When you want to start an affiliate program it can be difficult to know how to choose the right affiliate network. Before you can even begin to choose, you really need to understand the right questions to ask when evaluating them. It's an important choice to make and migrating to a new system isn't always seamless. Here are nine questions to make the decision easier.
1) Does the network have an exclusivity clause?
This is something you absolutely do not want. These clauses can reach far into the distance after your first contract is up, and can affect advertising and marketing campaigns that you want to run with other networks even then. Immediately it affects you because you cannot be part of more than one affiliate program. You shouldn't allow a network to stranglehold you in your marketing efforts.
2) What is the commission structure?
Does the affiliate network allow you to choose your own structure? Can you have more than one level of affiliate, or tiers? Is it customizable so that you can create your own structure from top to bottom for affiliates as a group or even individually?
3) What is your budget in terms of time, expertise and money?
When you think of your budget, don't just think about dollars – think about the time you may need to invest, and whether you have the expertise to set things or you'll need to hire an expert.
* Time – Do you have the time to focus on creating, running and managing your affiliate program yourself? When you test out the network, do you understand how it works?
* Expertise – Are you going to be able to set up the network yourself, load in products, code for your affiliates, and so forth? Does the network offer any type of support with this or will you need to find your own expert?
* Money – Consider all fees associated with the network, such as hosting fees, monthly fees, cost shares, and anything with a dollar sign. Add up the worst-case scenario with any network instead of the best case.
Put all your findings into a spreadsheet so that you can understand the value of each individual network at a glance, including the cost of the expert help if you need it.
4) Does the network have a good reputation among affiliates?
If you're not sure what affiliate network to use, ask affiliates. What network do they prefer and which network are they most likely to use when signing up to promote your products? If there are high rates of click fraud going on, or payment issues, you want to know up front and you'll find these answers from people who already use the system as affiliate marketers.
5) Does the network offer any support?
If you call someone, will they answer? If you are okay without having a lot of support, you may be able to use a less expensive system. If you require answers to your phone calls, as well as some handholding, you may need to seek information about more expensive options. It's all in perception; some people are fine using open source platforms that offer no support other than group support. Other people aren't.
6) Does the network offer analytics and reports?
It's a great idea to be able to look at a wide variety of reports and analytics so that you can see which of your affiliates are doing super well, which are not, as well as your overall performance, clicks, views and so forth.
7) Does the network host your digital products?
Many affiliate networks do not actually host your products, or they have size limitations. Be sure to check on these factors. You may need to invest in another server to host your items and understand how to set that up so your customers can download your products.
8) Can you communicate with your affiliates easily?
Being able to communicate with your affiliates is an important because the more you can talk to them via email, webinars, and so forth, the more you will be able to offer them the tools they need to promote your products. Also, the more you can encourage them to sell, host contests and so forth.
9) Does the network use your list addresses to contact them?
Believe it or not – some affiliate networks will, if you're not careful, contact anyone you sell a product to, or who signs up for your email lists, or who signs up as an affiliate with their own marketing. If you don't want them to do this, read the fine print.
It's clear that you have a lot to think about when choosing the right affiliate network. But if you have clear idea from the start about what features you need in the network, you'll be able to make better choices.