hefty bank fees on U.S. commission checks. Frequent, small checks can actually annoy these affiliates.
Give them the option of setting a minimum payment amount, for example $50 or $100, to minimize their bank fees.
Avoid making silly mistakes
I know you're in a hurry. Mistakes are understandable. However, if you make too many silly mistakes, affiliates will dump you. See Silly mistakes affiliate merchants make.
Treat your affiliates as business associates
Respect them or they'll switch to someone who does. Don't siphon off some of the traffic they send you to products on which they don't earn a commission. When referred customers arrive at your site, all money-earning links on that page should earn a commission for your affiliate.
Provide real-time statistics
Serious affiliates need to know immediately whether their promotions are achieving results so they can test repeatedly, fix mistakes and maximize their sales.
Make things easy for your affiliates
They get discouraged fast. Some things are just too darn complicated for many affiliates. Keep your instructions simple and easy to understand.
Don't have time to coach affiliates? Get expert FREE help
Ken Evoy provides more useful affiliate marketing support for his affiliates than any other affiliate merchant I know. Ken provides an incredible amount of useful information for affiliates: THREE practical newsletters, a 224-page free affiliate marketing manual, and an "80-20 Report", and the newly revamped and enlarged "Affiliate Masters" course.
Now he's ALSO helping affiliate merchants.
Be sure to visit the special section of SiteSell: For affiliate managers only.
I strongly recommend it.
(This is the affiliate merchant who regularly pays me four-figure and sometimes five-figure monthly commission checks. Get his expert free help now.)
It helps your affiliates while you earn substantial lifetime commissions.
Learn from an affiliate veteran.
Your host, Allan Gardyne, has been earning a good living from affiliate programs since 1998.