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The Direct Approach to Affiliate Marketing

Posted on 5.08.2012

Relationships are an important part of any working environment, right? Well, that goes double for affiliate marketers and their merchant partners, as the publisher is almost totally reliant on the advertiser to make money, all the way down to utilizing the affiliate content they create.

Fortunately for affiliates, there are plenty of networks that can connect them to merchants in their desired industries and help them establish and manage these critical partnerships. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every affiliate, nor for every merchant.

Sometimes marketers prefer to take the direct route and forge partnerships with merchants on their own, which can also have positive results for both parties.

So, what exactly are the differences between using an affiliate network and going directly through a merchant? We will take an in-depth look at both processes below:

Relationship Advice
Finding the right business partner can be a taxing endeavor, which is why many affiliates prefer to use affiliate networks. These organizations not only help marketers and merchants begin their business relationship, but they also help manage the commission flow, and we all know how stressful money matters can be.

Using an affiliate network is certainly an acceptable choice, as it allows publishers to manage a lot of relationships using a single interface or dashboard, and keeps everything neat and organized. They also keep track of an affiliate’s performance so that merchants can make an educated judgment entering into a partnership. It’s like an affiliate résumé that updates automatically.

That being said, what publishers gain in manageability, they lose in personalization. And while this may be fine for an affiliate with hundreds of smaller relationships, it may be hurting the earning potential of larger-income opportunities.

Foregoing the route of the affiliate network allows a marketer to create a more personal, customized deal with a merchant that clearly outlines the objectives and expectations of both parties. And as a bonus, it also helps publishers lobby for higher commissions, and commission increases for a job well done. By cutting out the middle-man, both parties are able to quickly make changes to their arrangements with less hassle.

Pretty much any affiliate marketer worth his or her salt will tell you that the key to a successful (i.e. profitable) merchant relationship is communication. And most people will probably agree that the more personal and clear that correspondence is, the better.

Directly establishing a one-on-one business partnership with a merchant can vastly improve communication between both parties, and allows them to be more open and clear about the state and direction of their pairing.

But ultimately, the major difference is the commission flow. Affiliate networks are a business, after all, and all of the legwork they exercise for both affiliates and merchants, in terms of finding the best partners, getting them together, handing payouts and more, isn't free.

Somewhere in the transaction from merchant to marketer, some money has to go to the network. This could mean that the rates an advertiser pays out feel inflated, or that publishers have to accept they will be parting with a percentage of their earnings.

A direct partnership obviously means the commission will go directly from merchant to publisher, and neither side has to adjust their earnings/payouts to include the cost of using a network.

Going Direct
If you’re an affiliate marketer looking to ditch the affiliate network, or just add to your impressive list of revenue opportunities, going direct is a surprisingly simple process. In some ways, it could even be considered easier than using a network.

The first thing to do is identify those merchants that you think would be most appropriate for your website, as in the products or services that you would most like to promote that will have mutually beneficial results. If you don't already have specific merchants in mind, you can always look to one of the many affiliate program directories online.

These sites list a variety of companies that offer affiliate programs and are often divided into different categories, making it easy to browse your particular target industry to find the programs that best meet your criteria.

Once you’ve targeted potential advertisers, simply contact them directly. Most merchants with affiliate programs will have a link to the program’s Web page at the bottom of their site, and typically this page features a registration form. If a merchant doesn’t have this link and/or form, but you are aware of an existing affiliate program, then you can always find additional contact information and express your interest the old-fashioned way.

Then, it’s just a matter of waiting for the merchant to respond and hashing out the details. It’s best to be up front about how much you feel you should earn, and why, and be willing to compromise to find the commission structure that will work best for both parties.


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