How To Setup An In-House Affiliate Marketing Program For Your Online Business
March 14, 2022
Setting up an affiliate marketing program is a win-win marketing strategy that has made many merchant billionaires and promoters millionaires.
It has been constantly escalating without showing any sign of decline. The U.S. affiliate marketing spend is due to reach 8.2 billion U.S. dollars by 2022, up from 5.4 billion recorded in 2017.
The reason for this constant growth of affiliate marketing is its mutually beneficial nature. The promoters and the merchants both make high benefits in this arrangement of revenue sharing.
According to Russell Brunson, Co-Founder of ClickFunnels:
“It’s the ultimate win-win situation. All affiliates get something from the arrangement, as does the company running the affiliate program, making it a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Google Trends shows the highest popularity for the keyword “affiliate program” in 2022 (with slight monthly fluctuations) — a clear indication that the affiliate marketing business is trending.
In-house affiliate marketing involves three parties — consumers, promoters, and merchants. The network is added as the fourth member when the programs are managed by the affiliate networks.
How Do Affiliate Programs Work?
Merchants own the products and they start their affiliate programs on their products, while promoters are the advertisers, influences, bloggers, Youtubers, etc., who have a target audience that might be interested in buying those affiliate products.
We call these audiences consumers.
Promoters help in making sales and merchants give a share of the generated revenue at fixed commission rates. This is what affiliate marketing is.
Having realized the importance of affiliate marketing, businesses are keen on starting their own affiliate program, either in-house or through a partnership with affiliate networks. While promoters are always searching for more profitable affiliate programs to earn the maximum commission.
Further, with such high involvement of businesses and promoters into affiliate business, competition is obvious to rise.
Now, the biggest challenge for vendors is to design an affiliate program that attracts more promoters and motivates those promoters to bring more sales; not trading off the major portion of their profits into affiliate commissions. A program that demands less effort and cost for management.
On the other side, the major concern for the promoter is to find out the highest paying affiliate programs to make money online with the least effort and complexity. And, something that matches their interest.
Now, you might have the following queries:
1. How does an in-house affiliate program differ from an affiliate network?
2. How to easily and effectively set up an in-house affiliate program for your business?
3. What attracts more promoters to join your affiliate program?
4. Finally, about the WP Swings in-house affiliate program and how it is one of the best in-house affiliate marketing programs for WooCommerce related plugins.
In this article, I will address all these queries and more.
An affiliate network is a common platform for merchants and promoters to interact with each other. Merchants offer affiliate commissions on their various products while promoters choose the products of their choice to promote, make sales, and earn a commission.
For providing such a platform, the network charges entry fees and a share of sales.
Consider the example of WPForms that runs its affiliate program through the ShareASale affiliate network:
For merchants, deciding whether to get their in-house affiliate program or to get it managed by an affiliate network is a daunting task.
Both types of programs have their pros and cons. But merchants often choose affiliate networks if they don’t want to allocate resources into the affiliate program management.
Is that a wise decision? Should merchants weigh all other benefits of the in-house program over the management burden? How much does it cost?
On the other side, promoters’ only motive is to make easy money from the affiliate program or make money as an affiliate marketer, no matter whether it is an in-house affiliate program or those on affiliate networks.
However, promoters still wonder which type of program offers easy earning? What type of program is more profitable, i.e., one that offers a higher commission? And many other queries.
Let’s start the detailed comparison:
1. Setup Cost
Setting up an in-house affiliate program requires some charges initially. Afterward, regular charges are applied to keep the program going. Let’s see what are the major expenses of designing either of these affiliate programs.
An in-house affiliate program includes the following three types of setup expenses:
Platform Designing Cost
The expenditure in purchasing software or plugins that are required to design and organize the in-house affiliate programs.
For example, AffiliateWP plugins cost $99 – for one site. There are many other WordPress plugins specifically made to control and manage affiliate programs.
You will need an affiliate manager to look after all the procedures and management of your in-house affiliate program. And, affiliate network management costs mainly include the salary paid to the manager and other similar management-related expenses.
The salary of affiliate managers depends on several factors such as country, business, workload, etc.
The image below shows the average and trends of the affiliate manager’s salary.
Source: Simply Hired
Your newly built in-house affiliate program needs influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, etc., to join your affiliate program as your promoters and start generating sales to earn the offered commission.
To get more resourceful promoters, you need to promote your affiliate program on various affiliate channels such as social media posts and ads., Google Ads., etc.
Talking of the cost incurred in setting up network affiliate programs, the major expenses include a one-time setup cost, commission on each sale, and monthly recurring charges. This pricing may vary from network to network.
