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Affiliate Marketing UK

Useful Information

Affiliate Marketing Basics

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Tracking Sales Online

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Additional resources

Case Study: Turning Dormant Web Presences into Active Affiliates

Like a lot of would-be Affiliate Program Managers, I assumed "if you build it, they will come". What I should have been thinking was "if you build it right, they will come".

Building it was easy - we're software developers after all. We had the technological smarts we needed from Day One - automated support for welcoming new affiliates, a reliable tracking system of our own, email management - but like many developers, we weren't so hot on the specialist marketing smarts that tend to make or break one's efforts.

Our company has been involved in marketing software products and services on the Web since 1995 and I was pretty confident we knew what we were doing, but affiliate programs were a new tack. Enter Neil and his Practical Guide….Priced at a level where I felt comfortable taking a punt (even with the terrible exchange rate); I figured I had nothing to lose. What I should have realised was that I had a lot to learn….

As a result, our rather desultory Affiliate Program page has blossomed into something which I feel meets best practice in the industry, though I acknowledge that the debate continues regarding the details. The technological underpinning of our offering is as robust as ever, but it's the vital areas of communications and support that have been really strengthened through two month's of solid reading across a large range of affiliate-related information sites, e-zines, articles and forums.

So then I turned to do our first comprehensive analysis of our place in the market. A little late, you might think, given that our product was first released in 1998 (!), but we'd been happy with our efforts to date. With good reason - it's a best of breed in its class, out-ranks the download competition at sites like ZDNet by a factor of 10 to 1, was selected by IBM to give to 50 of its top Gold clients. But we thought it could do more….

So after having worked my way through Neil's Guide and Ken Evoy's freebie Affiliate Masters course (do it if you haven't already), I started on the search engine and keyword analysis they recommend.

It's been very educational. I expected to come across competition, though the number of wanna-bes has certainly jumped since our first release. I looked at what they did and how they did it and with whom, and reassured myself that there are still only a few major players, and few with any kind of affiliate program.

I looked at the other sites which came up using our top search words, and identified some very strong leads for complementary relationships. These are outfits which are either already marketing a non-electronic form of our product, or marketing a shareware utility that could be usefully bundled or cross-promoted with our own. We can offer the former an easy way to gain income from a product line they don't have; the latter is likely to involve more negotiations as we talk with each individual or organisation to see how we can develop an equitable, useful relationship.

It's early days, but in both cases we've had strong interest from people already actively involved in either our product area or our community of business interests.

All this is fairly straightforward, and something many of you may have already undertaken. But I did come up with one new direction which I haven't seen suggested as a useful approach. It's something which works well in my business area, and may have applications in your own.

Try identifying the extinct or nearly extinct offerings comparable to your own. The Web's been round long enough that there are probably some who have fallen by the wayside, but who nonetheless live on in search engine listings and dormant Web sites. You can put that to good use for both parties.

In the shareware area, it's fairly easy to figure out which products are being supported and which are not (Version 1.1 labels and copyright notices of 2000 tend to be dead giveaways). Developers can lose steam after a while, particularly if they are sole operators, and many feel a residual guilt at leaving their users in the lurch. If you've got a product of comparable quality (preferably better!) and price, then you can give them a way to address that nagging sense of defeat!

I tried to make my approach as friendly and individualised as I could, following a thorough look at each site and product. Here's a non-personal example to give you the general idea (and it indicates some of the advantages I saw in making this effort):

Dear *Name*,

Are you planning on further upgrades to *product name*>?
It's been a while...

If so, all the best for your development.

If not, perhaps you would be willing to consider recommending a suitable alternative (and make 10-50% commission doing so).

Our TurboNote sticky note utility is a good product, well-supported both technically and in marketing/sales terms, and well-regarded by both users and the tech community. The freeware has been around since 1998 and the TurboNote+ shareware version since 2000, with a continuing strategic development plan in place.

You'd have good potential in teaming up with us. After all:

  • you're familiar with this sort of product and how it can make lives easier for people by saving them time, money and stress
  • you've already got users, and any contact information you have for them means it'll be easy to let them know of your new approach
  • your site comes up regularly when anyone searches on "sticky note", which gives you a great position you can take advantage of

You could play to your strengths by something as simple as recommending TurboNote+ in an email or ezine to your users, through to updating the current area of your Web site. We've got text, graphics and other helpful resources to make this as easy as possible, and can provide specially tagged links and downloads to accurately track your referrals and sales.

TurboNote+ is a good piece of software, and I am confident you wouldn't regret giving it your seal of approval. But you don't have to take my word for it -- check it out at http://TurboNote.com or try it out yourself.

If you're happy with what you see, you can start straight away by signing up to our no-risk Affiliate Program, or email me if you'd like to discuss things further. I'd be delighted to talk with you about how we can work together.

Best regards,
Vicki Hyde
Business Relationship Manager

OK, so it doesn't have the mandatory P.S. or the hard-sell buzz-phrases and techniques that make half the online marketing sites read as if they've been written by the same automated article generator…but I figure I'm better off speaking in my own community's language, addressing their concerns in a fashion I feel comfortable with.

It seems to be working too - within a week of sending out a dozen of these, I've had two join up to our Affiliate Program, am discussing where to go next with another two, and had one say that he's developed another utility and would like to bundle it with ours. These are people who have the advantages noted in the email message, so I am hoping that they will hit the ground running. Time will tell, but their first flush of enthusiasm is heartening.

And, last but not least, there were the two who responded a tad indignantly, but with good humour, that their products were sooo good and sooo stable, they hadn't needed to upgrade them in the past two years….If nothing else, it gave my development team a chuckle!

Vicki Hyde is the Business Relationship Manager for the TurboNote+ Affiliate Program, which is part of the New Zealand-based operations of SPIS Ltd. When she's not working hard on her strategic plan to have a TurboNote+ sticky note on every computer on the planet, Vicki's been known to hunt ghosts, write Shakespearian parodies and expound enthusiastically on the need for greater public understanding of science and technology.