Affiliate marketing has become extremely popular, and ClickBank offers a large and growing network of affiliates to tap into, but only a tiny percentage of them know how to make the most of their web traffic. Countless studies have demonstrated the huge benefits of proper pre-selling, but most affiliates do little more than display their merchant's banner ads.
Unfortunately, the cause of this problem lies with the merchants. Affiliate relationships are often treated as little more than risk-free advertising, with the affiliate providing the space and the merchant providing the ad to fill it. What is lacking in this approach is any attempt to leverage the affiliate's unique relationship with her niche community.
Even some of the largest online merchants, who spend huge sums setting up the infrastructure for their affiliate programs, do nothing to coach or motivate their affiliates. Nor do they provide any of the basic materials necessary to optimize the quality of referrals.
But, by treating affiliates as a valued marketing resource instead of a risk-free ad service, you can achieve astonishing results. This means investing effort in helping your affiliates.
The most fundamental way to prime your affiliates for effective pre-selling is by producing a support pack that leads them in the right direction and makes the process as simple and effortless as possible.
Of course, the pack should contain all the staple advertising tools, like banners, classified ads, headlines and a variety of short and long descriptions for search engines and classified listings. But it should also include content that your affiliates can use to extend the value of their websites or distribute in their newsletters.
This content should include templates for infomercials, product reviews and endorsements (ready for customization) as well as articles, interviews and case studies (to be reproduced verbatim).
A typical product review is a mix of facts and opinions. Although you may not wish to dictate the opinions of your affiliates, you can make it easy for them to write their own personalized reviews, by setting out all the most important facts in a brief article that they can customize with their own impressions. The most effective product reviews explain exactly how and why the author uses the product, with a big emphasis on benefits. Again, you can help out here, using template paragraphs that your affiliates can tailor to describe their own experiences. The more work you do for your affiliates, the easier you make it for them to present your product in the most favorable light.
This brings us to the important issue of product ownership. The best way for an affiliate to write a credible product review is from personal experience. In other words, she should own and use the product before offering an opinion on its suitability.
So, as a merchant, it should be among your priorities to encourage your affiliates to own the products they promote. One way to do this is to allow them to buy your products using their own affiliate link. Some merchants are wary of this approach, fearing that it leads to commission theft and encourages buyers to sign up as affiliates purely to obtain a discount.
The alternative is to restrict the membership of your affiliate program to existing customers, forcing them to buy your product if they want to participate in its promotion. A number of very successful ClickBank merchants adopt this policy, although it should be noted that it carries the risk of seriously diminishing your affiliate recruitment rate.
A final - somewhat drastic - step is to offer your product free to registered affiliates, thus encouraging them to become familiar with it and properly endorse it. Of course, you would need to employ this tactic discreetly, or you run the risk of being overrun by freebie seekers.
If the thought of giving your product away free is too intimidating, consider making the offer conditional on a tacit commitment by your affiliates to participate in your coaching program. In other words, you get the chance to interact directly with the affiliate, mentoring her in her quest to deliver high-quality targeted prospects to your sales page. This kind of one-to-one relationship with affiliates can be extremely time-consuming at the outset, but as each affiliate tunes in to the most effective pre-selling tactics, she becomes self-sufficient and low-maintenance. And little by little you build a marketing SWAT team that delivers immediate results whenever you launch a new product.
Copyright © Tim Coulter. All rights reserved.
Tim Coulter is a consultant and software developer who helps netpreneurs to harness marketing technologies.
He is also the author of "ClickBank - The Definitive Guide" The Ultimate ClickBank Tutorial & Reference Manual.
Written by: Tim Coulter