An affiliate is essentially a publisher of marketing materials that connects a customer to a merchant. You pay either a fee or a percentage for every successful lead, for clicks to your site, and so on. However, what you get for your money exceeds that of customer conversions and leads. An affiliate can help you boost your brand's power and reach, and even protect your online reputation.
Here's how it works:
More online real estate, less online management. Since affiliates make a percentage, or a fee, based on how much trade they manage to bring in, you're increasing the number of ways that people will reach your service by empowering affiliates to each sell that idea the way that they know best.
You're gaining more reach, but you're not running around managing different Websites and social media platforms. As a result, your company enjoys a widespread reputation.
Limit negative feedback. Once you've got a network of affiliates, each pushing to bring in as much business as they can, it's harder for a bad apple to spoil the batch.
While one customer's bad experience can create temporary reputation hardship, you've now got a virtual army of invested brand-supporters—your affiliates—working to make certain that customers know your business's service bottom line.
A strong affiliate program goes to work to control negative feedback, and it emphasizes what goes right by putting that information out there from more than one source.
Boost search-engine rankings. Another helpful effect that stems from affiliate programs is search-engine optimization. Since your small-business message is reaching the Web from a series of independent sources, search engines such as Google won't penalize your ranking because you personally own and operate a dozen sites yourself.
Put simply: third-party ownership of sites that promote your service is good for your ranking.
Incorporate social media. Since the incentive for affiliates is to gather new leads and customers, social-media becomes an obvious go-to resource. With an affiliate program you've got a team at work on this, rather than having to manage Facebook, Twitter, and everything else all yourself.
Direct consumers' attention to positive actions. The effect of positive promotion doesn't have to be confined to controlling bad-experience blow-back. It can be proactive, too.
When you create a socially responsible program, an environmental initiative, or a philanthropic push, the positive action benefits your brand across the board.
Again, the power of having more than one "face," when it comes to your small business's reputation, is among the benefits of an online affiliate program.
O'Brien blogs for numerous clients on topics that include: film, social media, writing, technology, marketing, business, and design. He is a correspondent for Boston University's Research Magazine and for The Commons a journal covering higher-education. He has written extensively as a news correspondent for The Boston Globe. James blogs via Contently.com.
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