It’s not easy owning a small business, is it?
You wear several hats, have people counting on you and there are many challenging situations to navigate through.
Marketing is one of those tasks that must get done and it needs to be effective. Everything in your world depends on driving more targeted traffic and converting into an increased amount of leads and sales.
That’s why affiliate networks might be worth looking at as a way to get help with your marketing.
How can develop an affiliate marketing program increase profits for your small business?
I’m happy you asked! Let’s explore how it all works.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
In the most basic sense, you’re going to pay commissions out to people who sell your products for you when your business utilizes affiliate marketing.
These people are called your “affiliates” and they market independently from your own sales and promotion campaigns. You simply offer them a percentage of every sale that their marketing efforts create for your business.
Here are some basic definitions to know when building a small business affiliate program:
- Affiliate network: The tools that help you run your affiliate program
- Affiliate merchant: The business that sets up the program (in this case, you)
- Affiliate marketers: The people you recruit to sell for you
- Customers: The people who buy your products after finding out about them via your affiliate marketer network
Another word that often makes affiliate marketing more clear is “partnership”. At its core, this method of marketing is simply a partnership formed between your company and another marketer.
Benefits Of Using Affiliate Marketing Inside Your Small Business
Pick Your Partners
You have complete control here. You can make it a prerequisite that new affiliates must apply to join your program. This allows you to look at their website and social media accounts so that you can figure out whether their past marketing practices match your company’s brand culture.
Generate Targeted Traffic
You don’t pay for your affiliates to perform their marketing. They do this all on their own.
However, they will start generating targeted traffic back to your website because the sales page and offers all get hosted on your domain. From a search engine optimization perspective, your affiliates provide your website with important backlinks. Read this article to understand how this benefits your own search rankings.
Low Start-up Costs
You already know the high costs associated with hiring employees and paying taxes and/or benefits.
Setting up an affiliate program comes with far less financial investment. If you use a reputable affiliate network platform, such as ShareASale, Awin, CJ Affiliate or Rakuten Marketing, then they’ll walk you through the entire process.
Since you’re not using your own advertising dollars to generate the leads and sales that result from your affiliates, much of the risk is passed on to your affiliate network of marketers.
Instead of risk, you’ll notice that your affiliates connect you with new customers and help boost your bottom line.
Pay For Performance Only
The fact that you pay affiliates commissions only after a sale comes in is another way to lower your overall risk.
Think about your own pay-per-click advertising campaigns. You must put out marketing dollars prior to seeing one lead or sale occur.
It’s up to your affiliate marketers to conduct the proper advertising that results in sales. You’ll only pay them commissions after they successfully attract new customers for your business. The best part is that this performance-based model works for all types of offerings too. Whether it be software, online courses, physical products, ebooks, or even services, there’s always a win-win affiliate relationship that can be developed.
Grow Your Brand
One of the disadvantages your business has when compared to larger brands is a lack of name recognition.
Use an affiliate program to recruit an army of marketers who put your brand in front of more people year over year. Your affiliates must create ads and content that point their leads straight to your website.
You could even hold webinars or meetings by using software like BlueJeans and Zoom to onboard your affiliates.
Imagine a future where you’re no longer alone in promoting and growing brand recognition.
A New Revenue Stream
The worst thing a small business owner can do is rely on a small number of marketing streams. Whether you’re looking at webinar, email marketing, chatbots, or other tools, diversifying marketing tactics is always the safe way to go.
Every affiliate inside your network of affiliate partners represents another marketing channel for your business. If one of your own advertising channels disappears, such as your own Facebook ad account getting disabled, your affiliates are still out there doing their own marketing via their campaigns, such as:
- Email marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Facebook ads
- Guest blogging
Your affiliate network software provides analytics with detailed data and statistics so that you always know how well your affiliate partners are performing.
Your analytic dashboard helps you see which affiliates perform best, how many commissions you’ve paid out and how much revenue you’ve pocketed for your business.
Use this data to identify super affiliates who might respond well to incentives or bonuses and invest even more time putting their marketing talents to use for your company.
Save Time On Marketing
We all know that it takes time to market properly. You must split-test and keep making adjustments. Nothing is ever truly “set it and forget it”. Put some of your marketing needs in the hands of your partners and save time while increasing overall sales numbers.
Increase Sales Conversions
Studies reveal that 92% of consumers trust influencers that they follow when those influencers recommend products to them.
Once your business calls up a few top-level influencer marketers to become your affiliates, then you won’t need to work as hard to convert leads into customers.
Are your products a good fit for an international audience? If so, then your small business can gain entry into those foreign markets by adding a few internationally-based affiliates.
Even if you don’t know for sure how well your brand will translate in foreign markets, this is a low-cost, low-risk way to test out the idea because your affiliates pay for all the test marketing.
Scale Your Small Business
You can only grow your business organically so much on your own.
Creating an affiliate program allows you to scale your business as big as you want to make it.
Nothing limits your ability to continue adding new affiliate partners each year and tapping into their already-established audiences.
No Cost Surprises
Have you noticed that your own pay-per-click advertising campaign costs can fluctuate when the market changes?
An affiliate marketing program helps your business establish some control when it comes to your marketing budget. You’ll know exactly how much a sale costs your company once you set the affiliate commission payout for your partners.
Generate Win/Win Relationships
Each side wins with affiliate marketing.
Your company wins because you’re generating new customers at a set rate.
Your affiliates win because they don’t need to create new products or fulfill any customer service needs. All they need to do is leverage their marketing skills as they point their audience over to your product’s sales offer which will help them make money without having to promote or create their own product
Your customers win because they find new products they never would have known about otherwise.
Is The Affiliate Marketing Model Right For Your Small Business?
There are potential negatives to consider as well.
For example, you do lose some control over your marketing. A large team of affiliates means many people out there promoting your brand. This means that you might not agree with how each of them presents your brand to their audiences.
However, you can do a couple of things to mitigate these issues.
First, make your affiliate partners apply to work with you and then choose them wisely.
Second, set a firm policy about what each affiliate can and cannot say when marketing your brand. Spot check them once in a while and get rid of anyone who doesn’t follow your guidelines.
How To Get Started Building An Affiliate Program
The first step is to choose your affiliate program software.
While there are many types of affiliate software companies out there, they’re not all of equal quality.
Do your due diligence and research them until you find the one that fits your goals best.
There are pros and cons to creating an affiliate program for your small business.
However, you should find that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Advertising costs continue to rise across all platforms. This isn’t a trend that will likely reverse itself and you need to do everything you can to offset the problem.
Use the power of an affiliate program to find other marketers who believe in your brand and become excited to put their marketing skills and dollars to work for your company.
In the end, you should see a significant increase in profits once your program is up and running well.
Ricky Wang is a teen entrepreneur and founder of RickyWang.com. He provides digital guides and the best deals on business software to help aspiring entrepreneurs start a blog and successful online business. He also recently founded AppSurp, a great place to go for exclusive deals on the best growth hacking business software and apps. You can connect with Ricky on Twitter and LinkedIn.