Distinguishing Characteristics of the Best Affiliate Programs

There may be literally hundreds of affiliate programs ongoing in the Internet at present, but only a handful of those may qualify as the best and the pick of the crop. It would be in your interest as well to join the best affiliate programs because there are greater chances for you to earn big money from a select few but highly recommended affiliate programs than joining numerous affiliate programs that offer little or absolutely no support to its affiliates.

Distinguishing Characteristics of the Best Affiliates Programs

Expect the best affiliate programs to have the following characteristics. If the affiliate program you’ve got your eye on offers everything on this list as well then don’t waste your time: join it right away!

The Best Affiliate Programs are Picky.

They don’t waste time with useless affiliate websites. They only choose to accept affiliate websites they are convinced of having the potential to grow with them. And realistically speaking, you’ll benefit more from a selective affiliate program because at the end of the day, other affiliates of the online merchant are your competitors as well. But of course, if there are only a few of you in number, you get the luxury of thinking them as comrades.

The Best Affiliate Programs are Selling Something Unique.

It could be a product or service, but the keyword here is unique. The affiliate merchant is selling something that few – or if you’re lucky no one else – is selling and that’s to your advantage because once again, you’ve got the market all to yourself. This however is probably the hardest qualification of all so if the affiliate program you’ve got your eye on has everything but this – it’s okay. Best doesn’t mean perfect, after all.

The Best Affiliate Programs have Room and Plans for Growth.

The rate of money you’re earning from an affiliate program may become stagnant or unchanging if the affiliate company is uninterested of or unable to grow its business. This is obviously bad news for them but it’s bad news for you as well: when you’ve sold everything there is to sell to your existing customers, what next? Working with such an affiliate program simply puts to waste all the years you’ve worked hard. If you wish for an affiliate program to be a permanent source of income for you, make sure that the company you’ll be working with has definite long-term plans.

The Best Affiliate Programs Offer Competitive Rates.

Naturally! Why work for an affiliate program that offers substandard rates when you have the opportunity to work for something better? Always look for the best rates. Take your time to browse the Internet. It’s better to have a small group of affiliate programs that offer competitive rates than a large number of programs which offer lower fees. Why work more when you don’t have to? Why work for less when you don’t have to?

The Best Affiliate Programs Don’t Compete with their Affiliates.

Again, this may seem like a given, but there are still a number of affiliate programs who insist on cheating on their affiliates and there are still a number of affiliates who let themselves be cheated on. Affiliate programs work better when members and the parent company work together and not against each other.

The Best Affiliate Programs are bound by the Law and Ethics.

They don’t hesitate to show you the full contract upon request. The terms and conditions are clearly and fully explained and you’re welcome to inquire as often as you need about working with them. They treat you in an ethical manner. They don’t cheat you out of your money. They’re even willing to negotiate because they understand it’s your right to do so.

The Best Affiliate Programs have Reliable and Accurate Tracking Systems.

That way you’d be able to get a hold of your sales or lead records any time you want to. Don’t feel shy to ask what tracking system software they’re using. Having a reliable and accurate tracking system would ensure that you’re being paid the correct amount of commission every month.

The Best Affiliate Programs Always Offer Marketing Support.

Last but not the least, the best affiliate programs understand that the success of affiliates are their success as well so make sure they provide as much resources and support they can afford to their affiliates.

Web Marketing Channels Work As A Team, Not Individuals

If you read the excellent Hubspot blog, you readily come across the statement that “email marketing converts higher than any other form of web marketing.” One of the reasons I believe this to be true, is down to the fact that an email is very much like a one on one conversation, we’re focused on it’s contents. This is in contrast to social media, or generic web pages where there are all kinds of distractions to take us away from a specific message. Now this doesn’t mean that we should focus all of our assets and attention on email marketing exclusively. I never really see web channels as been better or worse than each other, instead I find it’s more a case of looking at where they fit in to the overall goal of discovering and converting new people to your tribe. How do your web marketing channels play as part of your web marketing team?

If we see an email in our inbox from someone whom we trust, or want to connect with, we read it with a more focused intention then we would do a quick, fun post on someone’s Facebook page. Email and social media are very different kinds of web marketing channel. As briefly discussed above, email is more like a one-on-one conversation. Provided we feel a certain trust with the person who originally sent the email, we are happy to give its contents the same kind of attention as if they were speaking to us via the phone.

On the other hand, social media pages are bit like being in a bar – often a very crowded bar! We don’t have a lot of airspace to say too much or to be too sophisticated. If it wasn’t enough to have many others messaging around us, social media also often limits the number of characters we can actually type. To entice people to listen to us on social media, we have to deliver a message quickly and with lots of strong energy. We can use images, or video, to capture people’s eyes, but whether we use words or more, our overall aim should be to entice them enough to click through and join us somewhere less crowded, i.e. our own web pages.

