Affiliate Marketing: The First 30 Days

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Affiliate marketing programs are all the rage today in Internet commerce, and rightfully so.


If implemented and managed properly, they can be wildly successful: Pure-play dot-com companies report as much as 20 percent of total company revenues generated through affiliate channels.


The results are drawing attention.


By placing links on complementary Web sites, companies are extending their reach, driving traffic to their own site and helping lead potential customers through the dizzying maze of Internet clutter.


Take Advantage of the Web


Embraced by fast-growing dot-coms and brick-and-mortar retailers alike, affiliate marketing programs take advantage of the very nature of the Web. Cutting-edge marketing technology allows companies to develop extensive, data-driven networks of affiliate sites that work together to capture the attention of your potential customers. While paying affiliates only for results generated from each affiliate link, companies are realizing lower customer acquisition costs.


You may have heard about how to manage an affiliate program: nurture and motivate quality affiliates, assign dedicated staff to ongoing management, constantly review and tweak your network.


Getting Your Program Operating


But what are the key criteria for getting your program up and running?


About one month ago, our firm began implementing an affiliate marketing program for PurchasingCenter.com, a start-up business-to-business online marketplace that sells and auctions maintenance, repair and operating supplies. The company targets companies with 100 to 1,000 employees and annual MRO spending from $1 million to $4 million.


PurchasingCenter's focus on driving traffic to its newly developed catalog of MRO supplies made evaluating affiliate marketing top-of-mind.


With BeFree Inc. providing the technology, and our firm implementing and managing the ongoing service, PurchasingCenter is ready to go live after only 30 days. Simple, right?


In theory, yes. In reality, never.


What is needed along the way? Nothing that's not too difficult to overcome.


We think the successful PurchasingCenter implementation resulted from three key events:


• The technology provider and the marketing consulting firm worked effectively together. BeFree's focus is on providing the technology infrastructure, and our firm optimizes the network. Both organizations were highly motivated to make this project a success, and there were no overlapping interests.


• PurchasingCenter's team was intimately involved in the implementation. The client - PurchasingCenter - didn't simply hire a consultant and assume the firm would make everything work in a vacuum. PurchasingCenter worked closely with our firm and BeFree and dedicated the necessary staff to support the project.


• The consulting team consisted of both strategy and technical experts. Affiliate marketing programs are not strictly technology-based solutions. Considerable analysis goes into determining whom to target as affiliates and how to attract them to your program. Then the affiliates need to be sold on your program's attractiveness. This requires a different skill set - a strategic consulting skill set - from the technology implementation component.


Affiliate marketing must be integrated into your entire plan and should be considered more than just an afterthought. First, decide whether to implement a solution using internal or external resources.


Either way, the next step is to ensure you have the right fit of skilled people working on your company's behalf.


Finally, you must make the commitment deserving of other sales and marketing channels.


Effective implementation and management require a broad range of business and technical expertise, and they are the key to impressive returns.


The PurchasingCenter affiliate program is soon to be up and running. Yours could be 30 days away.

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