WANT TO PAY a marketing team only for results? Then get an affiliate program in place, and invite internet-savvy marketers to promote your business for no upfront cost. To launch a successful program, plan your strategy based on these questions:
1. WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR AFFILIATES TO DO? First, decide if you'll pay affiliates per click, lead or sale. Then, discuss their role in your overall marketing strategy. Experienced affiliates will use e-mail, search engines, content sites and possibly offline opportunities to promote your business. Do you want this sales force to dominate all marketing channels for you, or will you set restrictions to prevent same-channel competition?
2. IS YOUR COMPENSATION OFFER COMPETITIVE? To find out, check out competing offers on resource sites such as AffiliatesDirectory.com. You can also sign up as a network affiliate to review offers in that community.
3. HOW WILL YOU HELP AFFILIATES MAKE MORE MONEY? Yup, that's right--put your affiliates first, because by igniting their success, you'll be fueling yours. Create various ads and persuasive copy blocks they can use. And consider writing a newsletter with new-offer announcements, marketing tips and performance contests to help them perform even better.
You'll also need an affiliate management solution, which includes tracking link assignment and performance reporting. You can save money by using an e-commerce solution that includes a basic affiliate management tool; the higher-end versions of 1ShoppingCart.com and Yahoo! Small Business Merchant Solutions (http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/ merchant) are examples. Keep in mind that if you buy or lease tools, then you usually need to find and woo your own affiliates.
Although you'll need to pay to join networks such as My Affiliate Program (www.myaffiliateprogram.com), Commission Junction (www.cj.com) and LinkShare (www.linkshare.com), you'll immediately tap into thousands of eager affiliates and robust tools to help you optimize your program.
Speaker and freelance writer CATHERINE SEDA owns an internet marketing agency (www.sedacommunication.com) and is author of Search Engine Advertising.