Even when people are on our own web pages we still can’t quite get all deep and meaningful with them like we can on email! Right now, we need to impress them. We have their attention, now we need to fuel it further. What better way than giving them something really useful, interesting and above all, free? In other words, we are treating them – because we want to get to know them better. This also sounds very much like we’re bringing in another web marketing channel commonly known as content marketing too.If our treat is enticing enough, we should get our visitors email address and permission to contact them again soon. It’s from here that we can really start to bring email marketing to the fore, we’ve moved from the noisy web marketing channel of social media, through the enticing temptations of content marketing to the more personal and thoughtful channel of email.

How long should we leave before we contact our new connections? We probably need to give them enough time to digests whatever it is we gave them as our treat. Things move quickly in the online world, the noisy bars of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have lots of beautiful and enticing messages to click on instead. So, a good guide is to leave your people alone for a couple of days and then email. We’re within our email channel now and we can be more thoughtful and insightful, provided we don’t become boring. Ask how they got on with our treat? Do they have any questions? Then cover off a common question that we are often asked that we want to share the answer to with them. Include information on who we are and what we believe in, what makes us different to everybody else they can find out there within our world. Always invite responses, questions and feedback – after all, you’re getting to know your new connection a lot better now. Managed well, by combining the different merits of social media and email marketing together within one overall web marketing strategy, you’ll start to turn complete strangers into leads who open your emails and seek to do business with you, when their need arises.

For the purpose of this article, we have focused on social media and email marketing as two web marketing channels working together, albeit with a little help from content marketing too. Instead of being viewed as individual lead generation channels, they actually all need each other in order to entice and develop new relationships online. On its own, email marketing will struggle to entice the connections that social media can bring, whilst social media will struggle to convey the deeper conversations that email can. Both of them would achieve little without the content “treat” on offer. Your web marketing channels are a team, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that in turn, help them play an important part within your overall web marketing goals. It’s really less about what working and what isn’t, and more about how everything is working together and how that can be maximised that leads to successful web marketing overall.

Business Web Marketing 101: From Concept to Web Presence Creation

Whether you have an existing business or you are planning to start a new business, the business of web marketing should be high on your list of priorities. The Internet as we know it is vast, ubiquitous and, thanks to mobile computing, it’s in everyone’s pockets. If your business isn’t marketing its services on the web, you are likely losing out on serious revenue. The time to market your business online is now. The following is a short checklist that will help you get your business Internet marketing presence up and running quickly.

Market Research

Without the proper market research, even the most well-thought out business web marketing strategy will likely fail. A business must know its audience through and through and, furthermore, there must be a demand for the brand or the products and services that brand promotes. In the past, the business of marketing was much more difficult. To conduct the proper search, you would have to hire focus groups and design polls in order to put a finger on the pulse of your future prospects. Today, we have social media which makes the entire business of web marketing much easier.

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and popular online forums are great ways to get into the minds and aspirations of your prospects and customers. The business of web marketing requires you to get to know the men and women you will be marketing to. What better way to get to know your prospects and customers than by monitoring their conversations or even engaging them directly?

Thanks to the tools most people use to keep in contact with friends, family and (good for us) their favorite businesses, products and services, we now have a window into the lives of the very people we will be marketing to. What a time to be alive as a business-to-business or business-to-consumer Internet marketer.

Other Research

To effectively market a web presence online, you must conduct the proper keyword research. Knowing which keywords to use in your marketing materials will help you rank higher in the search engines thanks to search engine optimization (SEO). The proper keywords will also be used in future PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, which are essential for maximizing your business web marketing efforts.

Google AdWords is one of the most widely used PPC platforms and there is a built in keyword research tool that is free to use. Business web marketing experts from all over the world use this tool to find those keywords that are highly searched for, but that offer the least amount of competition. By competition, we are referring to websites and other online materials that may be using those same keywords in an attempt to garner attention from the search engines through SEO.

Competitor Research

Notice how we haven’t even begun to discuss a website or even graphics, which is typically where the beginner wants to begin. Right now we are merely discussing concepts, ideas and the concepts and ideas that your customers will go gaga for. This requires extensive research, both market and keyword, but it also requires you to research your direct competitors.

When you find the keywords that you plan to use in your business web marketing campaigns, start looking those keyword terms up using Google or similar search engine. Start researching the first few listings that each term yields. These are the websites and pages created by your direct competition. It is recommended that you take what works from these sites and make them better. Now you are ready to market your small business with a website and other materials.

Web Design and Development

Many people think that the business of marketing relies mostly on sight. It’s the images that count, a business-to-business Internet marketing beginner might say. That online marketer might have a point to a degree. The design of your site does matter, as do the colors. Certain colors have been known to elicit certain responses in people and if your website looks like trash, most people aren’t going to bother to stick around.

