Consider these three facts:

Fact #1: The best product (or service) in the world is dead as a doornail without great (or at least decent) promotion.

Fact #2: Promotion is most effective when you can leverage the work of other people and machines.

Fact #3: On the internet, affiliate programs take this leverage to a whole new level.

Given these facts, I’m frankly shocked that more businesses don’t have an online affiliate program.

After all, most of them have used sales representatives, or at least received sales presentations from their vendors and suppliers.

In simple terms, affiliate programs are merely the migration of compensated sales arrangements from the bricks and mortar physical world to the internet. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Software and internet connectivity, around the planet, create opportunities for global around-the-clock sales representation at high speed and an unprecedented, extremely low cost.

With an online affiliate program, your business truly can creat an “online sales army” of massive proportions. Even if each affiliate makes a small number of sales, if you have a large number of affiliates, the revenues can add up surprisingly quickly.

Many of the earliest ecommerce pioneers have strong affiliate programs, such as Amazon’s Associates Program. All sizes of websites, from large portals to one page review sites, promote the books, music, videos and other products sold and fulfilled by http://Amazon.com. Amazon’s easy to use affiliate program makes this all possible.

Large businesses will have the resources to create their own affiliate program or use one of the large affiliate networks such as LinkShare or Commission Junction.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses have many choices too, and can easily set up an affiliate program. Affiliate software is available, but may be time consuming to set up and manage. Many new and small businesses instead use web services that include affiliate features as part of a larger system.

For example, ClickBank is a marketplace for downloadable digital goods (ebooks, audios and videos) with built in affiliate features and a large group of affiliates constantly and eagerly looking for products to promote. It is relatively simple to set up a digital product for sale through ClickBank. You need a downloadable digital product, an online sales page, and an online thank you page with a link to your product. That’s basically it. ClickBank then handles all the credit card processing as well as affiliate accounting and payments.

Some online shopping carts, such as 1ShoppingCart, include affiliate features that will work for physical products (such as books, CD’s and DVD’s) as well as downloadable digital products. Other high end offerings include Nanacast and Infusionsoft. Many of these systems require you to handle your own affiliate payments (e.g., through PayPal).

To see some example affiliate programs, visit http://AssociatePrograms.com, a well regarded site run by Allan Gardyne for many years. You can also join LinkShare, Commission Junction or other affiliate networks to see the thousands of affiliate offerings available. Finally, check out the useful articles at Revenue Performance magazine, the leading publication for the affiliate marketing industry.

More businesses, including small businesses, can benefit from the efficiency and profit potential of affiliate marketing. You should consider an affiliate program for your business.

Tom Canyon writes about affiliate marketing and consulting. For more details, get a FREE copy of the Fast Start Guide to Becoming a Highly Paid Independent Consultant at BecomeAConsultant101.com
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