I was one of those online businessowners who was hesitant to add an affiliate program to my business building efforts. But once my clients and customers starting asking me if I had one that they could join, I knew it was time to bite the bullet and conquer this particular piece of technology.

Now, of course, I wonder why the heck I waited so long (talk about leaving money on the table!). It couldn’t be simplier to get started with your own affiliate program. You can get very elaborate, but the basic set-up is easy, and once you do one campaign, the next one is a piece of cake.

(And after just generating about $1000 in affiliate commissions myself by sending just one pre-written email to my list, I’m a huge fan of promoting other people’s valuable products and programs too.)

If you’re not yet familiar with what an affiliate program is, it’s basically an easy way for your clients and customers to tell other people about your products and programs, by way of a special link, that rewards them with a commission on each sale they make for you. Basically, they get paid for referring clients and customers to you.

The great thing about affiliate programs is that they’re very easy to enroll your clients and customers into, because it’s a win-win proposition. They make a certain percentage in commission for each sale, and you make a sale you might not have otherwise.

And if you write the marketing copy for them, whether it’s for an email promotion or a simple graphic that your affiliates can post to their own websites, you’ll make it amost effortless for them to promote your offerings.

For you, besides the benefit of having a sales force on your team that you only pay when they make the actual sale for you, you don’t have to pay for advertising that may or may not pay off. It’s like Google Adwords. With Adwords, you only pay Google when someone clicks on your ad. With an affiliate program, you only pay when your affiliate makes a sale.

Here are 4 simple steps for harnessing the the power of your raving fans (via an affiliate program):

1. Choose Your Tool

Most shopping cart systems (like 1ShoppingCart) offer an affiliate program as part of their service. Or you could choose a stand-alone affiliate system. I like and use 1ShoppingCart’s affiliate tools because they intergrate with the rest of the technology I use in the cart as well as with some of my other systems, which makes tracking and managing my campaigns easier. And 1SC’s ‘look and feel’ is very familiar to online buyers, which helps attract potential affiliates.

2. Choose Your Tier

Then you’ll need to decide whether to offer a 1-tier program or a 2-tier program. Simply put, a 1-tier program is set up so that you pay your affiliates for any sales they make on your behalf. A 2-tier program is set up so that you pay a small percentage of any sales generated by affiliates they referred to your program. To start out, I suggest keeping it simple and choose a 1-tier program, as you can always add a second tier later.

3. Choose Your Campaign Method

For each product or program you want to offer an affiliate fee on, decide how you will promote it, whether it be via unique affiliate links, banner ads, or other product graphics with the affiliate links embedded.

Regardless of how you’ll format your links, you’ll want to provide promotional copy for your affiliates to use. It’s much easier for your affiliates to promote your offerings when all they have to do is cut and paste an email you’ve already written for them (and you’re really the best person to do that anyway, since you know your offering the best).

If you make the process of promoting as easy as possible for your affiliates, more of them will take action and promote your offerings, and you’ll both make more money.

4. Choose Your Commission

It’s important to pay your affiliates a great commission for each sale they make for you. Frankly, the more you pay, the more you’ll earn, because your affiliates will be much more motivated to promote for you. Not only do you make a sale that you wouldn’t have otherwise, you also now have a new client or customer, who is likely to become a repeat buyer (because as much as 40% of people who have bought from you once will buy from you again).

There you have it – 4 simple steps to creating your own affiliate program. Now the next time someone wants to refer someone to you for your product or service, you can thank them by way of paying them an affiliate fee.

Need help creating and managing your affiliate program? Join your colleagues is a fun and informative learning and DOING environment here.

© 2008 Alicia M Forest and ClientAbundance.com