Running a Private Label or In-house Affiliate Program vs. an Affiliate Network Program

Should we run an ‘in-house’ program or join an affiliate program network?

It’s a question that Affiliate Program Managers have wrestled with for years and there’s no clear cut answer, but after you learn the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, you’ll be in the best position to make the decision that’s right for your business.

With the multitude of choices available today for one to run an affiliate program, there is not always a clear distinction between what is commonly referred to as an in-house vs. a network program. First let’s discuss some terminology and definitions…

Below are some basic attributes of each solution type and some examples:

Affiliate Networks: Refers to a place where multiple merchants/advertisers promote their affiliate programs, campaigns and offers to multiple affiliates/publishers who in turn promote these programs to their audiences. (Please note: For simplicity sake, and also because I do not generally recommend them, I am not including a discussion of “CPA” or lead networks in this article.)

Examples of Affiliate Networks include: Commission Junction, LinkShareShareasale, eBay Enterprises (formerly Pepperjam Network), LinkConnector, and AvantLink.

In-House Program: This usually refers to an affiliate program that is not offered through a public affiliate network. Sometimes called a private label program, in-house affiliate programs are typically administered using:

  1. Off-shelf Software purchased outright or on a licensed basis that is installed completely at the merchant’s site and runs independently. iDevAffiliate is one of the most popular affiliate program software products.
  2. Shopping Cart Plug-ins are often available to merchants, as shopping cart software commonly includes an ‘affiliate program module’
  3. ASP Solutions usually licensed on a month-to-month basis are very commonly used. Virtually all aspects of the affiliate program are administered through the solution vendor’s website. Program managers log in to the site to: set up program terms and affiliate compensation levels, run performance reports, provide promotions to affiliates, communicate with affiliates, etc.. Affiliates log in to their accounts to grab promotions and run reports of their activity. Examples of ASP solutions include:

DirectTrack is a very popular ASP solution, but over the years it has evolved into a solution that’s best for those who want to run their own affiliate network with multiple offers/campaigns. Using DirectTrack to manage a single program has become cost prohibitive for most. Years ago, DT costs $50 a month to run a program, now it’s at least $500 a month.

Infusionsoft is a very popular CRM platform that includes an affiliate program module. I’m devoting an entire article to Infusionsoft that will be released in November.

Advantages & Disadvantages of In-House vs. Affiliate Network Programs

As an outsource affiliate program manager for over 10 years, I’ve managed a slew of in-house and network programs. Recruiting desirable affiliates has always been an important responsibility in this role and it’s always been abundantly clear to me that affiliates prefer to work with merchants though a respected third party network.

The primary reasons why affiliates prefer to work with a network:

  1. Affiliates want to ensure they get paid. This desire cannot be emphasized enough. Affiliates know that merchant programs will be flagged or suspended by the network if they do not keep their accounts properly funded to cover commissions earned. Affiliates also trust that third party tracking is more reliable and they will earn proper credit for their referred sales. In addition, if you have a ‘young’ brand this concern becomes even more critical. Affiliates rightly have no reason to trust they will be paid the commissions they’ve earned by a company that has not been in business very long and is not well-known.
  2. Affiliates don’t want to learn how to use your in-house ‘system’.  In order to participate in any program, affiliates need to know how to get link codes, generate and interpret reports, access product datafeeds, post ever-changing deals, and more. Every affiliate solution, whether a network or in-house, is unique in how it handles these functions, so there is always a learning curve. There is often resistance by affiliates in having to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of another affiliate solution. This is why many will only work with a handful of network solutions only.
  3. Networks offer centralized reporting and consolidated payments.  Affiliates prefer to limit the number of places they need to go for reporting. They may be participating in many programs within one network and therefore can run reports all at once vs. logging into a single in-house program. In addition, most programs have a minimum payment amount which is often $100. For the small affiliate, they may never reach this threshold for a single program they are promoting, but since networks will consolidate earnings from all the programs the affiliate is participating in, it’s then much easier for the affiliate to reach the minimum payment threshold.

From the merchant’s perspective, the great advantage of using an affiliate network is your program’s exposure to lots of affiliates. Networks already have a base of affiliates – in some cases, hundreds of thousands – and when your program launches on one of these networks this exposure is tremendous and quite valuable.

