An affiliate scheme is a great way to increase your digital product sales without having to do a lot of extra marketing yourself. In effect, it is about getting other people to sell your products for you. What’s not to like about that? In this post, we show you what an affiliate scheme is, how the relationship works, and why an affiliate scheme can be an effective way to grow your digital goods business.
What is an affiliate scheme?
An affiliate scheme is a great way to boost your sales by recruiting a team of marketers to promote your product on your behalf. Affiliate schemes are used by sellers of all sizes to increase sales and reach customers they wouldn’t otherwise have found.
Even large companies like Amazon use affiliates to find new customers and boost sales
How an affiliate relationship works
You agree to pay affiliates a % of sales, so the more products they help you sell, the more money they earn. This relationship gives affiliates an incentive to be as effective as possible in marketing your product.
You can reward successful affiliates with a % boost in their commission rates if they achieve a certain sales goal. You can also offer different % rates for different products, depending on their value and marketability.
How do you find affiliates?
Although the big companies have recruiting pages on their sites that offer them a steady stream of talent, you’ll probably need to reach out to affiliates yourself, particularly if you haven’t anything on your site in terms of affiliate recruitment.
It’s better to find a few high-quality affiliates rather than lots of affiliates who will spam your product everywhere
Look for people in the same area as you who have a good following either through a website, email list or social media. For example, if you sell knitting and crochet patterns you are looking for people with authority in this field. If you look outside your area, your affiliate will struggle to find good prospects.
Choose an affiliate who is influential in your field
You’ll probably know some people already who would make good affiliates for your company, so approaching them is straightforward. It can be worth reaching out to other people who you don’t know, or only know by reputation, if they look like a good fit though.
It’s a good idea to check whether potential affiliates have done affiliate marketing before. If they have, they are more likely to be interested and to understand what’s involved. You should be able to tell by browsing someone’s website, newsletter or social media feed whether they are an affiliate marketer.
It’s better to find a few high-quality affiliates rather than lots of affiliates who will spam your product everywhere (this is why affiliate marketplaces should be approached with caution).
Will using affiliates make it harder to control your brand?
This shouldn’t be a problem if you take care to choose high-quality affiliates who broadly share your values (so, if you believe that slowly developing fruitful relationships with customers is more important than doing the hard sell, you should choose affiliates who support this approach).
Most e-commerce platforms with affiliate schemes (like SendOwl) also give you the choice of enabling affiliates to sell directly from their site (with a buy button actually on their site) or they simply funnel sales to your website. The latter means you retain more control over the sales process.
A screenshot of the SendOwl affiliate system – we make it super easy to get setup
Affiliates don’t have access to your sales or financial data, so there shouldn’t be any security issues in setting up an affiliate scheme.
How much do you offer affiliates?
Commission rates completely vary between 10-90%. Sometimes sellers offer 100% just to get the details of buyers. However, the average is about 30%.
You can offer to pay more to people if they reach a certain volume of sales.
What do you need to give affiliates to promote your product?
Your affiliates will do a much better job marketing your product if you provide them with some marketing assets: copy about the product, product images, any promotional videos, and so on.
For example, here are some of the images we let people use if they’re promoting SendOwl.
We also use these images to make our brand stand out from our competition
How do you track affiliate sales?
You really need a third party with an affiliate scheme, like
, to track your affiliates. These third parties will provide you with a special unique link for every affiliate. When a buyer clicks on this link it sets a cookie on their computer so when they buy a product, either immediately or in a few weeks time, then the e-commerce system will know which affiliate referred the order and allocate them the money.
Another reason to use a third party to track affiliate sales is that it puts your relationship with affiliates on a professional footing. If you use self-reporting then doubts and disagreements can easily creep in.
How do you pay affiliates?
At the end of every month, your e-commerce provider or affiliate tracking system will total up the money you owe to different affiliates. You’ll then need to make these payments via PayPal or another payment gateway.
Why should I give away so much money to affiliates?
Although it seems like you’re losing out by giving affiliates a decent % cut of every sale, you’re in fact getting a whole new bunch of sales you wouldn’t otherwise have got. So although margin on these sales is lower, you’re making sales you wouldn’t normally have made.
You need to treat affiliates like their franchisees. You’re running a business and they’re running a business…Remember, your success naturally follows the success of your affiliates. If you can remember that, you’re in good shape.
SendOwl seller Daniel Gold, founder of productivity website
, found that the setting up an affiliate network enabled him to create a passive income revenue stream as well as to quickly increase his market share. He shared some excellent points with us:
Why did you decide to set up an affiliate scheme?
Being able to have an affiliate scheme has enabled me to do three things: 1) leverage other people who are passionate about my products and services to their followers while at the same time earning a passive revenue stream for themselves; 2) increase my market share in the productivity space as a result of my affiliates; and 3) create a passive income revenue stream for me.
Has it worked out well for you?
Lucratively! Leveraging affiliates has absolutely allowed me to penetrate the market much faster than I could do myself.
What were the particular challenges of setting up an affiliate scheme?
The biggest challenge in setting up an affiliate scheme is attracting affiliates. Do you need to understand what’s in it for them? What incentives are you offering? What do you have by way of a product or service that will motivate them to want to evangelize your offering? Knowing what sets you apart and getting some early adopters to share their successes and spread the message to other potential affiliates is huge.
Were there any aspects of setting up an affiliate scheme that was easier than you expected?
Setting up the affiliate scheme with SendOwl was very easy to do. Add in the ability to have prompt customers service whenever I had a question, and it was that much easier for me. The website is fluid, and the setup was laid out in a simple, template-driven fashion.
What tips or advice would you give to other sellers who are considering setting up an affiliate scheme?
You need to treat affiliates like their franchisees. You’re running a business and they’re running a business. If you don’t have a well thought out strategy of how your franchisees (affiliates) are going to be successful, then it’ll fail. Remember, your success naturally follows the success of your affiliates. If you can remember that, you’re in good shape.
Advantages of the SendOwl affiliate scheme
- It’s bundled in with your e-commerce system so you don’t need two separate systems
- You can choose commission rates on a per product rate and give special rates to certain affiliates
- You can ban affiliates who abuse your trust
- All the reporting is automated – you just need to pay at the end of the month
- We’ll provide all the links, tracking, reporting and so on so you have a little work to do as possible
Setting up an affiliate scheme is a great way to boost your sales and reach more customers. Although it requires you to invest some time up front, because you need to find, contact and persuade suitable affiliates to work with you, the results can be considerable, particularly over the longer-term. You can find out more about
the SendOwl affiliate scheme
in our help article.
Find Out More
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