FHG Flexibility

Cheryl Cain
In part one, we examined what free hosted galleries are and are not intended for and introduced some basic concepts for their application. In part two, we expanded on those concepts by introducing the strategic uses of FHGs and how they can be used with other kinds of materials to guide and pre-qualify your incoming traffic. We also introduced ideas for establishing a baseline income using direct sales techniques.

In this final segment of our three-part series, we will take a closer look at what those direct sales opportunities are and where you can find them. Finally, we will look at how, in general terms, to use FHGs to round out your promotional campaign and create baseline earnings to supplement your affiliate sales.

As we discussed before, direct sales are those elements of promotional campaigns that generates income from direct consumer or advertiser sales over and above your affiliate activities.

Every affiliate campaign should have a long-term strategy that develops a base earnings capacity. Realistically, these base earnings will likely make up a small portion of your overall sales generated from affiliations, but nevertheless can be critical to survival during lean months. The reasons should be obvious: Most affiliates have ongoing monthly expenses such as hosting and submission fees in terms of advertising campaigns, equipment, time and, in big operations, perhaps even a payroll. The target goal or strategy of direct sales is to offset or, preferably, cover these operating expenses.

This is not intended as an all-inclusive discussion of direct sales methods, which are limited only by the creativity of the person running the program. Rather, we will look specifically at three distinct categories: direct content, memberships and advertising sales.

Direct Content
Direct content is perhaps one of the easiest areas for an affiliate to get started in direct sales.

In previous segments, we discussed the role that licensed materials play in driving traffic to your program via Internet link list submissions. These same licensed materials can be leveraged as a source of direct sales by applying them to viewable galleries or video.

Opportunities of this nature can be found in pay-per-view programs. A perfect example of this concept is "Pay As You Click" - a program run out of the United Kingdom that allows a webmaster to post mini-sites comprised of licensed materials.

The materials are then offered to the program's subscribed members in a variety of methods, including per-image, per-gallery or per-video formats. I bring this particular program to light because it also has a tiered profit-sharing system I haven't seen in other PPV programs. This system lets you earn from traffic you send to the program whether your surfers buy your materials or not, creating earnings over and above your direct sales. This also is applied to your base income plans.

Accumulation of these licensed materials over time eventually will reach a volume that enables webmasters to apply a more contemporary concept to small membership sites.

The above strategy also can be applied to your promotional efforts. For example, specialty niche areas of your program can contain small membership areas that make these galleries available to your surfers on a membership basis. This is especially effective when offered for a modest fee, thereby not only creating a baseline income, but also an opportunity to create special, opt-in mailing lists, which can be used for site membership promotions run by sponsors or to prop up your direct content sale offerings.

Be careful not to lose site of your main business when pursuing this application; reserve these areas for their intended purpose - low cost, sales lead-generating areas that boost consumer interest in your offerings. You might use a combination public/private area that restricts the extended viewing options to members only. Of course, you'll want to use discretion with any mailing list, as there's a thin line between a value-added benefit and a public nuisance.

While advertising presents distinct potential for direct sales, it also is the hardest area to get involved in because legitimate advertisers are looking for raw numbers in traffic throughput as well as a very well defined pre-qualification strategy.

A common pitfall in this category is to overcrowd a program with excessive advertising from low-payment advertising. Surfers tend to shy away from a page that is littered with blaring advertisements. A better strategy is to develop a good traffic flow with proven methods to pre-qualify surfers based on interests.

Larger advertising campaigns gravitate to well-organized operations with high traffic flow because they provide a better return on investment. Advertisers are willing to pay a premium for prime space. From the program operator's point of view, this is a more preferable situation because it allows for a less-crowded page with better earning potential.

There you have it, the basic concepts of operating a successful hub operation. At the heart of this system is the strategic use of FHGs, which will provide the bulk of the content you offer your surfers.

Remember, this series is intended to highlight basic concepts. In a working application, these concepts should be groomed to fit your own style, creativity and personality. Taken seriously, and strategically planned, affiliate operations via private hubs can be developed into a lucrative business proposition. As with every other venture, you get out of it what you put into it.