041: [Deep Dive] Affiliates Being One and Having Them in your Business

This episode is a Deep Dive and we’re going to talk about affiliates… everything from the tech I recommend using with your own affiliate products to when, if and why to become an affiliate for another product or service.

Let’s start with a definition… according to Wikipedia:

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

Or in other words,

Affiliate marketing is when a product or service is sold by other businesses, marketers or entities for a portion of proceeds or other compensation.

Affiliate marketing is one way to extend the potential reach of your product or service outside your immediate sphere of influence. I am a huge proponent of affiliate marketing when it’s done right, because then it’s a win-win-win situation.

On the resources page, you’ll find a number of recommended tools. Most of the links on that page are affiliate links, which means that if you were to click on one, the back-end systems will track you as having come through my link and should you elect to purchase that software, service or product, I will be financially compensated by the company.

Many of the virtual summits that I run with my clients include an aspect of affiliate marketing – because it’s a win-win-win. Generally, the affiliate opportunity is extended to the speakers as a form of compensation for sharing their time and knowledge. The summit host extends his or her reach into the audience of the speakers and the speaker receives financial compensation. The third win comes for the purchaser from the speaker’s audience, because they are signaling to the summit host that this speaker is providing value.

So… how does all this affiliate tracking and stuff work?

I’m so glad you asked – affiliate marketing is done through link tracking and within the browser using cookies. Cookies are tiny bits of code that sit inside your browser and transmit information from a webpage back to another website or service. These tiny bits of code don’t impact the browsing experience, they are designed to provide information back to the website owner.

Cookies are used everywhere, not just in affiliate marketing and tracking. But because they are browser based there are hoops that people can jump through to avoid having the cookies attached to their activity. There is actually nothing that can be done to prevent this, so affiliate marketing and other cookie tracking systems are at the mercy of best practice.

A couple more things to know about cookies before we move back to affiliate marketing – since they are browser based, they don’t cross from one browser to the next (like Safari to Chrome) and they don’t transfer between devices which means you can have the same cookie in your phone browser and your laptop browser and they will report independently.

This cookie shortcoming is the primary reason that people don’t always trust their affiliate numbers… which is also the reason why good affiliate tracking systems use link tracking as well.

The best way to describe link tracking is that it’s the origination url for the cookie. Let’s look at an example.

Back in 2017 when I ran the Biz BFF Summit, I extended the affiliate opportunity to my speakers. If they chose to become affiliates, they signed up on my system and in turn, they were provided with a special and unique link to share the summit. Anytime this link was used, my affiliate tracking system tracked that click back to my affiliate, and then went on to set a cookie on the clicker’s browser.

My affiliates were able to put their unique link in emails, on social media, in advertising and so on. They were also able to create branded links using pretty links or shortened links using a service like bit.ly.

I look for affiliate systems that use both the link tracking and cookie methods.

If you’re interested in setting up an affiliate program, we can do that in a Tech Strategy session.

We’ve scratched the surface of affiliate management technology… now let’s discuss the different types of technology that can help you with affiliate programs.

There are four models that I’m familiar with:

  1. Third Party Shopping Cart Systems like ThriveCart
  2. Affiliate interface within your Stand-Alone SaaS product, like Thinkific or ClickFunnels
  3. WordPress plugin model, the most popular one of these is AffiliateWP
  4. Affiliate Marketing Networks like ShareASale and CJ Affliates or Commission Junction as they were previously known

For your business, I would recommend using either a third party shopping cart system or the affiliate interface built into your store or content delivery platform.

The key is to make sure that your affiliate piece is tied directly into the payment piece… so depending on where and how you take payments right now, that will change up how you might add affiliates into the mix.

We want to keep our affiliates as close to our point of sale as possible, for simplicity and accuracy sake. If these are disparate systems then more manual processes will be required to issue affiliate commissions and to track everything, and since this is something new, it’s best to start with the simple!