For example, the one-time setup cost for ShareASale is $550, with $100 as a minimum deposit amount.
For every affiliate sale generated on the network, the sale is divided into three parts; one share goes to the affiliate, one to the network, and the remaining goes to the merchant.
Apart from this, the ShareASale affiliate network charges a monthly recurring fee.
Overall, both the programs have setup charges, more or less, based on the set goals.
BUT spending on in-house affiliate programs strengthens your firm with the hope of long-term high profits. Whereas network affiliates may reduce your monetary benefits with various charges.
2. Offering Higher Commission Rates
The simple rule — the higher the commission you offer to your affiliates, the higher their interests would be in your program.
“I always try to give my affiliate the most commission possible. The more you can pay your affiliates, the more traffic they will send.”
— Ryan Alarid, Owner of Native Vitality
Therefore, when planning for an in-house affiliate program, you must calculate carefully and try to offer the maximum commission possible from your end.
Since no intermediate commission holder is involved in an in-house program, higher commissions can be offered by the merchants.
For example, at WP Swings, we offer the highest commission rate of 50% at the fourth stage.
But it’s not always easy to leverage higher commission, as that might kill your profit margin.
Conversely, affiliate network-based programs commissions can vary depending on the features you opt for, product sales, and other factors.
Consider the WPForms affiliate program through the ShareASale network, where 20% of affiliate sales go to the affiliate network as transactional fees, which makes it hard for WPForm to offer not more than 20% commission to its affiliates.
3. Flexibility And Control Over The Program
Being the sole owner of the in-house affiliate marketing program, merchants have full control over the rules and regulations of the program. They can amend it and make it best suited for their brands.
The decision of the firm will be considered as final in case of any discrepancies.
Affiliate networks have tons of partners — you being just one of many. Therefore, they have commonly applicable guidelines and strategies, and there is usually less room for personalization.
An in-house affiliate program is more flexible. For the convenience of promoters, the affiliate manager can amend general rules and grant exceptions to individuals.
4. Responsibility Of Finding Affiliate Partners
Affiliate networks have tons of registered advertisers who are keenly searching for new and profitable products to promote and earn. Therefore, with affiliate networks, the burden of finding affiliate partners is less. The network establishes the connection.
But, an in-house affiliate program requires self-promotion to find affiliates. Finding dedicated affiliates is a challenge for the company but with effective strategies, it can be done.
Further, all the promotional efforts you make in an in-house affiliate program sum up over time and strengthen your brand whereas the efforts made for affiliate network programs strengthen the network.
5. Direct Interaction With Affiliates
The affiliates who join an in-house affiliate program can directly interact with its merchant without the involvement of any intermediate body, which allows them to understand the products & services and various intricacies of the program. Conversely, the merchants can learn about their customers directly from the affiliates.
Affiliates’ feedback on any product is a cumulative opinion of their target audience, which can help you to improve and update your affiliate products.
This is restricted in network programs, where merchants have less interaction with their promoters.
6. Support And Help
Reputed affiliate programs of both types pay special attention to providing support and help to their affiliates. A program with poor support facilities risks the retention of the existing affiliates partners.
Providing multi-channel support such as chat, call, and email support can make it easy for the affiliates to seek help.
In-house program support may directly connect the affiliates with the program manager, as in the case of the WP Swings in-house affiliate program.
Similar support and help services are available for the network programs as well. But due to the high amount of support queries, quality responsiveness may vary.
7. Other Reasons
Not all affiliates you approve to join your program are sincere candidates; some are scammers and deceivers. Such affiliate partners will degrade the essence of the program.
Affiliate networks have procedures to detect these scammers and block them to protect your program.
Whereas in-house affiliates are more vulnerable to such bad affiliates, particularly when the affiliate manager isn’t smart enough to manually detect them at the first instance.
The server strength is another concerning issue for the in-house affiliate program.
The in-house affiliate program is hosted on the server where your store or website is hosted, which may fail to handle sudden high traffic. But affiliate networks use high-performance servers and are capable of holding abrupt high traffic or loads.
Let’s now learn how to build an in-house affiliate program for your online store.
Setting Up Your First In-House Affiliate Program
In this section, you will learn to set up an in-house affiliate program for your online retail shop, or for other forms of online businesses; no matter product-based or service-based.
Choosing the right plugin is the first step.
There are several affiliate plugins for WordPress such as Affiliate WP, Post Affiliate Pro, Affiliate Manager, Ultimate Affiliate Pro, Affiliate Royale, etc., which complete the platform set up in just a few minutes.
All you need to do is to click ‘Add New’ on the plugin section, search for the affiliate plugin that you wish to get started with, install, and activate (make the payment, in case you are using the paid version).
