An interesting way to use an affiliate program for your Web site is to have a free offer from an affiliate program bundled together with your own offer.
One of the best types of affiliate programs to pair with your own site's offer is a pay-per-lead program. These programs usually pay you a one-time bounty for each of your site visitors who takes advantage of the affiliate site's free offer.
What kinds of free offers? The most common are opting in to a mailing list to receive a free newsletter; signing up for a free trial of a service; or just registering as a user of a community site, free of charge.
The fees you will be paid by the affiliate site are anything from 50 cents up to $5, depending on the type of offer and required actions that need to be taken by the customers who take advantage of it.
Pairing Your Offer with Others What kinds of deals should you offer? Think of your Web site users and what they are interested in, and then pair your free offer with one or more free offers from affiliate sites to increase the incentive for customers to sign up.
You can also add free offers as bonuses and incentives if you are selling a product or service. If your product is unknown, you can ? by carefully selecting a good offer from a well-known brand ? make your visitors feel more comfortable at the point of purchase by leveraging their recognition of that brand.
Two generic product categories you might consider as affiliates are magazines and software.
Enews.com offers a free trial of magazines in almost every category. If you offer your site visitors a free trial of a magazine through enews.com, and they decide to continue with a paid subscription, enews will pay you a commission.
At the Affiliate Force conference in Miami earlier this year, I met Jeff Hansel from UnbeatableDeals.com. Hansel's company gives away hundreds of titles of commercial software free of charge. The user pays only a nominal fee for shipping and handling of the CD-ROMs.
In the UnbeatableDeals affiliate program, you get paid 25 cents for each software title you give away to your customers. (The average user orders four to five different titles, according to Hansel.) Here's a chance to add incentive for your customers to take advantage of your own free offers. For example, you could tell them that if they sign up for your free newsletter, they'll also get free software!
Another example of an affiliate program offer that you can bundle with your own free offers comes from the online payment system PayPal. PayPal gives you $5 for every person who signs up with it free of charge. In addition to that, your users get $5 deposited into their PayPal account. How's that for a good offer?
Looking at Other Possible Offers Research the various affiliate directories to find interesting offers to bundle with your own. Many merchants have special limited-time-offer campaigns with high commissions, so it could be profitable to shop around for the best rates.
There are also brokers who specialize in negotiating pay-per-lead offers on behalf of affiliate program members. Have a look at companies such as WebSponsors.com, onResponse.com, and Cyberbounty for examples.
What are the parameters you should look for in a good free-trial offer? From many talks with site owners who specialize in participating in pay-per-lead offers, I have come up with the following list of things you should look for:
Easy registration for customers
No requirement for customers to give their credit card information in order to take advantage of the offer
Reliable tracking and reporting of commissions by the affiliate program
Prompt payment of commissions
Offers that appeal to the widest range of your customers
As always, it all comes down to testing. You have to test to see what works and what doesn't work.
Getting Paid for E-Mail Sign-Ups If you can get an extra 50 cents to a dollar for every person who signs up for your newsletter or mailing list, it could be worth it, right?
Many opt-in e-mail marketing companies, such as PostMasterDirect.com, yesmail.com, and Focalex offer anything from one-time commissions for e-mail newsletter sign-ups to 50/50 ad revenue sharing for the ads they sell for the newsletters you distribute to customers on your e-mail list.
If you know your cost for getting a new subscriber to your newsletter or mailing list (or even for attracting a new Web site visitor), then you can use a pay-per-lead program to finance your own promotions and/or reduce your marketing costs dramatically. For example, what if it costs you 25 cents for each new newsletter subscriber, and you can get a 50-cent commission for each piece of free software that person signs up for through an affiliate program offer? You'll be making money while you market your site!
As I said earlier, the most important things you can do in all your marketing efforts are tracking and testing. Always test carefully before you spend money on advertising. See what works. If something works really well and you make money while marketing your own site at the same time, you have found what is almost any marketer's dream: a tested, proven customer acquisition campaign that breaks even or turnsa profit!