Creating an affiliate network is no small task, and understanding the pitfalls is important before beginning. You will want to do serious research to make sure the affiliate path is the right choice for your business. You may want to experiment with a smaller affiliate network before opening it up to the general public. Like most things, maximizing the gains from your affiliate network is a complex task with no clear magic solution. That said, there are a few steps you can take to improve the chances that the affiliate network you build will bring you the success you want.
Determine That Your Business is Scalable Enough
One of the major mistakes people make in building a network of affiliates is pursuing it before they have ensured that their business can handle expansion. If you are lucky enough to have a massively successful network, the last thing you want is for the entire business to come crashing down because you can’t sustain rapid growth. Determine how much growth you can handle over a specific period of time by looking at your production costs and turnaround times, the amount of staff you have on hand, and other factors that can limit growth. If you begin an network and have a large number of affiliates join, you could see a massive spike in sales. You absolutely do not want to have your debut into a larger market marred by poor customer support, long wait times, and botched orders. If you think there may be a problem in handling an affiliate network that grows too quickly, consider throttling down your network plans so that you take on only a certain number of affiliates at a time. As your affiliate network grows, you can see how your overall business grows and scale up slowly to meet the accompanying needs.
Have a Customer Service Solution in Place
Even if your business does not normally include some type of customer service, running an affiliate network is, in and of itself, a customer service-oriented model. The affiliates that make up your network are not only your employees and partners, they are also your customers. The world of affiliate networks is highly portable. If you show yourself to be less than satisfactory, your affiliates may leave and give you a bad reputation. If you are planning on keeping your affiliate network small to begin with, you may want to handle the customer support yourself. In this case, just make sure you have an easy way for your affiliates to contact you. Once you get larger, you may want to hire a customer service representative or department or more likely outsource a third-party provider versed in dealing with affiliate networks.
Consider Providing Non-Monetary Incentives or Some Other Differentiating Factor
One of the keys to a truly successful affiliate network, especially in the early stages before you’ve proven yourself, is being able to distinguish your business from the countless other networks out there. Consider introducing some sort of incentive program, in addition to sales commissions, as a way of making your affiliate network stand out in people’s minds. Look at fostering a sense of community within your affiliate network, introducing humor as a sales tactic, or using another strategy that will somehow distinguish your affiliate network from the many others that, to many clients, will appear much the same. What exactly you do is less important than the fact that you do something. Best of all, you don’t need to add anything of high monetary value as long as it is catchy and interesting.