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Site Affiliate Marketing

Since its introduction in 1996 by Amazon.com, affiliate marketing has grown and flourished, spawning a variety of new and innovative models, and works well as a marketing tool for individuals and for both small and large e-businesses.

Affiliate programs come in four types; your company can offer any or all of them to potential affiliate partners:

  • Banner links

  • Storefronts

  • Email

Combined, they represent the different ways in which Web sites can generate revenue from the program and merchants can acquire prospects and customers.

Banner Links

Web sites that join your banner links of programs agree to place a small banner or icon on their Web pages. The banner has the name of your company promoting whatever the merchant is selling. eToys (now part of KBkids) is a good example. A Web site might place a banner for eToys on their Web pages, promoting the fact that great toys can be purchased from eToys. There would be some promotional copy on the banner to get the Web site visitor to click it—perhaps a 10% discount for buying now. When the user clicks the banner, it sends him or her to the eToys site. If the shopper buys a toy, the affiliate site gets a commission.

Banners are not limited to products. Some financial institutions promote their various credit cards by using affiliate marketing. NextCard is a good example. Affiliate Web sites place a banner persuading visitors to apply for a NextCard Visa card at a very low interest rate. Clicking the banner sends the user to the NextCard site, where he or she fills out an application. If the user is approved for the credit card, the affiliate site gets a commission.

Other revenue models using banners don't depend on commissions. Instead of paying a commission on products or services sold, you can offer Web sites a "click-through" affiliate program. In this method, Web sites earn revenue every time a visitor clicks through to your Web site or performs a task such as filling out a survey form or entering a contest. No sales are made, but your company can build up an email list of prospects that you can market later on. Examples of pay-per-lead networks include WebSponsors and DirectLeads.

Storefronts

Though the banner links programs have been successful for online merchants over the years, this approach has its drawbacks for affiliates. When a Web site's visitor clicks an affiliate program's banner, the visitor leaves the affiliate site to complete the transaction. The affiliate site loses the traffic in exchange for the small chance that the visitor would actually complete a transaction at your online store. This is why pay-per-click programs are more popular for affiliate Web sites. If the Web site loses the traffic, at least they have the guarantee of being compensated for that loss.

But another affiliate marketing model has entered the picture, revitalizing the sales commission model. With the storefront model, visitors don't leave your affiliate partners' Web sites. In the storefront model, you actually create a complete online store that looks like it resides on your affiliate partner's site. Vstore is a good example of this affiliate marketing approach. At Vstore, an affiliate partner can open a store (embedded in the affiliate's site) that can sell products in a variety of categories.

Email

Web sites aren't the only places to conduct an affiliate marketing program. Barnes & Noble offered the first email affiliate program through an affiliate solutions company called Be Free.

With Barnes & Noble as its first client, in 1999 Be Free launched B-Intouch, an email marketing service designed to expand affiliate e-commerce capabilities to anyone with an email address. B-Intouch gives merchants an opportunity to commerce-enable Internet users who don't have their own Web sites. This means that anyone with an email address can participate in an affiliate program. With a service like B-Intouch, you can make anyone with an email address an e-marketer for your e-business.

How? By enabling them to earn money by selling products or services through a text link placed in the "signature" of their email messages. When a person signs up to become a Barnes & Noble affiliate, he or she places a small snippet of code in the signature of his or her email messages. This small piece of code calls a program from Be Free that automatically inserts a promotion for Barnes & Noble at the bottom of an email message.

Here's how the B-Intouch program could work for you. A person visits your company's Web site, which is part of the B-Intouch network. On your site, the visitor clicks a link and registers to become an electronic marketer for your e-business. Each time he or she sends an email, your message is then embedded into the bottom of the email, with a link to your Web site. If the recipient of the email clicks through to your Web site and buys a product or service, the sender of the email gets a commission.

Quick, simple, and easy. Your company gets the sale and the email sender gets a commission.

Of course, once your organization settles on the type(s) of affiliate model(s) you want to use, you have to decide on a compensation plan for your affiliates.

Affiliate marketing is one way to be there whenever a potential buyer is in the mood to shop.

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