How Can SMEs Get the Best Results from Affiliate Marketing?

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will-haswellBy Will Haswell, Business Development Manager, Adzooma

Small business owners should consider the benefits of using a third party to help generate online leads, sales and traffic. Affiliate Marketing is attractive to SMEs for a number of reasons but its main benefit is the ability to lower the cost per acquisition.

For businesses with a small budget, it can be a very effective marketing strategy because it offers:

  • Control over the cost per acquisition, which results in little wastage – no fee is paid unless a result is achieved.
  • Greater search engine visibility, since affiliate marketers are often experts in SEO and PPC marketing.
  • A greater chance to increase awareness of your business, or attract a new target audience, in a different location, for instance.

Choosing your affiliate partner

Once you’ve established that Affiliate Marketing may be valuable to your business, the following tips will help you get the best out of it:

  • Do your research before deciding which affiliate you choose. Look at who they reach and how they market products. Also research who your competitors use.
  • The best way to get the most out of affiliates is to look at them as a partnerships. So don’t choose too many affiliates because you want to be able to manage and control your partnerships closely. The relationship should be two-way and good communication is vital.

Think carefully about how much commission you’re willing to pay. Work with your affiliate partner to come up with something that works for both of you. Remember the EPA (Earning Per Acquisition) is likely to reflect the effort they put into promoting your business. But at the end of the day, it must be profitable to your business too. If the commission is too high, look elsewhere.

Double check that only ethical techniques will be used to promote your business. Having your business advertised on inappropriate sites may cause harm to your brand’s reputation. Not to mention, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates.

Working on your affiliate program

When setting up an affiliate program, the cheapest way is to establish and run it yourself, by simply approaching suitable firms. This gives you control over who you work with but can prove time consuming.

You’ll also have to think about managing each affiliate account, keeping on top of individual agreements, updating promotions and ads, recruiting new affiliates when necessary and making sure no-one is misrepresenting you online.

Alternatively, you could use an agency to source suitable businesses for you and take care of administration. You could also use an ‘affiliate network’ as a type of broker. Because agencies and networks often specialise in specific sectors, it’s important to choose one with plenty of relevant experience and access to lots of potentially suitable affiliates.

Create content that your competition can’t compete with. One of the biggest advantages affiliates have over established brands is the ability to be agile and act quickly with content marketing.

Be ready for mobile because if you’re directing traffic to sites that aren’t mobile friendly, you’re probably losing a lot of potential commissions. Google has also started to send some rather blatant nudges to webmasters that their websites should be mobile friendly. In November, they launched a mobile-friendliness checker and began experimenting with displaying whether a page is mobile-friendly, or not, in search results.

At the end of the day, to get results, you need to thoroughly understand your online marketing. Don’t expect an affiliate or agency to offer all the answers; they’re simply a route to a bigger market. It’s essential to work out what you want to achieve beforehand, particularly if you use a third party, and remember that your business must be attractive to potential affiliates.

About the Author: Will Haswell is Business Development Manager for Adzooma. He strives to deliver a world class all-in-one digital marketing platform and to simplify the management and optimisation of digital campaigns in one central location.

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