Once you’ve decided that you’re ready for an affiliate program, you’ll have to choose whether to run your program in-house or through a third party affiliate network. Each has it’s pros and cons, and the choice that’s right for you will depend on your pre-existing business model: (1) how much affiliate marketing factors into your acquisition strategy, (2) your marketing budget, and (2) the IT resources at your disposal.
Regardless of the choice that’s right for your business, you should ensure that your affiliates will have the resources they need to successfully promote your products. Essentially, the software powering your affiliate program (either network or in-house) should feature a variety of tools to help affiliates save time on administrative and technical tasks, and allow them to focus more on generating referrals.
There are a lot of features that affiliate software can offer to help affiliates do this. And they vary in importance according to the products your affiliates are promoting and the market they’re targeting. But there are six essential tools that your affiliates must have if your affiliate program is going to succeed.
1) Geo-Targeting: allows affiliates to target users with offers and banners that are relevant to their location and language; the affiliate simply drops some banner code on their page, and your software uses the user’s IP addresses to determine their location, and then shows them a banner that’s pertinent to them.
4) Affiliate Custom Tracking: essential for your PPC affiliates, it help them segment and track different campaigns by letting them add additional variables to their affiliate tracking URLs; it lets them determine how well each keyword/campaign converts by tracking users from the click straight through to the conversion on your site.
5) Deep Linking Tool: lets your affiliates to choose the landing page/URL of their affiliate links; after all, they know their traffic better than anyone, and this helps them provide calls-to-action that resonate and convert with their own user-base.
6) Widget Support: this takes banner rotating to the next level and lets affiliates show their users fresh, dynamic, and interactive content that increases both user-engagement and conversions; you might not offer widgets when you first launch your program, but you will need to consider doing so eventually to help your affiliate combat banner blindness, so it’s imperative that the software powering your program can do so when the time is ripe.
Whether you launch your affiliate program in-house or through a third party affiliate network will depend on several things:
- Is your business model built more around vertical integration or horizontal integration?
- Is affiliate marketing a key component of your acquisition strategy, or are you just testing it out?
- Do you have a strong in-house IT team, or do you generally rely on outsourced technical support?
No matter the path you choose, you still need to ensure that your affiliates have the tools they need to succeed. Affiliates are marketers first, and webmasters second. So if you want them to successfully promote your products, you should prevent them from being bogged down in administrative or technical tasks.
The software you choose to power your program (in-house or network), then, should support their needs and offer them tools that can save them time.