If you have been in this space any length of time you realise no one likes you. Google hates you, Facebook hates you. Well their ad platforms do anyways… so you have to get clever with how you reach your customer base. Affiliates and influencers are a great way to do that. But like many marketing strategies, there are pitfalls and it is a lot of work to build a great program. Regardless of what people will tell you.
That said, done right, an affiliate programme can help you future proof and diversify your traffic sources for little risk and great reward. This is a short overview of how you can setup and run an affiliate program. I have written a book on this if you want more in-depth detail. It’s on Amazon.
So let’s start with the basics…
What is an affiliate?
An affiliate is simply someone who is rewarded financially for carrying out an action. I say it like this because it doesn’t have to be sales led. It could be your affiliates send you newsletter subscribers, or business reseller enquiries rather than sales. But sales are the main driver for an e-commerce CBD business.
Influencers/ brand ambassadors
I have stripped out influencers and brand ambassadors here as these could be something different and might require different treatment in their rewards. Dan Bilzerian promoting your brand is not going to do it for 10% commission on sales but he can bring you a shit ton of traffic and exposure. He will need different treatment which is why I tend to separate them out.
Same with brand ambassadors, they could be people with a good level of traffic that you reward with merchandise, review samples etc… these guys might get free stuff but on the basis they promote and they might get a different level of commission too.
You could actually use 3 different program terms here and still use the same affiliate tracking software to run it all. Actually there is a 4th type of program you could run too. But that’s probably a longer article…
So now you know what they are, where are they?
To be perfectly honest, they are everywhere. Here are 5 places to get you started.
Type in searches around your product or service and look at the first page or first two pages of results for each term. Look for blogs, info sites, comparison tables and the like. These guys will be more open to becoming an affiliate.
Look for specific industry Blogs and review sites too…
[Keyword] + Blog
[Keyword] + Review
Top 10 [Keyword]
All of these will bring up interesting results.
Create a Google Drive Spreadsheet and make sure you add the URL, the term you used to find the site, their name if you can find it on the site, and their contact details be in an email or contact form.
Once you have done this with around 20 or 30 keywords — you will find a ton of possible sites to approach.
The do the same on Bing. Yeah I know WTF is Bing. Well its the little site Microsoft have that search display results too. The beauty with Bing is that the traffic from bing is much better quality and converts much better than Google… Shhhhh!!!!
Yeah I know… Use the search function to look for industry people and also people that actually have the word affiliate, CBD or Canna in their profile title or headline. You will be surprised.
Also look under the content filter for say the last 3 months too as this might highlight people looking for particular types of programmes.
Connect with them. Make sure you have your affiliate programme information on your profile. Simply add a file on SlideShare or upload a PDF to your profile.
If they have asked about a programme, comment on the thread that you can help and BOOM.
If you don’t have a page on your site for affiliates then build one… Your site could be one of the best places to pick up affiliates. I would also suggest on this page you tell people they cant buy through their own links. Cheap bastards….
That normally switches off bargain hunters that will only ever send you one sale — their own.
You could actually do some paid promotion for your affiliate programme and why not. Facebook ads are pretty cheap these days, you could spend a few bucks/pounds/yen/bitcoin a day promoting your programme and driving them into the new page you built above.
I have left this once last as there are a number of things to say here.
Not all customers will make good affiliates — the key we are after is good affiliates. We are not looking for simply adding a thousand affiliates, we want affiliates that can promote and drive traffic. So you want raving fans that have their own sites and ways to drive traffic.
Now you could tell everyone you have a programme but don’t just accept people because they are a customer (Some we can put in our refer a friend programme).
Some customers will not want to be paid to refer people to you. It is more important op them about the connection and endorsement. They don’t want to be seen to be pushing every tom dick and harry due to revenue.
I get that. We will get to different ways to handle that and still maximise their enthusiasm for promoting you.
Finding and recruiting affiliates is only the tip of the iceberg really, the actual hard part comes next and this bit really confuses most people. It still confuses me. The hardest part is the get signed up affiliates to put your links live.
Affiliate activation is the biggest part of any of this. Having 20000 affiliates means nothing if no one is sending you traffic. So you need to crack the whip and get them to add links. Sometimes this could even be rewarding affiliates with a bonus for putting links live within a given time frame.
The other thing you need to do is train them. They are now partners and salespeople in your organisation. You wouldn’t send out salesman to sell your products with no clue what they are doing or have no knowledge about your products. So you need to train them. Video, webinars, email courses, can all be created to help train your affiliates. Build an affiliate training portal or have someone on had to teach and train affiliates.
Lots of programmes don’t do any of this and they wonder why their program sucks.
Add this to some onboarding process and train them up, also make sure they have a real human being they can ask questions to.
Yeah I know. But you are paying them for sales, surely that’s enough.. nope.
They will find a million things to do, and a million ways not to do anything given the chance. You need to motivate them, run contests and offer volume bonuses. You don’t have to go mad but run contests and get them fired up about driving more sales.
Then just keep doing it. Don’t stop, an affiliate program is never done. You will lose affiliates and you need to replace them. Keep looking for new entrants and new possible partners. This keeps your programme healthy and growing.
Remember Quality over Quantity
More affiliates doesn’t mean more money. We have run million dollar a year revenue programmes with 2-10 affiliates.
I hope this has be given you some ideas. We haven’t talked about platforms or commission structures, advertising creatives or a raft of other things. It is not a complete in-depth look at affiliates but hopefully given you enough information to help you get going or improve your existing program.