Are You Making These 7 Mistakes With Your Affiliate Program?

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Selling a digital information product has almost no cost outlay and negligible delivery costs. It’s a great business model.

But if you’re an infoproduct seller you’re probably straight up ripping your affiliates off. Probably not consciously, but you’re doing it anyway.

Over the past 10 years I’ve made the majority of my income (~80% of it) as an affiliate. This article is coming from experience. I realize that most people who sell infoproducts have never been affiliates and don’t understand it from that end so this article will hopefully open up some eyes.

What I’m advising here is a long term business building strategy. Stop thinking short term. If you just want to sell one product and fade away you can do what you want. If, on the other hand, you want to cultivate an army of successful affiliates who build your business then there is no question you need to follow this advice.

It’s Difficult To Gain A New Customer

We agree on that, yes? Getting a visitor to pull out their credit card and buy something from you is difficult. At least 90% (and more likely 99%) of your visitors will never do that.

So it’s this magic 1% that support what you do monetarily. You want to do everything you can to increase the number of 1-Percenters. You do that by getting more traffic to your site. And one way you get more traffic is by getting more affiliates who sell your stuff.

Your Affiliates Work Harder Than You

Your affiliates utilize their resources, their time, their money, and their effort to send you new customers. And you don’t pay them unless they’re successful.

It’s a perfect scheme for you. Free advertising, free customers, no downside.

To an affiliate, there’s a huge downside. They might spend hours or days working on a promotion for your product with no guarantee that they’ll even make a penny. And they very well may lose money if they’re utilizing paid traffic sources, a very common strategy amongst affiliates.

7 Mistakes You Might Be Making With Your Affiliate Program

1) You offer one-time 50% (or thereabouts) affiliate commissions.

2) You sell more than one product and sell each one through a different affiliate program. (Thereby stealing traffic from affiliates who send traffic to one product and don’t get paid when customers buy a different product.)

3) You sell more than one product and only offer 50% (or thereabouts) affiliate commissions with a short affiliate cookie. Lots of people will just buy one product and then if you blow them away will later buy another product. If your affiliates only get paid on the first product you’re scamming them. See also: #5.

4) You offer less than 60% commissions. Ideally you should offer 70-80% commissions. Everything you make is free money after all. Affiliates are sending you customers you would have never had. Pay them like you care.

5) You don’t offer lifetime commissions. If your one-time affiliate commission is 70-80% (or more) then this can slide. But if your up front affiliate commission is 50% (or thereabouts) then you’re running a racket. A lot of ready-made easy to use affiliate systems make it difficult to offer lifetime commissions. If that’s the case with your chosen system, increase the commission per sale to something respectable.

I was chatting with Henri from WakeUpCloud.com a couple of weeks back about this. The main affiliate program he promotes with his affiliate marketing efforts offers lifetime commissions. He puts in a hell of a lot of time into promoting it and it’s because he loves the product AND knows he’s being treated well.

6) You accept offline or other forms of payment, but don’t pay your affiliates for those sales. There is no other way to put it: this is stealing. Robbery. Theft. Throw yourself in jail.

7) You offer one-time 50% (or thereabouts) affiliate commissions. (It’s so important it’s on the list twice.)

The First Step To Recovery: Admit It

Admit your affiliate program is garbage. Once you do that you can fix it.

Sidebar: I will (and do) happily promote a friend’s product for no commission or whatever commission they offer. It’s not about the money to me. It’s about helping a friend. Making that clear for all my friends who sell products. It’s all love here. ;)

How To Fix Your Affiliate Program

1) Immediately increase the affiliate commission to at least 60% across the board to any affiliate who has made a sale. If an affiliate has sent you a few sales, give them an extra bump in commissions. If they’ve sent you a lot of sales, give them an extra extra bump.

2) If you don’t offer lifetime commissions, find out if your affiliate systems makes it easy to do that. If it’s not doable, see #1.

3) If you have a really low cost up front product consider offering 100% commissions. This is not unheard of and it’s actually very smart.

4) If you sell more than one product using different affiliate systems stop stealing from your affiliates and consolidate into one system.

Affiliate Programs Who Are Doing It Right

There are 2 listed here. I wish there were more. I hope this article will make that happen.

