It’s not new that affiliate or influencer marketing is a popular and effective way to increase sales without having to deal with upfront investments or high fixed costs. But suppose you have a SaaS company or webshop and want to apply this marketing strategy, how do you start earning money through affiliate marketing? In this blog post we will look into this in more detail, the topics to be discussed are:
- Preparation is key
- Contact with your potential partners, affiliates / influencers?
- Agree on terms and conditions
- Affiliate Management Platform
Preparation is key
It is important to have a clear idea and understanding of what your goal is with affiliate marketing before you start. What do you want to achieve and what is needed to accomplish that? There are different ways to realize extra sales with affiliates as discussed in a previous blog post. It therefore is important to clearly identify what and your affiliate audience is how to find them. For example, if you’re selling a product or service in an industry that is popular to write about, it may be important to partner with blog websites in the first place. If you however sell a product that is visually attractive and is found interesting by a wide audience, then social media might be a better channel for your target group.
This preparation and focus is of great importance in the initial stages to achieve the best results. In many cases, affiliate marketing is initially performed as additional responsibility for employees which means that the capacity of yourself or your employee may be limited in the initial phase. The collaboration between your company and the affiliate will consist of many contact moments to discuss the tasks and conditions, it therefore is important to be well prepared and focussed.
Below are some important topics to keep in mind during the preparing:
- Which form of affiliate marketing is best for my business?
- What is the capacity of me or my employees?
- With how many affiliates do we start?
- How many followers/visitors should the affiliate have?
- What should the affiliate radiate?
Contact with your potential partners/affiliates
The more fun activities can start once the preparation is completed. The next step is to actually start looking for affiliates to promote your company in order to bring in new customers and create additional sales. A satisfied customer which is using your product or service could (depending on your strategy) be a potential affiliate, getting in contact with a known customer is convenient as the contact details and product are known for both parties.Briefly introduce what affiliate marketing is and what it means for your business. Customers in general react positively to promotions as it is a way for them to earn back the purchase costs of your product or service.
There are of course many more potential affiliates besides your existing customer network, but how do you find and reach out to them? There are different ways to get in contact, for example look for partners yourself through Google or Social Media. This will be an effective but also time-consuming activity in the start-up phase as everything is still new and thereby requires more time. It is important to get in contact and start the conversation when there is interest in an affiliate from your point of view. Always try to do this in a personal way, Instagram or LinkedIn have the option to send a voice memo which is known as a very effective way to connect with people.
However, there are also other options to find affiliates, marketplaces for example are available where affiliates and influencers are connected to the platform. A marketplace is basically a central place for affiliate networks where you can look for affiliates that best suit your business. You can contact the potential affiliates directly via the platform to see if there is a match between your company and the affiliate. The biggest advantage is that this can reduce the search time for new affiliates significantly, all connected contacts to the marketplace are already affiliates and are therefore in general open for collaborations. The disadvantage however is that a marketplace in general charges additional expenses. The pricing can be charged as a one-time platform cost, it however can also be charged as a payment per confirmed affiliate collaboration. Multiple start-up costs in this way can for example be charged if you manage to confirm 10 new affiliate collaborations.
It is important to find out whether the person really fits the company as soon as contact has been made, how smooth did the communication for example go so far? What does he think of the product you offer? If necessary, invite him/her to your office to meet and show some products, the reaction and feedback about your product will tell a lot about the enthusiasm. It will be reflected in their performance if an affiliate really believes in what you’re selling and connects to your brand. In that sense, the quality of your affiliates has a higher value compared to the quantity. For example, if you reach a small group with the same interest, you will see that the conversion will be relatively high. If, on the other hand, you have a very large reach of people who have zero connection with your product, the conversion will also lag behind. We often tend to choose the big influencers with thousands of followers, while a small influencer often has much more engagement.
