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A Proven Marketing Strategy

Once a little-known and often misunderstood marketing device, affiliate programs have now gone mainstream and have become a popular addition to any organization's marketing strategy, whether the organization is commercial or not-for-profit. For proof, go to any web site; there's an excellent chance that you'll see a navigation link on the home page that reads "Join our Affiliate Program" or "Become a Partner" or something to that effect.

Affiliate marketing is primarily the domain of the marketing department, and the IT staff has little to do with it except for one very important job: designing an in-house tracking and reporting program.

Every affiliate program, no matter the size or type, needs the ability to track and report affiliate activity across the organization's affiliate network. Some organizations outsource this job to service agencies such as Be Free, LinkShare, or Commission Junction. These third-party solution providers offer the management systems, services, and software necessary for navigating the details of an affiliate program. They also serve as a channel for recruiting affiliates.

The main disadvantage with third-party solution providers is that they are costly; this is why many small to medium-size organizations that want an affiliate program turn to their IT departments to design the tracking and reporting system. For organizations that place this requirement on the IT staff, this article describes the basic elements needed to create an effective, usable tracking and reporting program.

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