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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Using Affiliation as a Mass Promotion Tool

There are Hundreds of thousands of affiliate programs out there that you can choose from and all of them are claiming to be the best. Some of them will give you the impression that all you have to do is implement their banners and links and wait for the money to start rolling in. This CAN be the case at times, but this scenario usually only applies to very large sites that have massive web traffic already. For most of us, being a successful affiliate requires a little more work than that!

When you are selling your wares through a website, you will be needing as much help as you can get and that is why affiliation is such a good deal. It gives you and like companies the chance to market your wares in more than one spot. As the marketing affiliate, it is your job to get you and other companies together to do it. Most affiliates use their own sites and combine marketing strategies with others. Your website is likely not geared toward one thing in particular so affiliate’s who come in will gain a lot more from your services.

As the variety of goods and online services offered over the Internet has grown at an incredible rate over the last few years, and in response, so has the competition. Web site visitors need to have a very good reason for clicking on a link or banner. In most affiliate programs, you are offered a wide variety of banners that you can place on your site; all of them will be effective in getting attention from your target audience.

If you can gather a click through rate of at least 2%, then you are doing very well. It has been my experience, that highly colorful and picture filled banners do not perform as successfully as their simpler counterparts. The main reason for this is the time it takes to download it. If a banner is the last thing to load on your page and the banner ad is excessively byte "heavy", by the time it has loaded your visitor may already have scrolled down the page already and miss it entirely.

Heavy banner ads can also slow down the loading of your pages, or even some of the critical elements of your page and you can lose your visitors altogether. This is why A graphically rich banner can also confuse the actual message because the artwork and marketing blurb can be imbalanced. For these reasons, I would recommend that banners you implement be no more that 15kb wherever you possibly can.

Banners that have a lot of animation in them, such as rapid flashing, are also something to consider very carefully before setting them up. While these do achieve high click rates, they are also highly annoying to the average visitor. If you do decide to implement this form of banner advertising, you have to use it very sparingly.

Whenever you begin selecting any form of advertising that requires graphics you should try and keep the theme of your site in mind. In general, while graphical ads are meant to stand out and catch a visitor’s eye, it shouldn't be to the point that everything else on the page is ignored. Whenever you can, you have to make sure that all banner ads or advertising that you use uses a link that opens in a new window. That way, if a visitor does choose to visit one of your advertisers it is easy for them to return to your page and review what they actually came to your site for.

A lot of companies are now offering their affiliates the options of using pop up and pop under ads. However, the fact is they annoy most visitors and are usually closed before they even have a chance to load by automatic program blockers. It is for this reason that you should use pop-unders instead and preferably those that only display once per visit. I will talk more about pop-unders in a later section

Dealing with Merchants Directly

When you are dealing directly with a merchant, there are some things that you have to realize. You need to know how to deal with them but also what to expect to encounter from the as well. That is what this section is going to help you with. Let’s take a look at some of the various things that you can expect to hear and deal with when going through a merchant.

a) If you are going to go to the trouble of emailing a merchant and they don't respond the first time, do not worry about it, be persistent because many merchants receive countless numbers of emails daily and take time to sift through them and weed out the spam. If they still fail to respond to your, think twice about continuing promotion on their behalf because a lack of communication can also be indicative of other problems such as payment or just plain disinterest. You should also bear in mind that some merchants work on the shotgun principle. What this means is that they make big promises, set a high payouts knowing full well that few affiliates will ever reach it. Next thing you know, they get as many affiliates promoting their products and services as possible which will give them the maximum exposure, with the minimum cost and effort on their part. It's not a good business model for them to use in the long term and after a while affiliates drop away, but not before the company has raked in thousands. Many MLM (multi-level marketing) programs also work on this principle and only the guys at the top generate any serious revenue so you need to expect this and watch out for it.

A good way to protect your payments from merchants is to sign up for affiliate programs that are extremely well established ad networks such as Offers Quest or FastClick if you want to get paid for your work. When you are working with a major ad network means that even if you only make a few dollars from each program, those dollars that are generated will all feed a common account, accumulate rapidly which will allow you to reach the payout threshold in a shorter time period. Most ad networks work with merchants on a "money up front" or monthly "pay as you go" basis because this decreases the risk of those merchants who are suddenly disappearing with your hard earned commissions.
For this to work, you need to demonstrate your web marketing prowess

b) Unless you have a web site that already generates high traffic, don't ask the merchant for higher commissions in the first communication. So many affiliates do this and end up being totally ignored because most affiliates probably can't deliver on their promises due to the fact that too many of their claims are unachievable. If you don't have a solid sales record for the product or service you are promoting, you'll need to prove yourself to merchants off the bat and put some thought into your promotion and rack up a few sales before attempting to secure higher payout rates. Be professional in your communications

c) When you are communicating with merchants, you have to make sure that you use a professional manner not the laid back style that you use when talking toy our friends. If you have suggestions of how a merchant could improve an offer that would convert into more sales, let them know, but be very polite and constructive in your feedback –not insulting by saying things like: "Your banners suck" because this will alienate them.

d) You have to remember that the Internet as a trading place is still very new in comparison to the business platforms of the last few millennia like regular advertising through television or newspaper ads. Some of the quality companies that are offering an affiliate program may be just breaking into this side of marketing and will appreciate any feedback you can give them.

e) A smart merchant understands that good affiliates can’t be found everywhere as is often assumed and hoped. Merchants need someone that acts business like and treats them with respect, assists with resources and provides prompt payments. Smarter affiliates understand that a merchant wants quality promotion and sales performance for minimum outlay. Successful merchant/affiliate partnerships happen when both parties understand these points and work together because that is when the money starts rolling in.