Affiliate Marketing - Part 1

What is Affiliate Marketing?

There are tons of companies online that have out-lined detailed programs (a.k.a. “Affiliate Programs”) to pay performance-based incentives/commissions for those who can promote their products and services that eventually results into conversions/sales. Affiliate programs are also known as “associate programs”. Below are the key components of this framework:
  1. Customer
  2. Affiliate or Publisher website
  3. Affiliate Network
  4. Merchant(s)

Typically, we have 2 types of affiliate programs:
  1. Offered by individual merchants like or
  2. Other programs are offered by the “Affiliate Network”

In order to participate with individual affiliate programs:
  1. You need to visit the merchant website
  2. Look for the link “affiliate programs” or “join our affiliate program”
  3. You will be presented with easy-to-fill forms with some personal/company and website details where you want to sell/promote their products
  4. Complete the sign-up application
  5. You should hear back from the merchant about their decision and further steps in next day or 2
What is an Affiliate Network?

Affiliate networks acts as “mediators” between the affiliates and the merchant websites. They have a complete system/framework:
  1. Allow new affiliates to search & join affiliate programs with one or more merchants
  2. Provide banners, text links, flex links, product links
  3. Data feeds for qualified or participating affiliates
  4. Track all user activities (in terms of clicks/sales)
  5. Keep you up-to-date about new merchants joining the network
  6. Any contracts which are expiring
  7. Track how affiliates are consuming the resources like impressions of ads/product links
  8. Arrange payments
  9. Provide necessary support for affiliates
  10. Help center
  11. Reporting features

One of the most useful sites for getting more details and comparing different affiliate programs is

(to be continued...)

Additional Reference(s):
  1. The Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing on the Web: How to Use and Profit from Affiliate Marketing Programs
  2. Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies
  3. Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day
  4. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition

9 Steps - Developing a Plan for Online Business

9 Steps - Developing a Plan for Online Business

Below steps would be a great start if you are looking for guidelines to start your own online business:

1.       Start with an Idea
2.       Legal Matters
3.       Choosing Domain name
4.       Choosing Web Hosting
5.       Designing your Website
6.       Marketing
7.       Interactive Websites & Updated contents
8.       You Customer Database
9.       Repeat Customers

Start with an Idea

Do you have an idea that you strongly believe in? If yes, you will need a product/service, a concept on how to sell, great website content, and effective marketing to reach out to prospective audience.

Legal Matters

You don’t need to be a legal expert to start up an online business, but every bit of insight helps you stay away from any unforeseen trouble once the business is live. Review below areas for legal matters:
  •           Whether or not to Incorporate
  •           Copyrights / trademarks
  •           Contracts & licenses
  •           Internet legalities

Choosing Domain Name
There is a nice article on "The Site Wizard" about choosing you domain name. Bottom-line is you need to consider below while choosing domain names:
  •           Intuitive
  •           Easy to remember (effortlessly easy)
  •           Generic name v/s Brand names
  •           Long v/s short names
  •           Whether or not to use “-“ (hyphen in the names)
  •           Does it need to be a .COM, .NET, .ORG or (others)

Note: Also, I liked the article 25 Rules for Choosing a Domain Name.

Choosing Web Hosting Company & Platform

You will need to find a web hosting company for creating an online presence of your business and below is list of some factors you need to watch out for while reviewing various web hosting companies:

  •           Check for the availability of Technical Support (axe out all that don’t have 24x7)
  •           “Uptime” and “availability” are very critical to check for (usually should be >99%)
  •           Technical factors
  •           Platform (.Net v/s Linux/Unix hosting solutions)
  •           Support for various programming languages
  •           Database environment (SQL Server v/s MySql)
  •           Blogging platform support
  •           Photo blogging support
  •           Number of email addresses
  •           Limited v/s Unlimited space for hosting
  •           Shopping cart support
  •           Support for Google search
  •           Data transfer rate
  •           Security / SiteLock
  •           Any additional goodies

Designing Your Website

You can design a website yourself, or you can hire a professional for the job. You can create blog-driven websites yourself with little technical skills using Word Press. Also, your web hosting companies provides built-in tools that you can use to build basic website using built-in templates. If you need more advanced features for your websites, you can buy professional services from the hosting company.


You can refer to our article Internet Marketing Strategies for more details.

Interactive Websites & Updated Contents

“Content is the King”, you need to constantly update your website with relative contents so as visitors find it worth the visit and re-visit. Lot of companies use CMS (Content Management System) to dynamically update the website contents (can be scheduled to release certain content on certain date/time).

Customer Database

Customer database is very important; since you need to reach out to as many people you can while launching your online business. Emails & addresses are needed for covering your grounds for both online and offline means for reaching the prospective customers.