- DoubleYourDating.com’s affiliate program (through CJ.com) offers 200% affiliate commissions on their Double Your Dating eBook. The eBook costs $19.95 and the affiliate commission is $40! 100 sales gets you a $45 commission. And 200 sales gets you $50! And you wonder why Eben Pagan (aka David Deangelo, author of the eBook) reportedly runs a $20 million+ per year business? He treats his affiliates well. (That said, he doesn’t offer affiliate commissions on back end products. The high up-front commission is because he doesn’t offer commissions on the back end.)

- UnconventionalGuides.com – I also like what Chris Guillebeau is doing with his affiliate program. He offers just 51% commissions up front, but offers a 10% boost if you perform to the tune of $2,000/month. While affiliates should be paid even more if they’re kicking ass, in comparison to most affiliate programs it’s fantastic. In addition, every product he sells is commissionable. So if you send traffic to one product but the visitor buys something else you still get paid. Sweet!

The Ultimate Affiliate Program

This is what I would like to see in an affiliate program:

- 60% commissions starting with your first sale.

- 65% commissions once you reach the 10 sale/month threshold.

- 70% commissions and biweekly payments for 50 sales/month.

- 75% commissions and biweekly payments for 100 sales/month.

- 80% commissions and weekly payments for 200 sales/month.

- No falling back on tiers. If you hit 100 sales in your first month and 25 sales your second, your commissions will still be at 75% for that second month and beyond. Why? Because that’s just cool.

- Most important: A free affiliate training course that will guide you to your first sale even if you’ve never made a penny online.

Yes, that is how I’m structuring the affiliate program for How To Live Anywhere when I release Version 1.0. The free affiliate training is definitely something I could charge for, but that’s not my game plan. :)

A Perfect Affiliate Program?

There’s no such thing. This is not about being perfect. It’s about being cool with your affiliates and doing what you would want a merchant to do for you if you were an affiliate.

Your affiliates are probably your business’s life blood. Treat them well and I’ll meet you at the blood bank. ;)

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If you know of a quality affiliate program that treats their affiliates like rock stars please leave it in the comments or e-mail me (KarolGajda AT Gmail dot com) and I will add it to the list. Assuming you’ve got a kick ass product and a kick ass affiliate program I’m sure other Freedom Fighters would be happy to promote your stuff. :)

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Coming soon: an article about how I created my first iPhone / iPod Touch App. It’s currently in the review stage in the App Store and will be for sale shortly. I’ll give away a few free copies here when the time comes. It’s an App for bloggers so the requirement will be that you run a blog (a blog that you’re serious about and post to regularly) and own an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Photo Credit

{ 27 comments }

Jonny | thelifething.com

Not sure about 7 but I am definitely making one – I am not currently doing any.

Karol

That’s only a mistake if you have a product for sale and you want more people to know about it. :)

Everett Bogue

Wow, thanks Karol! This really made me think about my own affiliate programs.

Previously I thought I was being generous offering 50%, but I guess that’s not the case! Now I feel like I tyrant. :) I hope I’m committing any of your other aforementioned sins.

I agree, Chris Guillebeau’s affiliate program is very well constructed. I’ve recently begun selling for him, and I’ve been very surprised by his generosity. Also I’m amazed by the quality of the work he offers.

Thanks for making me think,
Everett

Karol

You’re welcome Everett! Something I didn’t include in the article and probably should have: a majority of people offer ~50%. Since when is being like everybody else special? :)

Damien Olenslager

Thanks Karol! As a total noob blogger working on my first paid ebook, this is just what I need to set my launch up right. From what I had read before, I thought 50% was great, so thanks for setting me straight!

I bookmarked this post and will use it as my blueprint.

Karol

You’re welcome Damien! And let me know when your eBook comes out.

Moon Hussain

Karol,

You have blown me away with this post. I’ve just began my affiliate journey (hence my blog) and I hope that I can soon offer a product with a kick ass affiliate program with this blueprint in mind.

You’re right–people are working hard FOR you, so why not?? I like the idea of increasing their commission rate once they hit a certain number. That’s plain awesome.

Karol

Hi Moon,

Thanks, I’m glad this article blew you away! :)

I stole the tiered affiliate commission idea from John Reese: http://www.income.com About 6-7 years ago I was an affiliate for a DVD of his. I eventually sold $20k worth of the DVD and he offered an awesome tiered affiliate program. It spurred me to work harder promoting the DVD because he obviously gave a damn about his affiliates.

