Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Build your own Sales Force Army With an Associate Program

What's the quickest way to increase your website sales and extend your reach on the Internet 004_52 all at the same time? If you said with your own associate program, you would be correct. An associate (or affiliate program as they are some times called) allows others to to sell your products/services and receive a commission on each and every sale or click. Just think of having a sales force that can grow as big as you'd like... and  you only pay them when and if they bring you a paying customer. Make no mistake, affiliate programs are powerful tools that can rapidly improve your online sales.

Associate programs can be set up in a variety of ways ranging inexpensive to pricey, epending on the route you wish to take. The important thing is to pick the one that suits your needs and your budget.

First things first: What are your options for setting up your own program? Glad you asked....some people "pay per click," crediting their associates a certain amount every time someone clicks through on their affiliate banners or links. But I prefer "pay per sale," which means that you only pay out when someone clicks through and actually makes a purchase. In this way you're not just paying for traffic but for actual results, which is the sale.

You basically have two options for setting up your own program: Purchase software or use a third party service. The nice thing about a third party service is they manage all the accounting issues, including click-tracking and sending your associates their commission checks, too. This takes a large load off of you so you can spend your time doing more productive tasks... but this luxury doesn't come cheap.  Let's examine some of your options:

3rd Party Associate Services:

1) Clickbank.com: http://www.ClickBank.com

Anyone who sells information products online can easily set up an affiliate program with Clickbank. Each of your affiliates will need  to have a Clickbank account (which is free) so they can be set up with a special link for tracking their sales. They accept the payment for you by credit card and you'll be charged a percentage of each sale. Simple and easy.

2) LinkShare:  http://www.Linkshare.com

The undisputed leader in affiliate programs. You can compensate your people by CPM, impressions, or click thrus, flat fees and more. Expensive to set up, running into thousands of dollars. Just fill in the online form to be contacted by a representative.

3) Affiliate Shop: http://www.AffiliateShop.com

No software to be installed; just cut and paste a few lines of HTML code on your site to get your program up and running. Some of the features include pay per click, pay per sale, accept or reject affiliates who wish to join and much more.  Flat charge for set up then you'll have to pay a monthly fee.

Software Options:

You'll want to make sure whatever you buy offers the ability to track real time stats. If you'll be integrating it with your existing shopping cart, make sure they are compatible.

1) Affiliate Tracking:  http://www.AffiliateTracking.com

You can buy or lease their software which runs on their server. Choose the basic package or add on their check paying and promotion modules. Basic set up fee of 75.00 plus 34.95 per month. Simple templates are available to get you up and running quickly.

2) Affiliate Software:  http://www.AffiliateSoftware.net

Reviews and ratings for multiple affiliate solutions. You’re sure to find something to meet your needs here.

3) My Affiliate Program:  http://www.MyAffiliateProgram.com

You design the look and feel of your program and how much you want to pay out. Simple seamless integration with your website. Easy to pay your affiliates with simple Quickbooks integration. You pay a set price for the software plus a small application hosting fee.

4) Ground Break:  http://www.GroundBreak.com

If you're at all good at configuring CGI scripts you may want to look at downloading this script and doing it yourself. Ground Break can be set up to work on your server quickly. Can easily be integrated with most Perl based shopping carts. Your program can be set up to pay either per lead or per sales. 

As you can see, the options for setting up your own associate program are numerous. It will cost you some time and money, but in the end it'll give you a powerful sales force which will extend your reach on the Net.

Whatever program you choose, make sure it's easy to setup and user friendly so you won't lose people before they even get started. In part II of this article we'll examine some ways of promoting your newfound affiliate program.

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