There is one decision that needs to be made when setting up your affiliate system and that’s whether to pay on “FIRST CLICK” or “LAST CLICK”. Which essentially asked the question, do you pay the first person who piqued a purchasers interest to learn more about your product or service or do you pay the last person – this is the one who gave the final nudge for your new client to actually make the purchase.

For virtual summits, I recommend first click, because that incentivises speakers to send out their promotional material earlier. And in the summit model, we’re sending traffic to a free summit and then giving them the opportunity to purchase extended access.

For higher ticket items, such as courses or membership sites, I usually recommend last cookie because in many cases there is a greater amount of work required by your affiliates to get to the sale. We can discuss the pros and cons as we put together your affiliate system – both can and do work, it’s all about making sure that your affiliates feel cared for and appreciated.

One caveat — Not every product or service is a good product or service to setup with affiliates. And not all products or services need to have the same arrangement with affiliates.

Affiliate marketing can be very expensive – and in my opinion should never be used for one-to-one services or services that have a one-on-one component.  It’s just too hard to generate the right amount of income from one-on-one services when you’re giving an affiliate a percentage off the top. This is different than a referral fee, which can be a great marketing channel – but that conversation is for another time.

I am excited and happy to discuss setting up your affiliate systems and programs, but I encourage you to work with a marketing professional to determine what offerings you have are best suited for different types of promotions.

The other side of affiliate marketing is being the marketer.

… as in promotion of someone else’s product with the intention of receiving compensation. On the resources page, I mostly list software and tools that I am an affiliate for. I try to keep the list concise because it doesn’t benefit either of us for me to promote conflicting products. So, while there are other SaaS companies that I think are right for some clients, I want to keep my references page clean.

I’ve said it many times on this podcast and with clients, I’m very tool agnostic. I have my favorites and those are mostly what you’ll find on the resources page.

I always strive to implement the best tool for you and your business now and into the future. That’s why I did an entire episode on Zapier last week – and they don’t even have an affiliate program available.

When it comes to affiliate marketing, the number one thing we must always remember to do is to fully disclose any relationships we undertake. So, you’ll see on the resources page that I have disclosed that many of the links on that page are affiliate links.

Affiliate links can be used inside email as well as on website pages or anywhere else you can share a link… it’s important to consistently and regularly disclose that you may be compensated.

I think it’s pretty easy for you to understand how, when and why I use affiliate links within my business – quite simply, if I’m already recommending a product and they offer to pay me for leads I send to them then it’s advantageous to me to setup the relationship.

There are affiliate opportunities that make sense in just about every industry. I challenge you to come up with 3 possible affiliations that would benefit your business and your audience. Share those in the Tech of Business community on Facebook which you can access from https://techofbusiness.com/community/

As always, I have a reason for creating episodes on the podcast – in episode 38 we discussed why crowd sourcing your tech might not be the best way to get tech recommendations and to lean on your trusted adviser and inner circle instead. And affiliate relationships are part of the reason this is extra important. Both from the side of not wanting to get recommendations based solely on compensation for the recommender and for making sure that compensation does occur for the people who you rely on for advice and recommendations.

My top three affiliate relationships are Thinkific, ActiveCampaign and A2 Hosting. When I share these services with you, and you choose to sign up for them, I sincerely hope you will thank me for the recommendation by clicking through my unique affiliate link.

Sure, I like the compensation, and have an affiliate revenue goal each year, but the other reason I appreciate your clicking through from my link is to show the service provider that I’m a valuable affiliate.

Let’s wrap up with this…

Affiliate marketing’s distinct advantage is that it is built on trust between the marketer and their audience. The product or service being promoted benefits from this high level of trust.

As you get into affiliate marketing, remember that it’s all about trust. Pick products or services that you can get 100% behind and share those authentically and enthusiastically and regularly!

And in your business, if you have products you’d like to setup with affiliates, be sure to know what types of audiences you want to reach and find the best affiliates to partner with.

And, when new tech needs arise in your business, please reach out to me as your trusted tech adviser and together we will find the best right tech for your business – whether affiliate relationship or not.

Have a great rest of your day and I’ll see you inside the Tech of Business Community!

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