These plugins add a complete management environment, with several in-built features.
The common features include:
Accurate affiliate tracking
Payout services Integration
Referral link generator
Set cookies expiration
Coupon code tracking
Referral rates and types
Other forms of integration
Support and help feature
You require these features in the management of the in-house affiliate program. We will not go through these plugins in detail, here.
But, let’s look at various aspects of the program setup that you must be ready with.
1. Get An Affiliate Manager
Your program requires regular management and care, hence employing a fixed and capable person to handle this desk is vital.
The affiliate network management task includes; maintaining and updating the platform, promoting the affiliate programs at various affiliate channels to attract more affiliates, scrutinizing and approving new affiliates, providing support, paying earned commission, and other management queries.
Without a manager, the process will turn random and unorganized.
2. Decide The Extent Of Your Program
You must be sure about the extent of your affiliate program. A target point is a must.
What is the range of your budget?
How many affiliates would you be targeting to get for your program?
What is your expected ROI?
How extensively do you wish to promote your affiliate program?
To keep the technical, marketing, and management-related aspects in sync and fulfilling to each other, you need to answer the above questions convincingly.
3. Make It Easy To Join
A complicated procedure to join the program will lower the motivation of affiliates to join it.
Making it easy, quick, free of cost, etc., will increase the chance of more affiliates showing interest in your program.
The most simple steps are:
Fill Registration Form ———> Wait for Approval ———> Get Started
Further, you should try to keep the registration form as simple as possible and extract only the important information in the beginning.
Pro Tip: You can take a look at the WP Swings affiliate program registration form for guidance. (promoters can fill it and start earning straight away)
4. Choose Payment Methods To Offer
PayPal is the most convenient and quick method of payment, locally as well as internationally. Other options include paying directly to bank accounts, debit, or credit cards.
You can add new payment methods through integration with payment gateways. But make sure that whatever method you choose is easy, less time-consuming, and inexpensive.
For beginners, I would suggest PayPal as the first choice for paying affiliates.
5. Help Affiliates Understand Your Products
Once the affiliates have joined your program, they are actively looking for your most profitable and popular products to promote and start earning the commission.
Make it easy for them to quickly discover your products by writing product-centric articles, product lists, promotional methods, downloadable PDFs, videos, and other resources to understand your affiliate products well enough to win the buyers easily.
Many retailers provide free sample products to their affiliates to offer a first-hand experience with the products. If providing demos and sample products is feasible for you, then please do so.
6. Fix Commission Rates
It’s completely your decision to decide how much commission you can afford to offer your affiliates.
Generally, one-time paying products such as electronics products, clothing, fashion, beauty products, etc., have low commission.
Whereas software-as-a-service (SaaS) products are often subscription-based and have a recurring payment. Thus, such products allow a high commission to their affiliates.
7. Decide Cookie Period
The buyers don’t buy products immediately after clicking the affiliate link, they would take some time for consideration and finally decide whether to buy the product or not.
A cookie is a small piece of information stored in your system. The cookie period is the amount of time it takes for the cookies to expire after creation.
In affiliate marketing, the cookie period is the duration for which the affiliates hold the right to claim for commission after a lead is generated through their affiliate link.
For example, Wix offers 90 days of cookies duration, which means that any person visiting Wix through an affiliate link and signing up any time before 90 days, the respective affiliate will get its commission for that.
8. Be Prepared With Terms And Conditions
Don’t take affiliate terms and conditions lightly.
Having a proper set of affiliate rules signed with your affiliates is necessary to avoid future problems.
It binds your affiliate partners to follow a certain set of regulations and allows you to have the right of their termination in case of any misconduct. It makes the procedure legal and protects your rights.
Now, let’s check the WP Swings in-house affiliate marketing program in detail.
WP Swings In-House Affiliate Marketing Program
This section will provide an example of an in-house affiliate program to merchants to check various aspects of affiliate network management, the dashboard, strategies, and other essential features that they need to care for while starting and managing their own program.
Whereas the promoters can consider this as their next opportunity to join and earn a maximum of 50% commission on each successful sale.
A successful affiliate marketer also considers whose product to promote. Are those trusted brands? Is the firm rising or declining? Whether the company sells global or regional? etc.
Products from trusted sources and brands make it easy for the affiliates to convince their audience to purchase, hence the earning possibility is much higher.
WP Swings is a digital marketing agency, recognized globally for its WooCommerce services and plugins. Its affiliate program offers high-earning opportunities to affiliates who are interested in promoting WooCommerce plugins.
