Affiliate Program Basics: 2

Stephen Yagielowicz
In part one we looked at having a site that converts, selecting payouts bonuses and personnel and automating your affiliate program. Today, we'll examine the importance of customer service and marketing your affiliate program.

Customer Service
One area that can be labor intensive is providing customer support services. Your website's members will have a variety of needs and face a variety of issues (whether you operate an affiliate program or not), including website access concerns, lost passwords and video playback problems. These concerns need to be addressed in a timely fashion if you expect to retain members - and the faster your response, the better. Fortunately, most billing companies offer these services (at least providing help with password or billing problems).

Technical support issues are often another matter, however, and as such require someone to address them. While these support issues also can be outsourced, there is tremendous value in having contact with your website's members, and many operators will be well advised to handle as much of this one-on-one support in-house as possible.

While some of these issues are not normally thought of in terms of running an affiliate program, they directly impact your bottom line and as such your profitability - a major consideration when you consider that affiliates will be receiving a share of your revenue. If this share is provided up front via a pay-per-sale program, you will be quickly bankrupt if you cannot retain members due to support problems - and in the case of revshare programs, you will quickly lose affiliates if you are unable to retain members and provide the higher revshare payouts that happy (and thus recurring) members enable.

Spreading The Word
Once you've developed your infrastructure, established your policies, brought your key players up to speed and launched your program, the next step is to tell the world about it. This seems to be a matter of common sense, but the fruitful execution of an effective marketing plan can neither be taken lightly nor for granted. Indeed, there have been a number of high-profile flops where affiliate programs have been launched by known players, who despite being well-capitalized and well-connected throughout the industry, have experienced what can only be described as marginal success at best, attracting only a few hundred affiliates (if even that many) before calling it quits.

While the reasons that affiliate programs fail are endless, varied and well beyond the scope of this article, a simple lack of affiliates is one common and influencing factor. As such, attracting and retaining affiliates to your program is equally as important as attracting and retaining members to your website. It's also important to consider that while having several hundred affiliates might seem outwardly impressive, the largest programs count tens of thousands of affiliates among their assets. Having a large number of affiliates is not the end-all it might seem, however, as most will not be active and the vast majority will not send enough signups to earn a consistent payout.

So how do you attract webmasters to your affiliate program? The easiest way is by offering webmaster referral bonuses, either as a percentage of the referred affiliate's sales or as a direct per-affiliate signup payout. Doing so can result in an army of "board whores" including a link to your program in their "sig" files and on their webmaster pages. Press releases, articles, trade show promotions and of course, paid advertising all are ways in which you can gain recognition for and signups to, your affiliate program.

In conclusion, it should be obvious from this overview that establishing and operating a successful adult webmaster affiliate program will require careful planning and the consideration of many factors. The best advice I can give is to start small, be smart and grow carefully. While the affiliate program market is highly competitive and dominated by long-established players, there's always room for more - and as such, more open every day - but an equal or greater number close every day as well. Be professional in your approach, and you'll stand a better chance of enjoying success.