That being said, your business web marketing presence does not need to be flashy or laden with the best videogame-like graphics. Your website should be simple, pleasing to the eye and the entire presence should mesh together into one cohesive element.

If you are not artistic or if you don’t know PHP from HTML, it’s recommended that you hire someone to do this part for you. While there are many do-it-yourself open source web design platforms online, if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s usually going to show. Don’t skimp on the design. Let the experts do it for you and wow your audience with a design that flows with your overall message.

Content

A business web marketing site should be filled with content that is useful, well-produced and to-the-point. Nobody wants to read a website filled with a lot of fluff, nor does anyone want to read one that is filled with grammar and spelling mistakes. Keep your information short and sweet, go for shorter paragraphs as opposed to longer ones and always have a call-to-action.

State Your Goals

In the business of marketing online, you should always write down and memorize your goals beforehand. With so much information out there and so many techniques to choose from, it’s easy to get sidetracked. When you know where you’re going, you’ll be more likely to get there.

The goal of your website may be to garner more leads, sell a product or service or it may be a squeeze page designed to capture valuable information from your online visitors. Whatever the case, your business web marketing presence should always have a clear call-to-action so that your audience and web visitors always know what to do.

7 Ways a Marketing Strategy Will Grow Your Business

“What is the best money I can spend in marketing to grow my business?” Without a doubt, this is the question I’m most frequently asked by small business owners. It may seem like a question that is promptly followed by an “it depends” type of answer, however, it’s actually quite easy to pinpoint one tool that is relatively inexpensive, delivers a high ROI and, sadly, is not commonly found in a small businesses’ toolbox. It’s a marketing strategy.

Why is a marketing strategy the most powerful tool for growing business? The straight-forward answer is that a solid marketing strategy will address current challenges and map out paths by which a business can grow in the future. It will audit a business’s brand and message, but isn’t limited to branding alone. Rather, a marketing strategy is a combination of big picture and detail analysis that incorporates a wide range of marketing channels tailored for that business’s industry, market, and budget. The majority of marketing strategies I write for small businesses include a high number of items that can be performed for free by current in-house staff, resulting in a plan that won’t lead to a fortune spent. In fact, a good marketing strategy is an investment in saving money because it targets a business’s efforts and helps avoid waste.

At this point I need to qualify my earlier statement; the best money spent in marketing is a smart marketing strategy written by an experienced marketer on behalf of a specific business, not something sketched out by a rep at a service shop (think printer or web firm) or from a generic, ‘small business strategy’ check list. For a marketing strategy to be truly effective, it needs to be a customized effort involving research, analysis and a careful matching of opportunities with the business’s resources and budget. This can never be a quick or off the shelf effort – a smart marketing strategy takes some time to develop properly. My own typically take less than a month and are generally under $2,000.

It’s important to keep in mind that while a smart marketing strategy won’t force a business beyond its means, it will present a mix of opportunities that meet immediate goals and show paths for growth. A marketing strategy’s advantage is that it paints a picture of a business, highlights who that business is targeting, focuses its marketing budget, and develops a schedule for reaching out to buyers. It accomplishes this in 7 key ways:

1. Develops Brand & Message

A brand is simply a business’s public look and message. Businesses all have the beginning of a brand – an official name – and some have taken steps to identify a logo, tagline, and possibly a general color scheme or style guide. In small businesses, these are often a reflection of the owner’s personal taste rather than an evaluation of the market and targeted buyers (years ago I had a client who chose her corporation’s color scheme from her kitchen wall’s paint chip). They may be a result of a family brainstorming effort or an owner’s flash of inspiration. Sometimes they are geographically influenced or an attempt at gimmickry. The point is that while it’s rare to find a small business that developed its name, logo, and message as the result of true market research, it’s a universal rule that, for good or bad, small businesses will refer to these items as their business’s brand.

And this is where a marketing strategy steps in. A smart marketing strategy will thoroughly evaluate a business’s brand through experienced and unbiased eyes. The marketer is not (hopefully) a member of the family and most likely hasn’t seen the kitchen’s walls. Instead, an experienced marketer will audit the brand as both a buyer and a marketer, and evaluate its ability to quickly convey the business’s story, whether or not it targets the appropriate buyer, and if it is unique enough within the marketplace to set the business apart from the competition. The marketing strategy will highlight any brand challenges, inconsistencies, or weaknesses before suggesting modifications and improvements.