Affiliate Program Dashboard Tour
The dashboard of WP Swings’ affiliate program provides complete access and control to the affiliates over their account. It assists the promoters to keep their overall affiliate marketing efforts, information, earnings, referrals made, etc., centric to one commonplace.
The image below shows the dashboard of the WP Swings Affiliate Marketing program.
There are 5 more tabs in the dashboard panel. They are:
Affiliate Profile Tab
This tab consists of three sub-menus namely “Edit Account”, “Change Password” and “Payout Details”. The first 2 sub-menus are self-explanatory which allows affiliates to edit their account details and password.
‘Payout Details is where affiliates can enter their payment type and payment email address.
Payment type involves PayPal and Bank Account. Affiliates can choose according to their convenience. But PayPal is more advisable as it is much quicker and easier.
Marketing Resources Tab
This consists of ‘Affiliate Links’, ‘Campaigns’, and ‘Creatives’.
‘Creatives’ is where affiliates can find the preloaded images of WP Swings products and can use them on their websites, blogs, etc. You are not authorized to use any other banners, other than the ones present in this section.
The ‘Campaigns’ section allows affiliates to build separate online marketing campaigns as per various categories such as festive campaigns, or any product-specific campaign. This helps in the proper segmentation of the affiliate marketing efforts.
The ‘Affiliate Links’ allows affiliates to generate their referral link. Or they can simply use the default ones.
This gives affiliates an insight into the referred clients and sales.
This section allows affiliates to apply for manual payments for specific periods.
This tab consists of 4 sub-menus: Overall, Traffic Logs, Campaign Reports, and Referral History.
In the overall section, you can see your progress and current rank. Under traffic logs, you can view the total traffic, conversions, and success rate via your affiliate campaigns for a specific time.
Campaign reports give you deep insights into the different affiliate campaigns you ran. Referrals History shows you the full history of your referrals to date.
Log Out: This lets you log out of your WP Swings affiliate account.
Top WP Swings Products You Can Promote
The list of WP Swings eCommerce plugins will be the right place to look after all the products and choose what you wish to promote and earn.
But I have listed the top products and their respective commission to check in here and now.
Note: These plugins are made for designing an eCommerce store and customization. Hence, merchants too can choose and strengthen their eCommerce business.
Let’s see the list: (The commission is calculated for fourth-tier)
Note: These prices are just for example. They may change in the future.
Tips To Manage Your In-House Affiliate Program
The major downside of in-house affiliate programs is that they demand self-management and self-promotion to hook the attention of affiliates.
To make this affiliate network management task cost-effective and smooth, I’ve listed some useful tips to help you.
Tip #1: Competitor Analysis
If your deal is weaker than your competitors’ deal, the promoters will show the least interest in your program.
Therefore, carrying out an extensive analysis of all competitors before fixing your rules, commission rates, privacy policies, terms of conditions, etc. would help to keep you prepared for the competition.
Tip #2: Commission Claim
It’s not just successful sales that always earn the promoters. Some businesses even pay their affiliates for bringing leads or even clicks.
Whether you should pay for clicks or leads or not, depends on your business model.
If clicks and leads add to your revenue, then add it to your affiliate’s revenue as well.
Hence, the three most used commission claims are:
Commission per sale
Payment per click
Tip #3: Finding Quality Affiliates
Finding good affiliates requires time, effort, and strategy.
The success of your affiliate program depends on how successfully your affiliates can market your products and services. In conclusion, you need quality affiliates.
Exposing your affiliate program to various channels, creating a separate landing page, writing content about it, running social media and search engine ads., referral programs, word of mouth, etc., all can help to get high-quality promoters or influencers for your program.
Don’t miss adding your affiliate program landing page to your website’s footer.
Sending affiliate-centric emails to your existing customers is also effective as they are more likely to join your affiliate program.
Tip #4: Offer Creatives And Marketing Resources
If your affiliates generate sales, you will earn too.
Therefore, helping your affiliates with creatives, banners, custom images, videos, flash links, etc., is the best for business. These resources will help them market your products effectively and increase affiliate earnings.
Affiliate marketing programs are an easy way to increase visibility, bring more traffic, and drive sales. Since it’s performance-based revenue sharing, the risk is little.
Starting your in-house program is tough in the beginning but has several long-term benefits. With the help of this article, setting up an in-house program will become easy for you.
The tips will further assist you in managing the program smoothly and making it extremely successful.
Thanks for reading. Let me know what do you prefer — in-house affiliate marketing programs or network-based affiliate programs and why?
Aditya Srivastava is a poet, writer, and avid reader. He lives to write and writes for a living. Coffee is his elixir, and books are his best friends. To him, passion and profession are equal. Like most writers, he is also a potent thinker, but he only thinks with his pen.