If You Sell Other People's Products How Do You Pick the Right Merchants?
Picking the right merchant partners for your website is essential for a number of reasons:
• The quality of their products will impact your reputation. If you recommend a product and it turns out to be rubbish, those customers will never believe you again.
• Their customer support has to be excellent. If their customer support is rubbish, you will find people coming to you to get issues resolved. You really don’t need this kind of hassle.
So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
• Great Product or Service – If you wouldn’t use the product or service, don’t recommend it to your visitors! Remember, it’s your reputation that is at stake.
• Relevant to Your Content - The products have to be very relevant to your content. I think we have covered this in enough detail. If the products aren’t relevant, you won’t sell any!
• Affiliate Support – Make sure you can easily contact the merchant with questions, issues and support requests. If you can’t, don’t use them. You will need help to be successful.
• Sales Tracking - The merchant must have software in place to track your activity, attribute sales and ensure you get paid. You should be able to log onto a site at any time and instantly see how many sales you have made and how much money you have earned. There are a lot of merchants out there with poor systems who short-change affiliates.
• Payment Model – What do you get paid for? For generating a lead, getting an email name or a percentage of a sale? Make sure that the action is realistic and achievable.
• How Much do you Get Paid – NEVER choose a merchant just because they pay a high commission. Often, the worst products have the highest commission because it is the only way they can attract affiliates. Make sure the commission reflects the amount of effort you will be putting in.
• Frequency of Payment and Payment Minimums – check how often you will get paid or whether they pay you only when you have reached a minimum commission level.
• Free to Become an Affiliate – If the merchant wants to charge you for becoming an affiliate or wants you to buy their product up front, don’t work with them.
• How Long is Your Lead Tracked? – When a visitor goes from your site to that of the merchant, a small cookie is downloaded onto their computer. This allows the merchant to attribute the lead to you. Different merchants track their cookies for different lengths of time. For example, a merchant could say to you 'we will track any visitor from your site for 30 days. You will be paid for any sale during that time.' Check the length of time that the merchant tracks your cookie. It can as short as one hour or as long as lifetime.
• Required Exclusivity – some merchants ask for exclusivity, i.e., you can only promote their products and no one else's. There are different levels of exclusivity. Some say no other products, whilst others say no directly competitive products. Think very carefully before agreeing to any exclusive deals.
• Read the Terms and Conditions – I know it's boring! However, these merchants could become a very valuable and important part of your business. You need to know what rights you have and what rights the merchant has.
Take the selection of merchants seriously. They are you business partners and will play an important role in determining how successful your website will be.
Another Type of Affiliate Fee – The Finder's Fee or Referral
In the world before the internet, finder's fees were common. You could find leads and recommend them to a company in exchange for a commission. The leads could be phoned in, sent by fax or take the form of a physical meeting.
You can still use the internet to generate leads for a finder's fee.
Here is an example:
A website that covers visiting Cyprus has a section on finding property. The site gets prospects to fill out a questionnaire about what they are looking for. They then arrange to meet the potential buyers either in the UK or in Cyprus and they make personal introductions to the estate agents. If a sale is made, they get a 0.5% commission on the sale of the house.
On a £300,000/$500,000 house this is £15,000/$25,000, so it is worth the time and effort to develop the lead.
One Last Point Before Moving On – Expand your Content
I have continually stressed that you should make the merchants and their products very relevant to your content.
You must do this.
However, this should not stop you from creating content to broaden the products that you can promote … as long as they stay within your category.
Let me give you some examples.
• If your website is about alpine skiing, the obvious products to promote are skiing holidays, equipment, books, magazines, etc. However, as you know, a lot of skiers get injured, so you could create some pages about skiing injuries and promote back and knee consultants.
• If your site is about the opera, you may find out that your audience is also interested in Italy. You could create some content about opera in Italy and promote holidays and events in Italy.
Affiliate marketing is an excellent way for just about any content website to make money.
Start building your merchant list now.