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Starting an affiliate marketing or referral program might seem overwhelming, especially if you haven’t had much experience with one. How do you find affiliates? How do you track links and pay commissions? What’s the best way to promote your program? These are all good questions, and you’ll need to answer them before you begin.
It may seem like a lot of moving parts, but an affiliate program consists of just a few basic components. When you understand these elements and how they work together, you can design a plan for your own successful affiliate or referral program.
In this article, we’ll break down the essentials and discuss the five things you need to start an affiliate program. We’ll also include some tips and resources to help you along. Let’s get started!
Why You Might Want to Start an Affiliate Program
An affiliate program (sometimes called a referral program) is a cost-effective way to reach new customers by partnering with online content creators. These publishers share blog posts, social media posts, videos, or other digital content for their own audiences and promote products or services they think their followers will find helpful.
Working with these creators and influencers can help you reach new leads and convert them into paying customers. In return, you'll pay your affiliates commissions for the sales they facilitate.
5 Things You Need to Start an Affiliate or Referral Program
If you’re considering launching an affiliate program, it’s helpful to know what you’ll need to successfully run it. Let’s explore five essential elements you'll need to get started.
1. A Product People Want to Buy
A big part of product development is identifying a problem people are facing and offering a solution to it. This is what creates a demand for items and makes them valuable to consumers.
This is important for your business in general, but also for building your affiliate program. Prospective partners will need to see the value of your product(s) themselves and be able to easily communicate that to their audiences.
You need at least one product to sell, although it’s beneficial to have more than one. You’ll be investing time and money to reach new customers, and these will be built-in prospects for additional products.
2. A Target Market for Your Product
Knowing the target audience for your product is key as well. The better you can narrow down your ideal customer, the easier it will be to identify the right affiliate publishers to help you sell your product. Your success will depend on promoting your products to people who want or need to buy them.
Your target market determines which affiliates you should partner with. You'll want to look for partners who have audiences consistent with your target customers. Your affiliates should have a solid understanding of who their audience is, and consistently publish content that is meaningful and relevant to them.
The knowledge you have about your target market also helps you understand how to present your products to them and sell more effectively. It's smart to do thorough target market research and develop customer profiles to help you understand their needs.
3. A Website to Sell Your Products (And Run Your Program)
Affiliate marketing requires that you have an online platform to direct traffic from your partners to. Ideally, this will be a website with e-commerce functionality. Thanks to plugins such as WooCommerce, you can easily add an online store to your WordPress website.
If you choose to run your own affiliate program, you can do so through your website as well using a plugin such as Easy Affiliate. It automatically incorporates all the features you need to successfully run your program.
You can also use your website to recruit affiliates by creating a landing page. By directing prospective affiliates to this page and providing them with the necessary information about your program, you can encourage signups right on your site.
4. An Affiliate Marketing and Referral Platform to Keep Track of Everything
Although your affiliates do much of the work of promoting your products for you, there are still some administrative duties you need to carry out. These may include:
- Vetting applicants to determine if they're a good fit for your program
- Monitoring sales
- Paying out commissions
- Supplying marketing materials such as links and banners to your partners
You can do this with a third-party platform, or you can run the program yourself on your own website.
By hosting your own affiliate or referral program with Easy Affiliate, you have complete control. Plus, there are no monthly program fees or hidden costs – we don’t take a percentage of your sales.
Easy Affiliate is an easy-to-install WordPress plugin that handles every part of your affiliate program, from affiliate signups, to communication, to tracking links, and even commissions. Affiliates can access their individual dashboards and view their analytics and access other resources.
5. Affiliate Publishers to Promote Your Products
Once you have all the above pieces in place, you can start recruiting affiliates to sell for you. Affiliate marketers promote your products to their audiences by publishing content people find interesting or helpful.
Strive to recruit affiliates for your program who line up with your target audience and your brand. It’s helpful to provide your affiliates with resources and training. This will help them learn how to represent your business well and promote your products.
You may also want to share marketing content to help your affiliates sell your products. You can make banner ads that link to your product, and explainer videos that help prospective customers understand how it works, what problem it solves, or why they might want it.
Your affiliate program depends in part on the success of your affiliates. Any resources you can offer to help them grow their audiences and drive conversions will be an investment in your own success as well.
It may be difficult to know how to get started, but launching an affiliate or referral program comes down to five essential components. With these, you can begin building your program, adding more affiliate recruits and products as you go. There are plenty of online resources and tools to help you along the way, too.
In this article, we discussed the five things you need to start your program:
- A product people want to buy.
- A target market for your product.
- A website to sell your products (and run your program).
- An affiliate platform to keep track of everything.
- Affiliate publishers to promote your products.
Do you have questions about how to start an affiliate program? Let us know in the comments section below!