Thursday, November 29, 2007

Classifying Affiliates for Better Management

The hardest part of administrating an affiliate program is deciding what your affiliates need to help make the sale. But by carefully categorizing your affiliates, you can easily determine what their needs are and how to accurately meet them. The plan given below helps in categorizing affiliates in order to manage your affiliate program better. The first step is to pick at least three types of affiliates. Take a look at your affiliates and try to determine one outstanding characteristic that can easily be compared across the board. Here are some examples:

Level of Sales - You may find that your affiliates are so completely different that it's hard to find something to classify them by. Try classifying them by the level of sales they've reached with you. You'll most likely find that you have a few forerunners that lead the pack with a number of sales, quite a few affiliates that have sporadically made a sale or two and some that have yet to make a sale. This will help you classify them based on sales. Products - If you sell a wide variety of products for specific interests/needs you may be able to classify your affiliates by product. For instance, a financial site could classify types like Personal Finance, Small Business Finance, and Corporate Finance. Industry - If you market commodities like office supplies, health and beauty products, house-wares and so on, you may find that your affiliates come from a wide variety of industries. You can most likely classify your affiliates according to their industry. The second step is to determine the needs of each type. Each of your affiliate types will have different needs; some of their needs will overlap, but you should find a distinct difference in many of their needs. If you find that all of them have the same needs, go back to step one and re-think your types.

Here are some basic things to look for:

Linking Methods - Different types of affiliates will need different linking methods. Let's use the example above where we had different groups based on sales. Your low-sales group may be satisfied with a banner or two to place on their site. Your medium-sales type may be interested in an article or two for added content on their site. Your high-sales group will probably pass up banners for articles, email ads and signature files.

Capturing visitors is what you want. In order to do so -- you have to know what they want. Visit your affiliates' sites to see what visitors are looking at and looking for. Ask yourself, "How does my product relate to what I am seeing?" Different types of affiliates may expect different commissions. You'll have some affiliates that have joined your program "on the side" and others that plan on earning a substantial income from the program. Determine what effort they are putting into advertising, how much other programs in your industry are paying, and the amount of time they devote to your program.

The third step involves the process of creating and compiling linking methods for each group of affiliates. Based on the needs you identified in Step Two, create and compile linking methods for each type. Here are a few linking methods to think about:

.. Banners - Though they aren't as effective as other linking methods, banners are still widely used and expected. Make banners in a variety of sizes to fit tops of pages, bottoms, toolbars, sidebars and other miscellaneous areas.

.. Articles - These are great for affiliates that need content for their websites and newsletters. Be sure that your articles are articles and not ads.

.. Email Ads - Your active affiliates may be interested in placing ads in e-zines or their own newsletters. Try writing a few ads in different lengths. .. Signature Files - Dedicated affiliates may even add your tag to their signature line. Give them a few witty lines to choose from.

.. Guestbooks: - Let your affiliates help you build your opt-in email lists with guestbooks. Offer them a commission for each email address they send you, or each resulting sale from the subscribers they send you.

.. Product Images - Give your affiliates images that show and link directly to specific products. They'll be able to choose an image specific to their site, or choose several images to display.

Review each affiliate type and match them up with your new linking methods. You may have some linking methods that overlap types -- this is okay. Just be sure you are concentrating on the affiliates' needs.

The fourth step is to decide commission levels. Your first decision will be to determine whether you want to pay a flat rate or percentage of each sale. Based on the needs you identified above for each of the affiliate types, decide on a commission amount for each type. If you have a two-tier program, consider the possibility of different second tier rates as well.