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Introduction to Affiliate Program Vendors
This section is for the merchants with a product to sell who want to find others to help them sell it. Affiliate and referral marketing probably one of the most powerful ways to sell on the internet, and also one where the interests of the affiliates and the merchant closely align. You (usually) only pay affiliates who have made a sale, so as long as you’re making money they’re making money. Everyone is happy. If you structure it correctly, every sale is profitable, so it’s like hiring thousands of salespeople for your business and only paying them when they’re effective.
Companies big and small use affiliate marketing, so there’s no size you have to be to use this, and products and services of all kinds are all able to be sold. However, networks do charge a set-up fee and big networks often require you to be a certain size company (by sales). E-commerce plug-ins require a monthly fee. You also have to make sure your profit margins are big enough to give part of the profit away, and you have to take the time to set up the program and nurture it. People selling high risk products may have trouble finding a partner.
Looking at your competitors is an easy way to find out what program they use and how much they pay (which could also give you an insight into their profit margins). Also, don’t forget that not only do you need to pay the affiliate network, you also usually have to deposit money with them so they can pay the affiliates. Make sure you find out how much is required.
For our purposes, we use affiliate marketing and referral marketing somewhat interchangeably, and you will see that on websites as well. However, if you want to differentiate them, affiliate marketing would be where the person promoting you is someone you don’t know, whereas referral marketing is where the person promoting you is someone in your network, either an existing customer, a partner of yours, or a business that also serve your customers. You will also find that some merchants call their affiliate programs refer-a-friend programs because they think it sounds less sleazy (people trust things their friends refer to them more than what a random person on the internet says is good). What you call it is up to you.
There aren’t any free options in the sense that someone will run an affiliate network for you, since it’s a lot of work to manage payments to all those individuals. But if you’re small and just growing, don’t discount building your own rudimentary program. This could be as simple as putting up a simple contact form on your website or inside your software where existing customers could submit the name, email and phone number of someone they think would be interested in your product (a rudimentary refer-a-friend program). If you make a sale after calling them, you can credit the customer, send them some free stuff, or even pay out money using an online Visa gift card. You can also set up a method to track links and give existing customers their own custom URL to share. Obviously, you will need to decide on limits and the amounts you will give out. Once a free version is no longer an option for you, you can move onto a white label solution or join a big network.
Affiliate Marketing Networks:
These are most of the major networks and some of the smaller ones. Some of them specialize in a certain type of niche, so might not be a good fit for your business. Quite a few have minimum traffic and revenue requirements, meaning small entrepreneurs won’t be able to choose them as a partner. Many brands use multiple networks to try and reach bigger audiences. Networks allow you to do things like set rules, upload creative material that affiliates can use, and turn on and off promotions that affiliates can promote.
Affiliate networks offer a lot of ways to structure your sales. Options include paying a commission on a verified sale (the most common), paying for leads, paying for clicks, paying when a customer takes a certain action, like sign up, or you can pay for things like app installs on mobile phones.
Being upfront about pricing is not something affiliate networks are good at (although newer ones are better). If you have a lot of sales coming in and are ready to move to an affiliate program, you are just going to have to watch demos and “call for pricing,” as frustrating as that is. Also, you’re going to need to turn off your ad blocker on some of these sites, or they won’t even load.
- Awin: Actually owns Share a sale as well, but run separately. Small businesses can apply for Awin Access, which has no setup fee.
- ShareaSale: one of the few ones on this list to have pricing on the website (and the most upfront pricing structure we’ve seen), it has some nice features for smaller merchants. Ignore the 1990’s era website look, it’s just a front.
- Commission Junction: a very large and popular network, used by many major sites.
- Flexoffers: also nicely upfront about their pricing for a merchant to sell on them.
- Admitad: No upfront pricing, but a nice set of tools. If you refer an influencer to the program, you get their sales commission-free, which is a nice touch.
- Impact Radius: one of the larger networks.
- Clickbank: also has pricing on the website, which a lot of others don’t.
- MaxBounty: the website is a bit lame when it comes to explaining what they do, so you will have to ask.
- Affiliaxe: smaller network, but one of the biggest internationally. If you’re a non-U.S. company or want more international customers, you might want to look into this.
- Daisycon: also an international focus, so maybe a good fit for companies selling internationally or who want people promoting them in different countries.
- Tradedoubler: European Union and Nordic countries-focused affiliate network.
White Label Solutions for Affiliate & Referral Programs:
These companies help you run your own affiliate program. They can help track links and clicks and pay affiliates just like networks, but they don’t promote you to a network of affiliates, you have to find affiliates on your own. They can be much cheaper to operate, and you can brand it to look like your company is running it. You would pick this if you wanted more control over your affiliate program. White label solutions are popular among B2B and SaaS companies who don’t want to attract a wide network of unknown or badly behaved affiliates and instead want to target people who actually understand how their business or software works and can promote it effectively.
- Post Affiliate Pro: Extensive referral software.
- Ambassador: They can help you run an affiliate or a refer-a-friend program. You have to schedule a demo to see prices.
- Rewardful: one of the few places to offer pricing upfront.
- Referral Rock: They offer a lot of integrations with popular software that might appeal to marketers.
- Talkable: they can sell services, but also focus on e-commerce, so they are also mentioned in the e-commerce store section as well.
- OSI Affiliate: They have a local business focus, like dentists, gyms, salons, etc. Also mentioned in the e-commerce space below.
- Tune: formerly HasOffers. The website is a little obtuse.
Subcategory: SAAS Specific Referral Software
These companies focus on offering referral and affiliate programs to SaaS & B2B companies.
E-commerce Store Affiliate and Referral Software & Plugins
These plugins work with E-commerce stores and are for people selling a product instead of a service. You would use them if you run an e-commerce store. Shopify is the most popular store supported, but others are supported as well. Some of them have monthly pricing structures, others take a cut of your commissions, so you will need to do the math.
- Referral Candy: Works with multiple e-commerce options.
- OSI Affiliate: Shopify, Wix, Squarespace and WooCommerce support
- Talkable: They claim to have a free Shopify App.
- Tapfiliate: probably the vendor with the most e-commerce integrations.
- Enlistly: Shopify-specific, they have a low monthly rate.
- Brandchamp: works with Shopify and also integrates into WooCommerce. The pricing is a bit much for solos and very small brands, but someone with enough sales to cover it would find it useful.
- Friendbuy: focused on referrals, it sort of an affiliate program and a loyalty program mixed together for your e-commerce store.
- Annex Cloud.
Build Your Own Affiliate Network
Sometimes you want to start an affiliate network. Maybe you know lots of businesses in a niche that would pay for this, or just own a few different businesses and want to run your own platform because it is cheaper. You could also be an advertising or marketing agency that manages the marketing for other companies and want to offer to manage their affiliate programs without making them buy into one of the big affiliate networks. Lastly, you might be in an industry that needs to keep the information confidential and don’t want to use a network. These vendors can help you build that.
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Revenue Disclosure: We’re upfront people, so we want to be upfront with how we make money. We make money through affiliate links and ads. How do we NOT earn money? We DON’T get paid to add companies to our categories or sell email addresses. That means no one can pay us to put them on the list in any category, move them higher up the list, or change what we say about them. We want small businesses and entrepreneurs to trust us to point them in the right direction, and we’re proud of the fact that this is a guarantee you won’t see on other websites.