Successful affiliate sites spend a lot of time and give up valuable screen real estate to promote a merchant's product or service. They want to know that all this time and effort is not wasted, so they're looking for affiliate programs that see them as true business partners.
Those merchants that see their affiliate program as just free advertising across the Net instead of building a true business relationship across a network will either attract poor affiliate partners or see their programs slip from favor. After investing both time and effort, affiliates expect a binding agreement with a merchant that doesn't give the merchant the ability to cancel the agreement and drop them on a whim. Affiliate programs are not short-term advertising campaigns. Good affiliate partners want to establish a long-term relationship with a merchant and benefit from all the advantages this relationship can bring.
Affiliate program commissions are not about how much, but how long. More and more affiliates are interested in getting paid for the lifetime value of their customer referrals. They also want to keep their visitors on their sites and not shepherd their hard-earned traffic off to a merchant's site. They want to own the customers that they generate for the merchant. They don't want to refer a life-long customer to a merchant and then get paid only for the first sale. Affiliates also look for residual programs that offer commissions, where customers sign up for a continuous service that requires periodic, regular payments in which the affiliate shares.
Affiliates want to know that the product or service offer they're promoting is not being offered on thousands of other sites. Would it make sense for Burger King to open five stores on one block? Of course not. The same goes for affiliates. Affiliates want to join programs that are somewhat exclusive and that have restrictions on the number of affiliates it will have at any one time.
Adequate communications with the merchant is also on the list of affiliate wants. They want merchants who will communicate with them frequently, telling them what's new with their programs and how to better increase sales. They want to have all their inquiries answered promptly and be treated like a true business partner. And speaking of increasing sales, affiliates want to be trained properly on how to sell the products or services of the merchant. They need to know in detail the features, benefits, and target marketuseful advice about maximizing their sales, and yours. It's in the interest of your business to help your affiliates succeed. And all this information should be available before they sign up for the program, not after.
Along the lines of communication, affiliates want to be part of a community where they can interact with other affiliates, gain support, and exchange ideas. Again, it's in the merchant's interest to foster support for their affiliates, yet many affiliate programs offer no community support. Community discussion boards offer an exchange of information between affiliates in addition to news and expert advice. Merchants should provide this kind of communication opportunity and encourage affiliates to help and support each other.
As a true business partner with access to the lifetime value of its customer, a merchant should provide the ability for an affiliate site to capture, build, and market to not only his or her current customers, but to prospects as well. Affiliates want a program that encourages repeat business. The merchant could build a prospect database by having the affiliate place sign-up links on his or her web site. The merchant would manage the database for the affiliate and market to it periodically with special offers through which the affiliate would gain additional revenue.
Finally, promoting a merchant's affiliate program sometimes requires an affiliate to divert traffic away from his or her site and towards the merchant's. If so, affiliates want to be properly compensated with a reasonable commission structure or referral fee to compensate for the lost traffic and the loss of future sales.