Getting traction on many stores is a hard thing. The “build it and they will come” idea just doesn’t hold up even to basic scrutiny. Many sites look at standard marketing like online ads and content marketing. A smaller number look towards adding affiliates to their store.
Today, I’m going to walk you through what it takes to have a good affiliate offering to attract high-quality people to your store. I’ll tell you some of the best methods to use to make sure that you have high-quality affiliates and to avoid fraud. Finally, we’ll look at helping your affiliates succeed and provide a quick overview of some options for setting up affiliates on your site.
When Is It Right to Add Affiliates?
Before you can jump on the affiliate bandwagon you need to take a hard look to see if affiliates are right for your store. The place to start this look is with your profit margins. Can you carve off a few percentage points and still have a profitable business?
Even when it might not seem like it on the surface, stop and take a look around at your competitors. If three other stores just like you, with the same volumes being ordered are offering affiliate programs than it’s likely you can afford it as well. Maybe their affiliate stores drive higher volume in sales, which would let you order more and thus get a better discount on your products.
As you look at your competitors the next question to ask about their affiliate program is how long has it been around? If it’s 3 months in, then they don’t know if it’s working yet. If they’re 3 years into running an affiliate program then it likely is driving more sales to their business.
What about the businesses that are just a tier above you in the industry, do they offer affiliate programs? What size were they when they started? Can you figure out how it changed as they’ve grown?
Make sure you sign up for the affiliate programs of your competitors. See how they run them. What assets do they offer to help affiliates sell well? Do they offer any training to help affiliates understand the product and the target market that it hits?
A second big question you need to ask yourself is if you have the extra bandwidth to set up an affiliate program right now. Yes, I know that you always have so many things to do in your work. The list of important things is a mile long and it only seems to grow.
That means you need to ask yourself if the affiliate program is what will help you reach the next level of your business? If it’s only going to result in a small percentage growth, then maybe you let it wait. If it looks like it could be a high growth area, then maybe you need to devote the time needed to build out a solid affiliate offering.
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Once you’ve decided that you want to try out an affiliate program, it’s time to figure out what type of affiliates you want. One of my clients has a small list of trusted friends and site partners that are on the affiliate list. This small list of affiliates yields a high conversion rate and low maintenance.
Another client has their affiliate program open to pretty much anyone that has any relationship to their business. Write a random blog once a month that might fit, they’re happy to have you as an affiliate. This yields lower conversion rates, and a bit more maintenance to get people set up on the affiliate program. The sheer volume of extra sales makes up for the extra management work.
To test your affiliate program, start with the small model. Reach out to some of your trusted clients and influencers in your field that you already know. Offer them an affiliate account and then dig in with this small list to help craft your affiliate offering. Tell them that they’re on the short list and that they get to help shape the program.
People love to be on a short list of influencers and love to have a say in the development of new programs. If you’re not sure where to start, look at these areas.
- Long-term email list subscribers
- Frequent commenters on your site or on your competitor’s sites
- Frequent commenters on YouTube
- People leaving product reviews on similar items on Amazon
Once you have the basics set up, you can decide if you expand the number of affiliates you allow. Put together an application form and limit the numbers at first. Scaling slower will mean a higher quality affiliate program.
Set a standard for your program up front. This will help stop the window shoppers that just want to plaster their affiliate link all over the place. This can lower the perception of what you’re offering, so be very careful about accepting affiliates that practice this type of affiliate marketing.
Stopping Affiliate Fraud
One of the things that many affiliates programs have to deal with is fraud. Often this can be stopped with a longer payout timeline on your part.
Usually, these scams have someone make a bunch of purchases via an affiliate link with stolen payment information. From there the affiliate gets a payout in a few days. Then you get a chargeback on the card but your affiliate has disappeared. That leaves you out the cost of the product and the affiliate fee.
By paying every 30 days you can avoid this since you’re more likely to catch fraudulent charges.
After that, the more work you do vetting your affiliates the less likely it is that you’ll experience fraud. My one client with 15 affiliates that he knows never deals with fraud. The other client with lots of affiliates had fraudulent issues until they went to longer payment timelines. Once that change was made they rarely see affiliate fraud.
It’s also worth auditing your affiliates every so often. Amazon removes first-time affiliates that haven’t made a sale in six months. Removing affiliates that are not keeping up to your high standards will keep the whole network strong and converting well.
Helping Your Affiliates Succeed
In his great book Reach, Andy Molinsky talks about the barriers that get in the way of our success. One of those barriers is doing a job so poorly that the only plausible outcome is failure.
As you research the affiliate plans of your competitors, note how they help their affiliates succeed. Next, copy their success, and then do better. Tossing links at your affiliates is a poor strategy for a sustainable affiliate program.
A great way to frame this work is by asking yourself this question: “What would it take to have the best affiliate program in my niche?”. Then go about making that true.
First, make it easy for your affiliates to grab links to the products they want to link to. Provide them with easy to grab images they can use in social media. Give them some suggested copy to use as they write about your products.
If you decide to scale up, you’re going to need to make sure that you have someone that’s running point on your affiliate program. Questions will come up as you scale. People will forget how to log in. They’ll want to know about getting faster payouts or higher percentages. Dedicate someone to dealing with that once your program is off the ground.
If you really want to kick your affiliate program into high gear, then produce some content just for your affiliates. Highlight affiliates that are doing well, and show your other affiliates how they’re leveraging their audience to bring in sales.
Finally, create an affiliate newsletter and highlight products you want to sell by giving them a higher percentage payout for your affiliates. This can be a great way to get traction in a slightly new market you’re trying out.
Which Affiliate Tool Should I Use?
There are two main types of affiliate options for WooCommerce store owners. First, are plugins that are built specifically for WooCommerce like Affiliate WP or Affiliates Pro. These are both considered self-hosted affiliate stores.
With either self-hosted option, you own the relationship with your affiliate from end to end. Since they’re both hosted alongside your WooCommerce store you can also modify them to do something you need that is not currently offered.
The second option is going with something that’s hosted for you like Tapfiliate or iDevAffiliate among many others. These systems will mean that you don’t have the same setup process. They’ll handle the payouts for you and you’ll pay them for the use of their affiliate software.
The advantage to hosted for your solutions is that they have a process set up for you. It’s more of a “fill in the blank” system that you set up instead of the options you host which take more configuration. That also means that if you don’t like how they handle an aspect of the affiliate relationship, you are just going to have to live with it.
For every growth level in a business, there are different things that will bring the most traction and growth. If you’re stuck in the growth of your WooCommerce store, then it’s time to take a look at leveraging an affiliate program to see if it’s the thing that might help you reach the next level of growth.
Ready to Get a Successful Store Started?
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