Repeat Customers

You need to have a strategy that would bring repeat visitors to your website. You can exercise one or more of below strategies:
  •           Affiliate program
  •           Coupons for repeat customers
  •           Introduce contests
  •           Newsletters
  •           Banner advertising
  •           Forums
  •           Discussion groups
  •           Chat rooms
  •           Visitor Polls
  •           Content contribution

Additional Reference(s):

Internet Marketing Planning

Article Outline

One of the most important factors for a successful Internet business is a well-researched Internet Marketing plan. In this session we will discuss about Internet marketing plan, its ingredients and their contribution to the success of an online business.

An Internet Marketing plan helps guide the company step-by-step on what products to market and how in which specific market segments. The purpose of Internet Marketing plan is to help company stay focused on achieving its objectives.

The ingredients of Internet Marketing plan can be outlined as market analysis, product & competition research, mission statement, goals, existing/expected sales, advertising mediums, PR campaigns, and all possible online & offline advertising strategies, budget, and measuring the objectives:

Market Research (Must be an on-going process)

You need to do initial research about the product(s) and/or services you are planning to sell and its market. Collect, organize, and document the data about the market that is currently consuming the product(s) and/or service(s) you are planning to sell. For the sake of simplicity we will refer to services as products.
Some areas you can consider are:
  • Market dynamics
  • Customers - demographics, market segment
  • Product
  • Current industry share
  • Suppliers-vendors chain
  • Target Market(s)
Product (Needs lot of research and convincing)

Describe your product to its fullest extent. Does your product match up with the market segment you are targeting? Check out the current trends in the market and consumer habits for the category of product you are introducing. If the product is already in the market and you are re-marketing, then what are your competition and their pricing? What are the promotional tools that you are planning to use?
Bottom-line is you need to answer a lot of questions and be able to stand-by your justifications with numbers in order to make your product launch to be as smooth and successful as possible.

Competition (Know thy competitor)

Describe and research about your competition. Competitors are your best friends when it comes to re-marketing the same or similar product in the given segment, since your competitors are already selling it and have done it. Learn from your competition. Use your think-tank to figure out areas where competitions have not yet established their dominance and develop your "unique selling proposition" in that area. You marketing department need to be able to utilize the USP to help company stand apart from the competition.
Check out provides insight into “who and how” are competitors are doing.

Mission Statement (It is not easy to define one clearly - focus)

Entrepreneurdefines: A sentence describing a company's function, markets and competitive advantages; a short written statement of your business goals and philosophies”
A mission statement defines what an organization is, why it exists, and its reason for being. At a minimum, your mission statement should define who your primary customers are, identify the products and services you produce, and describe the geographical location in which you operate.
Write a few sentences that define clearly and concisely:
  • Key market - who are your customers and which segments you are trying to reach
  • Contribution - what is your niche and are planning to sell
  • Distinction - your unique selling proposition – why are you different from your competition?
Note: We have already talked about these questions in previous section of this article. This section is about answering those clearly.

Internet Marketing Strategies (Diversification of strategies is key)

Below are some of the most useful website promotion strategies that you can use:
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Link Exchanges
  • Write Articles and distribute them online
  • Write press releases and distribute them online
  • Advertise in ezines 
  • Network using social networking services like myspacefacebooktwitter, and linked in (there are 100s of other social media services available)
We will discuss about each of these under our future articles in greater details.

Offline/Traditional Advertising Strategies (Other side of coin, you will always need)
Pricing, Positioning and Branding (Establish your niche)

From the information collected, establish strategies for determining the price of your product, where your product will be positioned in the market and how you will achieve brand awareness.

Budget (What % of your marketing budget is for online)

Budget your dollars. What strategies can you afford? How much can you afford to spend per month?

Marketing Goals (Must be quantifiable & measurable)

Establish quantifiable and measurable marketing goals. Quantifiable means the goals that you can turn into numbers, and as we have discussed earlier online numbers are measurable.

Monitor Performance & Results (Test & Analyze)

Test, test, and test the website & strategies. Identify the strategies that are working.
  • Perform surveys
  • Track visitors & their activities, call to action that convert to leads, sales.
  • Measure Return on Investment per each marketing activity
Additional Reference(s):

9 Key Benefits of Internet Marketing

9 Key Internet Marketing Benefits

We have outlined some of the key benefits of using Internet Marketing in the digital age:

1. Very Cost Effective and Much More Flexible Than Print Advertising

Internet Marketing has an edge over traditional marketing in these areas, since it help reaching out the targeted audience in more cost effective manner. Also, digital version of flyers, brochures, banners, newsletters, and all other form of content can be published and distributed with ease and is very easy to modify and re-distribute. This is possible with use of specialized Content Management Systems (CMS).

