Affiliate programs – what is it?
Affiliate programs are a relatively new concept. In effect, we’re talking about a known marketing method which has been implemented for quite some time (Amazon and ebay were pioneers in this field), not only online. Even before there was even a medium called the Internet, many companies realized that in order to create an online presence, they would need to activate more distribution channels.
Before diving into the complex world of affiliate marketing (a subject that could easily fill up many books ), I’ll try “painting” the picture with an example….When I was working for the mobile phone company orange, we would pair the brand and its variety of programs with large existing entities throughout the country, including various private distributors. There are hundreds of selling points which customers come into contact with, all of them selling mobile phones. However, if you look carefully you will understand that these points are actually other entities, and that these customer “touch points” are essentially partners. These partners that “wear” the color orange, speak the orange language but are not actual orange employees (for example: super pharm network). orange knows that these additional contact points allow them to sell products and services thus generating a huge presence. orange transfers its information, dresses employees with the brand’s clothes and its own look & feel, making them co-partners (affiliates) to success.
Affiliate programs entered the Internet and accumulated great momentum. It’s worth talking a bit about what really is required to successfully run this complex mechanism in order to create a successful affiliate program.
The first principle is that Our Affiliates = Our Partners. They share the process, the problems, the good times and the bad times. The second principle is that creating an emotional connection to a successful business will enable mutual growth and productivity. This translates to increase in sales.
So, who are our partners? What exactly is an Affiliate?
Aside from the concept of this ideal business partner, there are several other important aspects to understand. (I will be focusing on the reasons related to the web, of course
1. An affiliate is a private entity or business that sells a product (i.e., content, application software, service or product). In principle, anyone can be an Affiliate, and virtually all website owners can create a different business connection to a commercial company looking to further distribute its products. For example, a commercial site owner who wants to try and promote Skype on his website could be compensated for selling the product, which in the Skype’s case means having a user download the software and making phone calls on their network.
2. Not all affiliate marketers run commercial sites, sometimes it’s just Joe Shmoe’s personal blog who writes about his daily trails and tribulations, However, like any website owner, he wants to cover the various costs of running the site and therefore registers as a partner to a company or commercial entity on the network that allows him to push the company’s product = earn a few bucks to keep his site running.
Dialogue is essentially bilateral. Sometimes, site owners will be those who enroll or opt in as partners with commercial entities in order to promote the company’s products. The opposite is also true … Today, many companies operate by seeking out the relevant sites, those with potential to best advertise its products. There are many different ways of compensating such relevant site owners but I’ll discuss this issue later.
Affiliate program is actually a web-based platform that allows the creation of this connection between these business entities. On most commercial sites you will find a link that reads “Our Affiliate Program” or “Our Partners”. When you click on these links, you’ll reach the company’s affiliate program page explaining how you can become a partner advertiser – for example, here’s the link to the main page of Skype’s affiliate program.
An affiliate partner program consists of several layers:
1. The human Level -Who exactly is “the affiliate”? What makes him tick?
2. The Technological Level – A description of system properties, reports, creative, etc.
3. The Marketing Level – How do you find affiliates? How do you talk to them? Reward models and more.
4. The “Image” Level – How does it all connect to the perception of the brand?
The Human Level -
For this first post I will try to describe what is behind the screen, in the cyber environment, anonymity slowly becoming more transparent and it is important to understand who runs these businesses. Not everyone can be our partner (we all know that choosing a partner, relationship building and nurturing long requires patience and perseverance).
It’s funny, sometimes your biggest partner can be a16 year old boy who works in the basement of his mother, a kind of modern Jack who sits all day at the computer calculating how he’ll make his next million.
The affiliate could be a small business entity numbering a limited number of people(i.e., the webmaster and a content manager) Believe me, most of the sites you’ll come across online are manned by a small team of skilled people are not necessarily a big corporation. Naturally, the dialogue you would use when dealing with a large company with hundreds of employees is different than the dialogue you would use with the 16 year-old boy. Dealing with an emotional dialogue necessary to communicate with a 16 year old boy, mid-exams, frantically chewing on bubble gum are much different than that necessary to communicate with a witty and sharp MIT graduate. It’s important to understand your affiliate and speak his/her language in order to manage the dialogue (certainly the negotiations end of it).Also, take into account that the relationship only begins when the agreement is signed and the partner begins to promote the products. Like any relationship, this one involves a long road filled with obstacles.
The method that I find quite helpful is the old-school client analysis used in the mainstream advertising world (Title, Content, Visual/image and Logo). There is a famous model that divides people for 4 different groups (based on the 4 layers that make up an advertisement). Each group has unique characteristics which I often use as a model to analyze who I am dealing with and how best to reach them.
“The Headliners” (The title) –
are those who like it straight, no personal stories or long dialogues and not the same old “What do you want? What will you give me for it?” This type, do not like too much chit-chat, and aren’t interested in details, they want to understand you goals and tend to “cut to the quick”. They want the bottom line answer and appreciate email correspondences that are short and sweet and to the point. With this type, be prepared for hard questions right off the bat that you’ll be expected to answer briefly and clearly. Rule of thumb – if they have to scroll down to read your email, you’ll probably never hear from them again. (Don’t laugh).
“Body Text” (The Content People)
These are the ones who love the small details. Be prepared to answer lots of detailed questions about the platform, the small features, and all the different reports you can provide them with., They tend to ask so many questions that sometimes it’s not clear whether they’re just look to drive you crazy or they really want to do business together. Expect very long emails filled with questions and general musings … With this type, make sure to have a lot of patience. and I always recommend to close deals by phone – not email!
There are the ones who always have a picture in their heads of one thing or another. They are abstract and ask questions not usually directly related to the product but more on what happens behind the scenes, “Who are you? What company are you? Who are the people?” etc. They’re looking for you to give them an emotional overview When closing a deal, make sure to offer up the big picture from the start to avoid having this type get hot under the collar – go less for the nitty gritty details. This type paints a pretty complete picture of the deal in their heads and it’s important for them to understand how the” image” looks like.
This type is usually relatively rare. They combine some of the principles of the visual (i.e., they’re not interested in technical dialogue, they’re interested in your personal values). , They’ll want to talk to you about their last trip and about what they read about in the morning paper. They’ll want to know your reaction – they’re gauging you as a person. For this type, the deal itself is not the focus – they want to know YOU. When dealing with this type, understand that the seemingly unrelated conversation is key to closing the deal. Sell yourself by being yourself. They will even tell you their mother studied at Tel Aviv University and lived in a kibutz in Israel and that they have some Israeli friends – the deal was never about the price or the product but more who’s in front of them.
This is indeed a very schematic model (like most models) and many times levels will overlap but if succeeds in helping you read between the lines and understand who you’re dealing with. When you understand the types, it’ll be easier to communicate effectively and close the deal.
There are many different methods but I find this one to be one of the best and it’s certainly a great model to use when you’re starting out in the world of affiliate marketing.
In my next post, I’ll try to describe a little more in depth more technological aspects. Specifically, what is required of us to build partnering platforms / affiliate programs