Let me know when your product comes out!

Karol

Miguel

Can you speak a little to the difference between one-time commissions, and lifetime? Does this only come into play when there are multiple products?
My assumption is the difference is, with one-time you only get paid for the first sale per customer you send their way? So if there is only one product, that’s only going to happen once, right? (assuming it’s an info ebook and assuming they arent buying gifts for friends. Once they have it, they have it.)
So does lifetime only come into play when it’s something the buyer would buy more than once (a subscription type thing maybe), or multiple products, or buying gifts?
THANKS! Great info!

Karol

Hi Miguel,

Yeah, it’s mostly for membership sites or if you’re selling multiple products.

Example:

Affiliate sends Merchant a sale of Product A on Jan 1.
On March 1 (2 months later) Merchant sells Product B to the same customer, but affiliate no longer earns a commission.

That’s not cool.

That said, I know it’s hard to implement and I don’t even know that I will find a way to implement it. That’s why the high first sale commission is a good alternative. At least that way, even if the affiliate doesn’t ever get paid again, they got paid well to give you a paying customer.

Karol

William Cain

Thanks. Though I don’t have any affiliate programs of my own to worry with (yet…?), I always like to learn something new and/or useful!

Mike

We like to use Clickbank just because it’s so easy and ease of living makes us ridiculously extraordinary ;-)

Thinking out loud, have you ever used e-junkie?

Karol

I have not used e-junkie except as an affiliate. I like what I see though.

Henri Junttila

Awesome stuff, Karol! I just launched my first product today and while I don’t have an affiliate program yet, this was a good reminder to not go down the robbery route.

Even though I promote a kick-ass company, it’s easy to get greedy and forget about how YOU as an affiliate like to be treated when you’re creating your own products.

Long-term, not short-term!

Karol

Thanks Henri! You’re right, it is easy to forget when you’re on other side of the situation. :)

Mara

it’s my goal to be able to have an affiliate program and to be part of one. thank you for the new way of looking at this subject.

(and thanks for the vote for my vegan cinnamon bun business–that made my day!) :D

Karol

You’re welcome Mara. I hope you win!

Tammy Strobel

WOW Karol – this is a fantastic article. I’ll have to rethink my affiliate program. Like Everett, I offer a 50% commission on every book sale. Now I’m not sure what I should do. I want to keep things simple, but reward my affiliates for their hard work. I’m thinking of following Chris’s model. It is simple and easy. :)

Karol

Hi Tammy,

Thanks, I’m glad it got you thinking! :)

Karol

J.Scott

Hey Karol. This is a bit off topic, but do you use PPC, Adsense and the like?
I do not use affiliate programs at all, My online income is strictly PPC. I find that affiliate is quick money and never last more than a year or so for any program. Then you have to start all over on the next new program. I love the do it once and get paid forever concept, that way I can build on what is already making money. Have nothing against affiliate programs just think PPC fits me better.

Karol

Hi J,

I’m quite confused by your comment. :)

“My online income is strictly PPC.” – PPC (pay per click advertising for anybody reading who doesn’t know) is a way to spend money to (hopefully) make money. So you’re either using PPC to drive traffic to an affiliate site. Or you’re using PPC to sell something.

So are you using PPC traffic to sell something? If so, cool. But this article was for merchants who sell infoproducts and run an affiliate program. :)

Cheers!
Karol

J.Scott

Different side of the same coin. My online income is from Adsense not from spending money on Adwords. I publish content and place adsense ads on my sites.
My question is, do you use adsense or do you only promote affiliates.
Sorry for the confusion and changing the subject a little.

Karol

Ahh, gotcha. Yeah, I used to do a ton with Adsense. Now I use it a lot less. For small sites that you don’t want to put much time into it’s great. For larger sites there are (usually) better opportunities for monetization (affiliate promos, direct ad sales, etc).

Benny the Irish polyglot

Thanks for these tips Karol! Once I have my Language Hacking Guide out there in 2 months or so I’ll be relying heavily on affiliates while my site is still modest in size. These are great ideas for incentives!

Karol

Awesome Benny! I can’t wait for LHG. :)

sheryl

Karol,
Your guidance and your reader’s comments are a light and a map in the darkness. Truly extraordinary, Thank you!

Karol

Thank you Sheryl! That is great to hear! :)

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