In late 2014, a good friend (who serves as a high-level executive of a major publishing outlet) authored and rolled out his new book. Looking for ways to increase its sales, he reached out to me asking how we could utilize the power of affiliate marketing to aid in his objective. The only question I needed to ask
before answering his was: “How are you currently selling the book?” (read: which online property would you envisage affiliates to drive the prospective buyers too?) The answer was: “It’s sold on Amazon, and I want affiliates to increase my sales there.” We could never start that affiliate program. The conditions made it purely impossible.
Fast-forward two and a half years, and someone requests a quote on having us build and launch an affiliate program for her video courses on Udemy. She is willing to share a portion of the revenue received from the affiliate-referred sales with those affiliates who drove the sales. While this is a perfect example of a performance-based affiliate program, the Udemy situation is basically identical to the above-referenced Amazon example. It is a no-go on “adding an affiliate program” front; and it’s high time I elaborated why.
Online marketplaces are great for giving your products targeted exposure. However, whether you are selling a product on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, or CafePress, a service on Upwork, or a video course on Udemy or Lynda.com, you cannot set up an affiliate program of your own for these.
The reason is pretty simple: for the affiliate program to function, the platform on which you sell needs to collaborate with the affiliate marketing solution which you use on attributing conversions to the referring affiliates. Whether it requires firing a tracking pixel on the order confirmation page, or ensuring a server-to-server postback of the data associated with the conversion, a technical integration of some sort must take place.
Circling back to the two examples that I started with, neither Amazon, nor Udemy would be open to the integration of the aforementioned kind; at least not to my knowledge. In fact, both of these platforms operate affiliate programs of their own, and these can be used to promote your products. However, the relationship with affiliates in these cases would be owned by Amazon and Udemy, respectively.
To start a direct revenue share affiliate program, you must have an online storefront of your own. If/when you do have a standalone website, fully controlled by you, where your product or service is sold, setting up your own affiliate program becomes absolutely possible.
In some situations (possibly even the above two examples) it may not make sense selling directly, while in other scenarios it makes all the sense in the world! Should you wish to discuss your specific situation, feel free to hit me up.