Terms and conditions
It is of course important to make clear agreements about the terms and conditions as soon as there seems to be a good basis for a collaboration. The intention in the end for the affiliates is to realise an additional income. Make sure to know what you can and cannot offer, but do not try to apply the same default conditions for all affiliates. Each affiliate is an individual and prefers to work in their own way. A flexible approach ensures that the affiliates have confidence and are more comfortable working for you when agreeing the terms and conditions.
As a first part of the conditions, it is important to agree when a commission is awarded to the affiliate as there are different ways to use:
- Pay Per Click (PPC)
The pay per click variant is often used in online marketing (for example Facebook) and basically means that you pay the affiliate based on the number of clicks that are realized via its unique URL. This form of commission however for affiliate marketing is in general unwanted as it may create costs without a guarantee on extra sales. Affiliates thereby may focus on creating many clicks without having valuable visitors.
- Pay Per Lead (PPL)
A variant that occurs more often is pay per lead, here you link a specific event or trigger on your website as a lead. For example, if a visitor books a live demo or if he shares his contact details in return for a white paper. The affiliate has not yet made a purchase but has collected valuable information for you as he shows his interest in your product and you are able to directly contact him/her. This form can for example be applied at companies without standard prices but with a quotation phase.
- Pay per sale (PPS)
The last and most common commission rate for affiliate marketing is pay per sale. The affiliate link is recognized after the purchase of a product and the earned commission will be allocated to the specific affiliate. This method comes with basically zero risks as the earned money of your sold product is already received by you before you have to pay the affiliates commission. We also call this a no cure no pay variant.
You can start thinking about the value of the commission once it’s clear which commission method you are going to apply for your webshop. This in general is defined as a percentage (%) of the order amount or as a fixed amount (€) per order. There are options to set up bonus rules to increase the commission value and thereby interest of the affiliate. This can be useful as you don’t want to go all-in without knowing how the affiliate is performing.
Bonus rules for instance can be:
Commission with 0-100 sales = 10%
Commission with 101-150 sales = 15%
Commission with >250 sales = 20%
This allows you to show the growth opportunities to the affiliate if the performance is good. This can be an important aspect to have just that extra bit of motivation for a blistering start. It’s important to agree on the payment terms as the next step to prevent miscommunication. Will the affiliate payment take place on a weekly, monthly or quarterly occasion? And is the payment always processed or only when a certain commission level has been reached (for example, at least €100 of earned commission)?
The financial conditions have been discussed so it’s time for the next phase. It is good and important to agree on the responsible activities for the company and the affiliate. For example, did your marketing team already prepare a campaign and content to be published or do you expect the affiliate to do this themselves? The affiliate responsibilities may change a lot from affiliate to affiliate. Firstly because it depends on the amount of content that your company has at its disposal, but mainly because each affiliate has their own ideas and. It can happen that an affiliate is very creative and likes to take care of the promotion in his/her own way, where another affiliate may be happy that something is already available. I think it’s clear, there can be quite a bit of variation from affiliate A to affiliate B. Make sure to openly discuss this and coordinate it with your affiliate, the rest will follow automatically.
Affiliate Management Platform
Now that it is clear which steps you need to take to start affiliate marketing, an important question remains: how and where do I track, manage and pay my affiliates? Managing the affiliate, the referral URLs, the earned commission and above all the payout requires a lot of administrative work.
Fortunately, there are platforms that can take the hassle out of these tasks. Sir Affiliate is an example of this. Affiliates are managed, their activities are monitored and above all payments of commissions are automated by automatically generating invoices and facilitating SEPA and/or PayPal payment batches.
Are you starting your own affiliate program? Then make sure you have a reliable (software) partner who automates all the operations for you. Are you serious about it? Then an internal affiliate network is guaranteed to bring you turnover and brand awareness.
The preparations for starting affiliate marketing can take a lot of time in the initial phase, but can certainly not be skipped. Make sure that you have a good connection with your affiliates and that the terms & conditions are clear for all parties.
Using an affiliate management platform will ensure that the management and payout of the affiliates is quickly arranged so that you can focus on what really matters.