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A client recently asked about our experience with affiliate programs so I dusted off an old report I wrote in 2006 and thought I would post some tips here.

CommerceCM does not include an Affiliate Marketing component for two reasons:  The first being that developing a multi-currency and multi-lingual eCommerce package is hard enough without having to figure out how much commission to pay to an affiliate in the US who generates sales in Euros, Canadian Dollars, and Pounds.  The second reason is that around the turn of the century we worked with a retailer who had their own affiliate program built onto MS Site Server and the results were dissappointing.  Another much smaller merchant joined a network and their affiliate sales took off almost immediately and in the end was easier and less expensive to run.

Here is what I recommend if you want to launch and run a successful affiliate program.

  1. Research:  If you are reading this, then you have already started but there are lots of resources out there. is a great place to start.  You can learn about different networks and current trends.  See how other merchants promote theirs and compare the costs and services of the different networks.

  2. Make a Plan: There are lots of details that you need to think about before you go to market.  Who will run it? They will need to monitor the program, create ads, and support your affiliates. What will your offer be? Is it a flat percentage or do you have two tiers to reward affiliates who sell more with a higher commission? What is your pitch to attract affiliates? What are your goals both in number of affiliates and sales?

  3. Join a Network:  There are many Affiliate Networks to choose from and they all offer access to an established network of affiliate marketers.  This gives you a big boost and gets you off to a running start.  Networks all charge a setup fee and a commission on the affiliate payments with a minimum monthly payment.  They provide a ready network of affiliate marketers, a platform for tracking and promoting your offers, and the accounting and payments infrastructure.  You make one payment to the Network, and they pay out your affiliates every month.

  4. Launch & Promote:  You will need a page to promote it on your site.  Send an email to existing clients, post it on Facebook and in your social media.  Reach out directly to bloggers or niche affiliate marketers you found during your research phase.

  5. Select Affiliates:  Are they a good match for your products?  Do their sites look reputeable?  You are judged by the company you keep and while it will take time, it will pay off in less fraud and protect your reputation.

  6. Monitor & Support:  (this is the +1 but you CANNOT forget this one) You need to keep your affiliates excited about your program.  It is important to remember that your affiliates are your business partners.  It is easy to set up a program, and there is no cost for affiliates to join, but imagine if you went to 100 random stores and dropped off some product on consignment and then never contacted the store again.  Send a newsletter.  Let them know who your top affiliates are and how much they are making.  Let them know about up coming sales or promotions that they might want to promote.  Create professional quality banner ads for them to use on their sites.  It will help both of you make more money.

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