Which Affiliate Software Or Management Service
The whole point of setting up an affiliate program is to make it really easy for the affiliate to join and send you qualified visitors. For the affiliate, the beauty of this system is that there are no orders to fill out, no credit cards to charge, no inventory to stock, no returns, no shipping and handling problems, no customer service, no questions, and no in-person or over-the-phone selling of the product.
So this means that as an affiliate program owner, you ideally need to choose software or a service that will not only take a lot of the work out of your hands but also make it really easy for your affiliates to join and get all of the information they need to be successful.
You shouldn't need to worry about how the software or service works or how you're going to integrate it with your existing Web site. Whichever you choose should be easy to implement and easy to customize, as your time is better spent recruiting affiliates and educating them, not fighting with the technology behind your program.
Of course that's not to say that you shouldn't have a relatively thorough understanding of what your affiliate program software or management service is capable of. While the technology behind it might be sophisticated, there is no reason for it to be complicated to use.
There's lots of software out there right now for affiliate programs. And to be very straightforward (though we're not going to point fingers at anyone in particular), a lot of it is rubbish.
Some of them have different ideas on how to track affiliates (e.g., CGI scripts, hidden form fields, cookies, Java scripts, database management, ASP management). It goes on and on and on. You have to really watch this because you don't want to set up your whole affiliate Program and then find out three months later that the software or service you chose is lacking and that your affiliates are complaining loudly about a multitude of problems.
So what software is available?
Incredibly, the options range from $150 to $6,000. Pretty crazy, isn't it? And what can really throw you off is that the pricing structure for each software package is different. .
v Some companies give you the software, but you have to figure out how to install it and incorporate it into your system. Others will install it for you.
v Management services will allow you to run the software from their servers, but they'll usually charge you a setup fee and take a percentage of your profits (as we discussed earlier).
v Some providers offer software and solutions that are easily customizable while others offer very few options. (Their advertising and logos will appear all throughout your affiliate interface).
v Some will charge you per affiliate that you sign up, and this can get really expensive if you sign up a lot of affiliates.
... the list just goes on and on.
It seems like everyone has their own price structure, and it can get quite confusing because some also have semi-hidden charges that make it difficult to accurately compare your different options.
We don't believe you should have to give an affiliate management service a percentage of your profits ... or be forced to pay a fee every time you sign up a new affiliate. This is a really expensive way to run an affiliate program, and we just can't imagine why you would want to give away such a huge proportion of your profits (30% to 50%, depending on the company you choose), when you could simply pay for the software up front ... and have 100% control over your program and your profits.
Unfortunately, a lot of the less expensive software is less sophisticated ..
v It often requires custom modifications
v It doesn't reliably track all sales
v It doesn't make it easy for affiliates to sign up
v It isn't sufficiently automated to decrease your workload
... all of which are problems not only for you, but for your affiliates as well!
Affiliates won't join your program if you don't offer sales and visitor statistics in real time. They won't join if they don't feel confident that they're going to get credit for every single sale they generate. And they won't join if you don't have software that makes it extremely easy to sign up and be successful.
So it's important to have quality software that makes your affiliates feel comfortable that you offer a legitimate program, that your tracking methods are reliable, that they can trust you, and that you have a great opportunity for them.
In addition to the cost of the affiliate program software, there are a few other out-of-pocket costs that you will encounter. These include ...
v Hosting fees. (Usually included in your Web site hosting fee. unless you have a very large site.)
v Costs for any kind of modifications. (These one-time expenses will vary depending on the software you choose and whether or not the software provider is willing to help).
v Maintenance, updates, or anything special that you want to do with the software. (Again, these are costs that will vary depending on the software that you choose.)
However, remember that as long as you choose your affiliate software wisely, these costs should actually be quite minimal ... particularly when compared to the setup fees and percentage of your profits (30% to 50%) that a management service will take if you choose to outsource your program.
It is much more cost-effective to have your own affiliate software have 100% control of your program, and be able to make special modifications to it if you want to add specific features or customize it for your business.