Unfortunately, ‘brand’ seems to be a point at which many small businesses abandon their strategic efforts. A business’s brand is essential and well worth a hefty effort, but ‘branding’ isn’t enough of an action item to grow a business and isn’t where a smart strategy ends…

2. Audits Current Program

Which segues nicely into the next stage of a strategy: auditing the current marketing program. This stage goes beyond branding to review all of the business’s marketing efforts and is an essential component to any smart strategy. It’s at this stage that wasted money or effort is discovered, missed opportunities highlighted, or where I find that a client had started down a positive path in the past but either abandoned it too early or was off in its message. Has the business’s marketing program been well thought out or has it been a shotgun approach through a series of one-off efforts spread over time? This is where we find out.
My audits look for strengths as well as holes and weaknesses in a business’s marketing program by dissecting the marketing channel mix, promotional locations (both online and traditional), frequency, and more, then matching the entire program to the targeted buyer profile. I spend quite a bit of time looking through the business’s marketing tools such as its web site, brochures, newsletters, and social media and evaluate the business’s staff resources, factoring any strengths into the final evaluation.

3. Profiles Buyers & Marketplace

It may be hard to fathom but there are small businesses that face each year without knowing much about their own marketplace and the very buyers upon which their livelihoods depend. As a marketer, it baffles me how any business can hang its shingle without taking the time to first evaluate who it will sell to and from whom it will grab market share. Questions such as, “how many buyers are out there?”, “how do they like to be reached?” and, “who am I competing against?” are all fundamental to business success because it’s only through this knowledge that a company can adapt and grow. The only way to create this profile is through research!

I start by pulling information directly from my clients through a combination of interviews and surveys filled with carefully crafted questions. I’ll ask then re-ask until I’ve developed a complete profile from my client’s perspective. My work then turns to generating a buyer profile from a marketing perspective that stems from my client’s high level buyer description. I’ll dig and research until my profile is complete, then compare my profile with that of my client’s. Hopefully we’re in synch, but if not, I’ll point out where we differ and evaluate where my client can hone his or her efforts.

At this point I’ll also want to look at the marketplace from my buyer profile’s point of view, and will “shop” the competition. I’ll look at the business’s geographic reach and investigate both demographic data and local economic growth plans. All of this data will play into the final evaluation of whether my client should continue in its current market or branch out into an area that’s buyer-rich.

4. Evaluates Competition

“Who is my competition and how do we differ?” That’s a question every business owner should be able to answer at any given time! Business owners should be aware of who is snagging market share from them and how each competitor compares in services, quality, customer service, messaging, and overall marketing efforts. It’s wonderful to be the best service provider available, but that won’t mean anything if the competition is signing more buyers!

For this stage of a marketing strategy, I like to shop the competition from a buyer’s perspective before comparing my findings to my own “client shop”. Since I’m an outside consultant, it’s fairly easy for me to assume an unbiased buyer’s approach to most shopping efforts, be it B to B or B to C, and I look for easy shopping situations, who could satisfy my buyer needs, would entice me to make a purchase or conversely would turn me off as a buyer. I use these results to suggest ways my client could improve his or own business’s message and to…

5. Determine Marketing Mix

This stage of a marketing strategy is a game of, ‘find the buyers’. After all, what is marketing if it isn’t an effort to communicate with buyers and lure them to a business? To me, this is the truly strategic stage of a strategy, but one that could not exist without all the previous steps. It is at this point that the strategy should answer questions such as, “should a business adopt the latest trends or stick to more traditional methods?” or, “what will provide the biggest bang for a limited budget?”

It’s also the stage where experience really pays off as there are many, many ways to spend money in marketing and only so many options that will reach the right buyers. I enjoy this stage the most and spend time looking under rocks to discover new options and find cost effective solutions. No two strategies should be ever be the same at this stage, making this the most custom portion of the entire process. A good strategy will look beyond paid search and Facebook ads and find new ways to present the business – within budget.

This is also the most flexible portion of a smart marketing strategy. I like to include a variety of options that range from ‘incorporate immediately’ to more longer term efforts that make sense once the business has grown or has put other marketing tools in place. A good mix will pull in multiple marketing channels and allow a business to reach buyers on many levels.

6. Finds Internal & Low Cost Options

Many businesses have low cost and free marketing options already at their disposal and may not realize it. A good marketing strategy reviews a business’s internal options, evaluates the business as a whole, and discover resources that can be used in the marketing plan. I like to empower my clients and give them the chance to save their budget for bigger ticket items down the road.

7. Designs 1 – 5 Years Marketing Plan

I wrap up every marketing strategy with a 1 year, month by month, marketing plan. This marketing plan lists carefully selected marketing efforts determined in the strategy and provide a schedule for when they should be launched and evaluated. For smaller businesses, I try to stick to the low cost options that can be maintained internally with optional efforts that may cost more money or should happen after an early goal has been achieved. More expensive or involved opportunities are generally reserved for a 2-5 year plan and are contingent upon achieving goals.

By incorporating the above 7 stages into a thoroughly researched and carefully crafted strategy, a small business will have a map by which it can achieve its goals and grow its business. It’s money well spent and something a business really shouldn’t exist without!