So, basically we achieve “Go Green”, lower cost of publishing, no paper waste, and save cost on all forms of logistics.

2. Geo-free Zone helps Market Expansion

Internet Marketing breaks all geographical and political barriers and helps companies become accessible to customers all over the world.

3. 24 X 7 X 365

Accessibility and Availability are key factors that refrains from “turning the customers away”, which otherwise happens in retail stores which are impacted by “hours of operations”, “holidays”, and many other uncontrollable natural and unnatural factors.

4. Convenience

In continuation to prior point (24 x 7 x 365), the always online nature of business can attract customers anytime and day and provide a very convenient mean to research a product Online than it is to otherwise do the same by driving to a retail store.

5. Add Value and Satisfaction

Websites can offer many more value additions to the customers beyond just convenience, such as providing tips, advice and general interest content.

6. Measurable Sales Performance

This is another key area where Internet Marketing excels, since all sales/leads/clicks/promotions are measurable. All user actions are traceable and measurable, which standardizes and enhances sales performance.

7. Reachability

With invent of Viral Marketing, Internet allows companies to spread the positive “word-of-mouth” using video promotions, testimonials, blogs, online press releases, and other online resources.

8. Interactive and Communicative Marketing

Customers can quickly and easily give feedback about your product, services, promotions and/or marketing strategies / approach. As mentioned earlier, it’s much more traceable and measurable.

9. Better Quality Market Research

Internet marketing strategies makes it possible to gather feedback and user opinions through Visitor Poll, Surveys, and website analytics/statistics.

Additional Reference(s):
  2. (Taming the beast)
  3. (Web Digest for Marketers)

10-Step Plan for New Websites Owners (Beginners)

The mere fact that more and more people are inclining towards buying products/services online is driving the companies to re-think their marketing strategies and the distribution of their marketing budget. But, what would it take for your company to reach the targeted audience “online”. Below is a 10-step plan outlined for the beginners. Remember – these are at very high-level and each step has the scope of discussion in greater details. 
  1. Write down the exact goals/objectives that the company wants to achieve with online presence. Based on that write a web promotion plan and an effective web design and development strategy based on your niche
  2. Remember - Content is the “King”. Appearing in the top page in major search engines needs practicing good Search Optimization Techniques - “White Hat”
  3. If you are intending to resell products, then need to work on dominating the marketing niche with affiliate, reseller, and associate programs
  4. Implement Email Marketing Effectively
  5. Build a responsive opt-in email list (Permission marketing is important)
  6. Engage Internet Marketing consultant to perform analysis about marketing strategies, advertising plan, and promotion efforts
  7. Write & publish articles on article submission sites and/or publish newsletters
  8. Write & publish online press releases regularly
  9. Introduce giveaways for your customers on your site. Also, you can introduce contests, polls, surveys, and feedbacks.
  10. Blog (share your perspective/knowledge and generate feedback/comments) and interact with your visitors - frequency is the key
Additional Reference(s):

Traditional Marketing Techniques

Traditional Marketing & Advertising Techniques

Strategic Alliances - Below are couple of key strategic alliance areas that we have highlighted that can help promote/boost your business & brand:

  • Networking & Speaking Opportunities - By the term "Networking", we mean you need to go out and spread word about your ventures/business/services in your local and professional community. Additional, you can join as many professional groups in your niche and organize seminars/lectures to promote your area of expertise. This is a great way to promote/market your business. 
  • Media Exposure - You can send out press releases on key activities such as seminars schedules, upcoming open-house engagements, free work-shops & training programs in media such as magazines, newspapers, flyers, and also on TV & Radio stations.
Direct Mail - Direct mail marketing technique is one of the oldest and gives a personal touch like sending a post card for those who visited your seminars, open-house, and other such activities.

Telemarketing - Telemarketing is the form of marketing which is normally exercised through telephone (phone calls), usually known to be a "Cold Call" marketing technique. Its referred to as cold call, since the recipient didnt request for information or be contacted, but still the marketers are trying to reach out the community. This is one form of marketing, where people tend to hang-up on you :) since it causes concern about unsolicited calls from strangers.

Print Advertising - Newsletters, Magazine ads/prints, Flyers, Brochures, Visiting cards, Product reviews, and reports are some of the most common types of print marketing/advertising.

Television & Radio Advertising - TV & Radio are & were one of the key marketing mediums prior to Internet Marketing. This form of advertising is still prevalent and growing.

Testimonials - Be it in printed form or Radio or TV, testimonials drives more potential customers towards conversions.

Free Product Samples - For companies which are into product selling business and have dedicated budget for free samples to the prospective buyers, can adopt this option as one of the effective means.

Additional Reference(s):