Get Others to Sell for You with Affiliate Marketing
Finding good sales people can be tough, especially for small business owners. But with a little work, you can have people clamoring to help you sell your products as your affiliates. Affiliate marketing relies on the idea that, for a percentage of the sales price, many people will be happy to help you sell your products. Companies such as Amazon use affiliates to help interest potential customers in their products on a regular basis, as do many other companies that sell products online. The price you pay for that help can vary — it's typically a percentage, but may be less than five percent or more than fifty — but it is often lower than what you might pay to employ sales help directly.
Affiliate marketing is primarily used to sell products online, simply due to technological constraints. Affiliates use special links that allow you to track which affiliate's efforts led to a particular sale and, in turn, allow you to pay him for his efforts. Many businesses that go through affiliates to help make sales use an affiliate management program such as Clickbank to make the process much easier.
What Good Affiliates Can Do For You
Dave Navarro provides coaching services for individuals and businesses getting ready to launch products online. He also offers a number of e-books, workshops and other educational products about how to create and sell products for online markets. About half of Navarro's sales come in through his affiliates.
The right affiliates are a crucial part of any affiliate marketing strategy. Navarro points out that just a handful of his affiliates really make a difference in his sales figures. "At this point, about 50 percent of my sales are coming from affiliates, and to be honest, 90 percent of the affiliate sales come from a core group of three or four promoters. When I started, affiliate sales were a small percentage because I didn't have the network and the reach that I have now, so I had to hustle on my own."
Navarro also points out that affiliates do more than promote your products directly. "My affiliates really have made a difference to my bottom line. Part of it is that they sell products, of course, but I think the bigger advantage is that there's more people talking about my stuff, so people aren't saying 'Who's this Dave guy?' anymore. That's a big part of people's buying decision, the credibility transferred by others, and that's the real power of affiliate marketing in tight blogging communities."
Finding the Right Affiliates
Finding affiliates who can help you significantly is not always easy. Navarro came to the strategy because he saw businesses using it effectively, but quickly realized that getting affiliates excited about your products is not always an easy process. "I first started learning about affiliate marketing from Cory Rudl and Rosalind Gardner in the late '90s and thought the answer was to hunt down affiliates and try to get them to promote my products. That's a bad strategy, because that's being a 'taker' and trying to just get access to people's lists without giving first. People selling you 'how to make money from affiliate marketing' will tell you that affiliates will be dying to promote your stuff, but the opposite is true. Good affiliates are very selective about what they promote. What I learned later (much later, sadly) is that a better approach is to develop a relationship with potential affiliates over time and establish a connection between your business model and theirs. Then when you have a god friendship going, and you're doing things like guest posting on their blogs and helping get the word out about their stuff, they'll realize where your offerings are good fits for their lists and they'll be open to promoting for you."
For business owners just starting out with affiliate marketing, Navarro suggests focusing first on creating a network that will be interested in your products. Selling comes after that. Navarro made a point of developing relationships with bloggers who cover topics relevant to the products he sells, who also have incredible followings. "Develop relationships with potential affiliates by giving and helping them out up front. This is going to sound self-serving (and I guess it is), but I wrote a free workbook called '7 Steps To Networking Your Way To A-Listers Fast' and it's basically a crash course in developing relationships that can be leveraged for affiliate sales later...Understand that good affiliate relationships hinge on trust, and takes time. Get affiliates to like and respect you, and then you'll have a good chance to get them to talk about your products."
Setting Up an Affiliate Program
It can take some time to learn the processes behind affiliate marketing and implement strategies that will help your affiliates sell your products. Navarro's first attempt got him only a handful of sales. "Back in the late '90s I was trying to get on the radar of internet marketers (before blogging became mainstream, they were the ones with the audience) and the audience response was underwhelming. I had a guy with a list of over 100,000 people promote for me and made a whopping three sales," says Navarro. "I realized I had to make it on my own (but I floundered for a few years because I knew nothing about list-building). Now that I know more about making connections and developing relationships, it's so much easier to get things rolling.
There are a variety of tools and strategies available for businesses that are interested in working with affiliates. Beyond building relationships that will make your affiliates more interested in helping you sell your products, providing support for your affiliates can help make more sales. Providing them with resources such as ads you use, photographs and access to you for interviews and other promotions can make a world of difference in the number of sales your affiliates can make for you.