A Newbie's Guide to Sponsor Programs
When a surfer visits almost any adult site today, they are almost certain to get flooded by a series of entry and exit pop-up consoles leading to a variety of other sites, in the hopes that they will find something they like and continue through to the console's site and hopefully sign up.
While many visitors have grown to hate this tactic, packing your site with an array of banners and sponsor pop-ups is starting to become a mainstay of the online adult world, if it isn't already. Why? Webmasters are trying to profit from their traffic in any way they can — but if they handle the ads the right way, they can avoid being an irritant —- and be a great source of revenue.
Almost all pay sites today are part of a larger family of sites, owned by a larger parent company. Most of these companies use each site to advertise and promote the others (great way to get free advertising, no?). However, even single site webmasters can benefit from this form of advertising — using sites to promote other sites. In essence, we are talking about an affiliate program, not that much different from the more mainstream options like LinkShare or Commission Junction. Just in the adult world, we tend to call them sponsorship programs, rather than affiliate programs. Same idea, different name.
This type of marketing works because the adult industry tends to advertise in a fairly targeted manner - if users wish to view content of a specific nature, those users can easily be shown specific ads targeting their personal preferences, rather than being exposed to a random assortment of ads that are more than likely going to be ignored (guys out there, ever buy from the company that sends you free tampon samples in the mail?). Webmasters who have a good handle on their niche can profit enormously from advertising a complementary third-party site — who should be more than happy to pay for such targeted traffic.
Commission programs are likely the most common form of sponsorship - you (and your site) refer targeted leads (users) to your sponsor, and if the sponsor gets a new member, you get a commission (either a flat fee or % of sale). These programs are one of the easiest to run, as the sponsors don't generally care about the type of visitors you send (and sometimes don't even care what methods you use to send the visitors to their site) since they only have to pay you when they make a sale. While the payouts are usually the highest, the signups can be hard to get, depending of course on the quality of the sponsoring site. Commission programs take a fair bit of effort and marketing knowledge to become profitable, but the potential for profit is rather high.
There are many flavors of this type of program, ranging from percentage of lifetime payments, to a one-time fee when a member signs up, to a combination of both. What many programs offer is a one-time payment if someone signs up for a trial membership, this is the most common type of this program. Some will offer you a higher fee for a member that not only signs up for the trial, but converts to a full member. Of course, the higher the payment, the harder it is to achieve. Others will offer you a fee for every month the member is active. Again, this can result in a large payment, but it means a user has to stay with the site for 3 or more months generally, for you to see the larger amounts. Lastly, some combination programs will pay a mixture of the trial signup, plus the conversion to full membership, plus a fee per month they are a member.
Whew, what a selection of commission programs! Which is right for you? Well, that all depends. What might be best is to find a program that allows you to change your payment scheme, that way you can see what payment plan best suits the traffic you send, allowing you to maximize your profits. A good sponsor should provide: A good variety of sites to promote...
If all the commission options sound too confusing for you, you might want to try a CPC arrangement. The simplest form of sponsorship is the CPC model, where you simply run a sponsor's banner and they pay you for every surfer that clicks through to their site. But, don't get excited about the tons of money you think you can make by clicking the banners yourself, realize that sponsors can easily distinguish between those repeated clicks and real traffic. While a unique visitor may click on the banner many times, generating a raw hit with every click, sponsors will only pay for the unique visitors to their site.
Many of the sponsor program also pay you for other webmasters you refer to them. Since they are hoping you will generate sales for them, they are more than happy to pay if you increase the size of their sales force for them. But, don't get excited yet, you don't get paid just because your buddy signs up, they generally pay you a percentage of his sales. Thus, your referral has to start making money before you see any profits.
In the end, remember, that when you sign up for a sponsor program, you are basically going to be spending your time promoting their site(s), a product that you do not own, so make sure to insist that the sponsor company provide you with as many of the tools necessary to ensure both your success and theirs. A good sponsor should provide: A good variety of sites to promote — you need to match their site(s) to your users; Fast loading and well-designed sites; Regularly updated content, both inside and outside the member area; Well-made banners that encourage click-throughs; Customer support, through email, phone, ICQ - as long as you can reach them; Some sort of control panel so you can track your payouts; Prompt payment of commission fees (most important).
If you don't see any of these on the program you are considering, it might be best to walk away and go find another one. Good luck and happy sponsoring!