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Affiliate Marketing - working with merchants.

"Sign up today, here's your banners - now paste the code into your web pages and start making money!" How many times have you seen that blurb on a company affiliate program sign up page? 

For a lucky few webmasters with a visitor rate of thousands a day, this may be the case. For even fewer it may mean overnight financial success, but for most of us involved in affiliate  marketing, nothing could be further from the truth. Being an affiliate is hard work - but also very rewarding when you team up with the right merchants.

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If you've located a company offering revenue sharing opportunities for products and services that complement your web site genre, it isn't enough just to put up banners and buttons. 

As mentioned in my other articles, writing up a review page of the product or service will definitely help boost sales, especially if you are recognized as being knowledgeable in your field.

Communicate with your merchants

But let's take it one step further - and this step could not only increase your sales, but also save you some heartache in the long run. 

It's really simple - contact the merchant, let them know what you are doing to promote their product and ask their advice as to how you could improve your marketing. After all, the merchant knows their product best. 

The merchant should also have a very good idea of the strategies used by other affiliates to boost sales. An affiliate tips page, provided by many companies, usually won't give you vital and current "insider" information, so it's important to approach merchants directly as it may just give you enough of an edge to turn a dribble of revenue into a nice stream.

By contacting the merchant and putting yourself on their radar, you are also showing your enthusiasm for marketing their products and services - that you are aiming to be what's known as a "power" or "super" affiliate! 

Any merchant who understands affiliate marketing knows that over 90% of sales are generated by less than 5% of their affiliates. A good merchant will recognize your efforts, provide you with further information and resources and may even boost your commission rates!

Dealing with merchants:

If you go to the trouble of emailing a merchant and they don't respond the first time, try again. If they still fail to respond, think twice about continuing promotion - a lack of communication can also be indicative of other problems - including payment. 

Also bear in mind that some merchants work on the shotgun principle. They make big promises, set a high payout threshold knowing that few affiliates will ever reach it, then get as many affiliates promoting their products and services as possible - maximum exposure, minimum cost and effort on their part. It's not a good business model for them to utilize in the long term and after a while affiliates drop away, but not before the company has raked in thousands. Many MLM (multi-level marketing) programs also work on this principle - only the guys at the top generate any serious revenue.

A good way to protect your payments is to sign up for affiliate programs well established networks. These marketplaces usually also allow direct contact with the merchant.

You can avoid these issues by working through an affiliate network such as ShareASale or Commission Junction. These networks act as a marketplace for affiliste programs. Working with a major affiliate network means that even if you only make a few dollars from each program, those dollars all feed a common account, accumulate rapidly which allows you to reach the payout threshold in a shorter space of time. Most ad networks work with merchants on a "money up front" or monthly "pay as you go" basis, minimizing the risk of unscrupulous merchants suddenly disappearing with your hard earned commissions.

Demonstrate your web marketing prowess

Unless you have a very high traffic web site, don't ask the merchant for higher commissions in the first communication. So many affiliates do this and end up being totally ignored as the vast majority of affiliates probably can't deliver on their "forecasts" - which are usually just dreams. 

If you don't have a solid sales record for the product or service you are promoting, you'll need to prove yourself first - put some thought into your promotion and rack up a few sales before attempting to secure higher payout rates. 

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Be professional in your communications

When communicating with merchants, ensure you use a professional manner. If you have suggestions of how a merchant could improve an offer that would convert into more sales, let them know, but be very polite and constructive in your feedback - "Your banners suck" just doesn't cut it. 

Remember that the Internet as a trading place is still very new in comparison to the business platforms of the last few millennia. Some of the quality companies offering an affiliate program may be just breaking into this side of marketing and will appreciate any feedback you can give them.

A wise merchant understands that good affiliates aren't a dime a dozen and treats them with respect, assists with resources and provides prompt payments. A wise affiliate understands that a merchant wants quality promotion and sales performance for minimum outlay. Successful merchant/affiliate partnerships are struck when both parties understand these points and work together - resulting in profits for both parties.

Affiliate marketing - resources

What affiliates want

Successful affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing survival strategies

Protecting commissions with improved linking methods

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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