How to use affiliate marketing programs without coming across as slimy

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Smiley_frog I became aware of affiliate marketing programs through my study with a few successful web entrepreneurs like Robert Middleton, Suzanne Falter-Barns and Ali Brown.

For those unfamiliar with what  Affiliate Marketing is, Wikipedia has a nice definition:

"Affiliate Marketing is a widespread method of promoting a website, in which an affiliate is rewarded for every visitor, subscriber and/or customer provided through his efforts. It is a modern variation of the practice of paying finder’s-fees to individuals who introduce new clients to a business. Compensation may be made based on a certain value for each visit (Pay-per-click), registrant (Pay-per-lead), or a commission for each customer or sale (Pay-per-Sale)."

Does it make sense to set up your own affiliate program?

If you are an independent service professional such as a coach, technical consultant, financial planner, therapist, lawyer or trainer, you may want to consider creating an affiliate program for your product or service.  If you have a broad network of supportive business partners, you can really increase your exposure and sales by working with affiliates, who act as your virtual marketing force.  Here is how it works:

  1. Create your product or service offering.
  2. Write a web sales page.
  3. Set up a shopping cart system that supports affiliates such as 1Shoppingcart.com.
  4. Provide information and tools for your affiliate partners including graphic banners, HTML and text links that they can include on their site to drive traffic back to your sales page. 
  5. Your shopping cart system will track sales through your affiliate partners, and you pay commissions on a regular basis.

To see an example of an invitation to join an affiliate program, you can look at the Affiliate Section of Robert Middleton’s Action Plan Marketing website.

What should I be aware of if I am using affiliate links to promote other products or services on my website?  How can I not appear like a slimy salesperson if I use them?

  1. Only use affiliate links for partners that you respect, trust and are sure can deliver on their promises.  Your personal credibility and reputation are truly priceless.  It may take you years to build up a following of clients and devoted readers.  If you use affiliate links without checking out the partner beforehand and they turn out to be unethical or deliver poor service, you are putting your own reputation at risk!  A good rule of thumb?  Imagine that you were referring your best client who has a very limited budget.  Are you sure the affiliate can deliver?  Are they going to take advantage of your client?  What would your client think of you if your affiliate partner turned out to be slimy?
  2. Don’t be embarrassed about your use of affiliate links.  The few affiliate links I use in my own website or blog come from partners who I referred long before I signed up for their affiliate program.  I finally realized that I was just tossing money away by not using the affiliate links.  Since I know that I can trust them to deliver, I have nothing to be ashamed of for profiting a bit from my referral.  I am a businessperson too, after all, and want to walk my talk with my clients by using all means available for increasing passive revenue streams.
  3. Be very wary of jamming your page with affiliate program links just to make some money.  I only choose affiliates whose products or services I have personally tested and find valuable.  There are entire websites devoted to affiliate marketing links, (like Affiliate Programs.com) but I don’t know much about them.  Many sites or blogs I run across appear to take ads and affiliate links to the extreme and that makes me run screaming as fast as I can.

I would be delighted to hear about your successes and failures using affiliate marketing programs, as well as any insight from seasoned affiliate marketers.

When I get rolling with some new programs in the fall, I plan to offer an affiliate program as well.  And I will blog about the challenges and opportunities along the way!

6 Responses to “How to use affiliate marketing programs without coming across as slimy”

  1. mcpokafinda says:

    Just thought Id introduce myself,

    Names davey. I like old school rts games,jogging, and this forum! =]

  2. Affiliate Networks

    Affiliate networks such as Tradedoubler The affiliate network ta

  3. Pamela Slim says:

    Thanks for the insight folks!

    Paula: I don’t know much about other shopping cart affiliate programs. I have heard so many good things about 1shoppingcart.com by very successful web entrepreneurs that they were the only one I referred to. If the cost is not too prohibitive, I would rather set up once with the provider that I know is going to grow with my business than have to switch mid-stream and confuse existing affiliates. I know I will be committed to lots of marketing once I get my programs and products in place, so I am willing to eat a few months of expense to make it work.

    You are right about most affiliate programs that you do need to reach a lot of people to make it worthwhile. It is why I personally like to choose a few people that are doing good work and who compliment what I am doing. You do have to actively market in order to get a good profit.

    I may be strange, but I get excited with little $20 commissions. That is a week of lattes that I don’t have to pay for, and I think that is great!

    Good luck with your program.

  4. Great article. I am just getting started with affiliate related stuff. If you don’t have enough ongoing biz for your own products to justify the shopping cart w/ bells and whistles (ala affiliate tracking), what others do you recommend? I notice ClickBank is mentioned in one of the comments. Which is the best bang for the buck (time and money included)?

    My other experience with affiliates so far is that it seems that you need to reach a lot of people in order to make it worthwhile (as in you pass through enough business for the affiliate to actually send you a check). What has been your experience? And, maybe this is just because my full web presence is just getting rolling.

  5. I’d also suggest http://www.clickbank.com

    Don’t stick to just one program, think them as a dealerships or outlets for your products. You want to be in as many of them as possible. Each one has it’s own niche of users that only want to use their system. ClickBank for example has a few power-affiliates that will only use clickbank.

  6. I hadn’t really thought about affiliate programs until we were actually approached by someone interested in doing it.

    We coded something fairly straightforward ourselves, to start, and we’re looking forward to dipping our toe into the idea.

    It does make sense for a site such as ours which has fairly low traffic right now, but an idea that could fit very well with certain websites offering satire/humor/comedy content.

    So we’ll see how it goes with the first partner and go from there!

    It is an area of online marketing that I don’t know much about, so I appreciate the notes and will be doing more research soon…

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