Question: I am new to the market and have a product I am going to launch soon at a similar price-point to SEO Book. I am wondering if I should launch with an affiliate program, and if it will provide a substantial return prior to
Answer: I would say off the start don't enable an affiliate program until you have a better feel for the amount of effort required per purchaser and have brand awareness. I like launching without an affiliate program because it makes citations appear more natural. If you are launching a MLM hype program then a multi tiered affiliate program is a must, but if not the best option is to wait until you better learn your market and are well integrated into your market.
Why it is Best to Launch Without an Affiliate Program
- If you test your marketing first you are going to be able to achieve a higher customer value and attract better affiliates.
- If you are uncertain as to how to best sell your product and you have a new brand then it is going to be pretty tough for affiliates to sell it for you.
- The best marketing looks organic. With a new product it is best to get reviewed by top editorial channels and earn a few organic citations to help others see your product as more than just hype. If a product is primarily or only hyped by affiliates off the start that can undermine your brand.
- Some of my customers who did not sign up as affiliates have read my book and misquoted me to make me sound dumber than I am, and have misquoted to make me sound much smarter than I am. If others have profit incentive behind describing who you are or what you offer many will take the low road and use empty hype. Repositioning a brand after others have positioned it incorrectly is tougher than positioning it correctly off the start.
- Another advantage of waiting on establishing an affiliate program is that by the time you launch it you have built enough trust that people will be willing to sign up with you directly.
The Dangers of a Loose Affiliate Program
If you start off with an affiliate program I think your best best is to make the affiliate program invite only off the start to ensure your brand is not dragged through the mud before you were able to build brand equity. Some of my affiliates have done things like
- stealing content from my friends and wrapping it in banners for my site
- mass email spamming (while signing my name to it)
- a list of other dirty things I will not mention ;)
Because affiliates are hard to control, it is best to have a direct affiliate program rather than going through a third party website. This takes more time to manage, but enables you to
- immediately warn affiliates and/or remove the profit incentive if they are doing things that are illegal and/or undermine your brand value
- altert affiliates in advance of price changes, special promotions, or other changes to your offerings
- keep in contact with your affiliates, protecting you from drastic cost increases seen at third party affiliate management firms like MyAffiliateProgram
- more easily track historical trends
- create your own dirty affiliate sites without risking your main brand
Some affiliate software also tracks referrals, which enables you to learn the difference between what sorts of traffic streams and marketing sell and which do not.
Corporations have sued other corporations based on ad targeting. Even if the lawsuits are bogus they still eat up time and valuable resources. Affiliate control is useful for mitigating some such conflicts.
A few years back a well known SEO said that I was deplorable for bidding on a broad basket of keywords including their name. One of their affiliates was bidding on my name, amongst others. Once questioned about the hypocrisy, this person eventually admitted that they were too lazy to police their own affiliates, which showed their complaint had no validity. If their complaint had validity they would have better been able to claim it by hosting their own affiliate program and holding their own affiliates to the same expectations they try to hold others to.
Affiliate Software Options
- Some of the larger affiliate networks (like CJ) have a wide array of affiliates, but typically the best affiliates will hunt out the best affiliate programs wherever they are (instead of staying inside third party networks), so it might be just as easy to attract the best affiliates by ranking well for your keywords + affiliate program.
- Some of the smaller affiliate networks (like shareasale.com, as an example) have pitched me as a merchant for rates far below their published rates, but after seeing what happened with MyAffiliateProgram it does not make sense for me to pay a third party to place a roadblock between me and my affiliates.
- ClickBank does not cost much to set up, but I have found that I get an extraordinary return rate there when compared with Paypal. Paypal does not have affiliate features baked into it, but does work with many affiliate software programs.
- I use Idevaffiliate on Seo Book. Fully featured it costs $300.
- As ShoeMoney recently highlighted, BOTW has a custom affiliate program which even tracks direct links to any page on their site. Creating such a program would probably only cost about $1,000 at most. And that link for BOTW may have been an affiliate link, and Google has no way of knowing.
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