This is such a big, broad area, I could go on
for weeks about the things you need to know.
And no doubt, your eyes would glaze over.
So, let's just hit the high points, OK?
1) Selecting affiliate software to use.
Generally, you need to have a shopping cart on your site
that will integrate into your affiliate software.
So, before you select an affiliate program, make sure
your shopping cart software will feed into it -
OR select a compatible shopping cart once you've chosen
your affiliate software. That may be wiser.
There are four ways to go in selecting affilate software:
a) Buy the software outright and host it on your site.
Costs can run from free to thousands of dollars.
Two of the least expensive option, which both come with
excellent support, often from the owner/designer, are:
mTracker is free
Ultimate Affiliate costs $200 - and is very popular.
It lets you establish different payout percentages
for each affiliate. And it includes multi-tier tracking.
In other words, your affiliates can recruit others and get
and over-ride on their recruits' sales. Kind of like a
sales manager or a multi-level marketing arrangement.
b) Lease the software, hosted on someone else's site.
Here are two examples of reputable, established companies
(both allow mutli-tier reporting):
ClickBank isn't just affiliate software, it's also a service
that accepts payments via credit cards. So, it eliminates the
need for you to carry the cost of a merchant account with your bank.
For detailed information on how to use ClickBank to your
best advantage, read Supertips' Harvey Segal's free guide
The Complete Guide to ClickBank
Kowabunga's MYAP (My Affiliate Program) is excellent and well supported.
Prices depend on the services you need. In fact, they will provide an
affiliate management team if you need someone to run your program.
And they will also help you attract affiliates.
1AutomationWiz costs range from $29/mo - $79/mo
and include a shopping cart and autoresponders
(an automated messaging system to follow up with your customers).
Their system offers an interesting software sales tool, if you're
selling e-books, audios or other downloadable media. Your customer
gets a randomized download URL that's only good for about 48 hours.
This makes it harder to share with their friends.
c) Join an entire affiliate network that will help you
attract affiliates, as well as track their activities.
None of these allow for multi-tier reporting. But they
will pay your affiliates a modest commission for
recruiting new affiliates to their own programs.
The three top (and oldest) affiliate service providers in the field
are listed. They all charge in the neighborhood of $5,000 or more
per year. You can arrange for them to issue monthly checks to your
affiliates - which can save you a lot of time if you have several
hundred affiliates, each earning $25.00 or so. All of these services
charge you a base fee and a percentage of the sales generated by
Commission Junction - for your affiliates, getting affiliate
URLs and banners is the easiest using their system.
BeFast - it is now owned by Commission Junction.
As an affiliate, it's easier to find your merchant relationships.
As an advertiser, the set up seems clunkier than CJ.
Unless things have changed, pricing is higher than CJ,
and merchants issue their own checks to affiliates.
Linkshare.com - the oldest solution. They've improved their
system, both for affiliates to find links and for merchants
to use it. LS lets you set up a virtual shop for your affiliates
to paste into their websites. Pricing is similar to BeFast, starting
at over $5,000 per year.
d) Have someone write a custom application for you.
VERY EXPENSIVE. And add in time to de-bug it and get it work properly.
Why re-create the wheel when there are so many good solutions available.
2) Ease of use of your system by your affiliates.
Remember, if your sales force can't use the system,
you're going to spend excessive time on support, needlessly.
Things to consider:
a) The shorter the affiliate URL, the more apt your affiliates
are to use it in their newsletters and e-mails.
b) Can they link to specific products? Or just to the site?
c) Can you control how long their affiliate cookie gives them
credit. i.e. if they send a customer to your site, but the customer
doesn't buy until 3 months later - will they still get credit for the
sale? This is very important to savvy affiliates.
d) How easy is it for your affiliates to get into the back end
where they can see their own statistics and progress? This is
very important to those who will be actively marketing your site.
3) Your integrity - and your consistency.
Set commission rates and payment policies and follow them.
Pay commissions when due, even if you have to borrow the money to cover them.
Be responsive when your affiliates ask for specific banners, text or tools
to help them sell your product.
4) It really helps if you have a designer on staff, even if freelance,
who can create a series of banners and graphics upon request. You should
create a few standard banners to start with in sizes like
In fact, it wouldn't hurt if you joined Commission Junction as a
publisher and looked at the banners other merchants use. CJ's system
indicates which banners are the best-converting (generate the most sales).
Find merchants with a business similar to yours and study what works for them.
5) Speaking of research - do research. Visit the following sites and
subscribe to their newsletters (all are free):
Alan Gardyne's AssociatePrograms.com - be sure to read his free
tutorial - Your 18 steps to success with affiliate programs.
And once you've set up your program, immediately list it in his database.
All the SuperAffiliates (those who earn 6 figures annually)
know about this site.
Subscribe to Shawn Collins' AffiliateTip.com blog. He is one of the best-known
affiliate managers in the industry and conducts one of the most popular annual
general affiliate trade shows. (There are trade shows for targeted industries,
like gambling, etc. too)
Join Ken Evoy's affiliate program and read his materials.
Ken manages his own program and understands how to build a focused,
devoted, affiliate network. He is one of the grand-daddy's of the
industry. Brilliant - and prolific.
Download his free Affiliate Masters Course - READ IT.
Listen to Declan Dunn's Winning the Affiliate Game audio.
Declan is also one of the fathers of the concept of
affiliate marketing online.
His book was one of the original texts on how to run an affiliate program.
And go to one of the summits or meetings.
You'll find links to them on the sites of the folks just mentioned.
6) Outside affiliate managers?
If you're looking for an outside team, there are only
four places I would look, if it were me:
Linda Woods' team at
This should give you enough information to get started
understanding the industry and making decisions.
Yes, you can find many, many more options. Many more.
And many of the people and resources are excellent.
But these people and these resources are the best known in
the industry. And they, and their publications, can point
you to any of the other resources and tools and you'll need.