There are still some important advantages of running an in-house/private affiliate program:

1. The Direct Relationship.  The single most important advantage of an in-house program is establishing a direct relationship with each of your affiliates. With some network solutions, it’s virtually impossible to do this. Typically, will you have not access to anything more than an affiliate’s email address – and some networks even allow affiliates to hide their email address and opt-out of your correspondence! This has often mystified me. Why networks would want to limit merchant communications with their affiliates is without explanation.

The other critical factor with a direct relationship is that you do not have to pay a performance based fee to the network each time one of your affiliates refers a sale. Furthermore, some of the networks base this fee on a percentage of the commission rate – usually from 20-30% of commissions paid – vs. network performance fees based on sales revenue – usually 3% of sales. This is another pet peeve of mine…as it seems unfair to be required to pay more to the network when it’s decided to increase overall commission rates or even to raise the commission for an individual affiliate. For example, if you are paying affiliates 10% and the network is earning 30%, then their net fee is 3% of sales. If you increase commissions to 15%, then the network automatically gets a ‘raise’ to 4.5%! This amounts to a disincentive to raise commission rates in order to grow one’s program – something the networks would want to encourage!

2. Increased Control and Flexibility. With an in-house program you have the ability to create a custom-built solution that allows for more integration with your business. With more integration with your business, you can much more easily track affiliate referrals for the lifetime of the customer. This means affiliates can be paid true residual income on the customers they refer. With integrated, database tracking, this is a straight-forward process. Cookie tracking is all that most network solutions can offer which is a very unreliable way to track future purchases.  And with a custom solution comes greater control. However, this will put more demands on IT Resources that may or may not be available to you. Still, even with a third party or software solution, you typically have more control than when part of an affiliate network.

So Which is Better — In-house or a Network Program?

Jim Gribble of LinkProfits has been managing affiliate programs for over a decade.

Of course, there is no clear choice, it depends on the particular needs of the merchant and how they match up with the advantages and disadvantages cited above.

However, I generally recommend to successful merchants to consider running both an internal affiliate program and also have a presence on at least one of the large affiliate networks. This is the strategy that I have seen work well and have implemented successfully myself numerous times.

If you are a merchant interested in pursuing a robust affiliate program, I invite you to contact me to discuss your particular situation and objectives.

 

Automated Coupon Datafeeds are Preferred by Most Affiliate Deal Sites

If you are an affiliate marketer and run a coupon or deal site, then you are probably using one of the many ways to receive coupon codes from merchants via some type of automated feed.

Virtually all of the major affiliate networks offer some type of coupon datafeed, including Commission Junction’s Coupon-Only Offers RSS Feed, LinkShare’s LinkLocator, Shareasale’s Deal Database Feed, LinkConnector’s Coupon/Promotions Feed, eBay Enterprises’ RSS Feed, and AvantLink’s Dynamic Coupon Feed.

It’s pretty much an accepted fact that using coupon codes to promote a merchant is a proven-successful way for affiliates to boost clickthroughs and conversions — and ultimately, earn more commissions. And you don’t need to be a coupon site to promote coupon codes. Plenty of affiliate publishers include them in blog and Facebook posts and in their newsletters to subscribers. Typically, if you’re only going to feature a handful of coupon code deals, then one does not necessarily need to subscribe to some type of coupon datafeed. But if you do run a ‘deal site’ then some type of automated method to retrieve and update promotions is a must, since it can save you hundreds of man-hours.

However, using one of the feeds or API solutions from the large networks can be difficult to fully integrate into your website and to automate these activities. There are tech-savvy folks out there who are happy to help you with this challenge OR affiliates can utilize one of the tools available that will help you to fully automate the various Network feeds into your website.

couponfeeds

I’m happy to highlight four tools that will help you to automate coupon code integration into your websites. Here’s my alphabetical list of these services. Please note, there are other similar services out there, but they do not appear to be active businesses judging by their lack of current news published on their websites, so I am not including these services here.

1. Coupilia — According to their website, Coupilia currently disseminates coupons from 6,994 merchants across 15 affiliate networks. “We are very selective in the merchants and networks we partner with and only offer quality merchants for our clients.” They currently offer two different subscription plans: Their Professional Plan which has a 14-day free trial, costs $499 per month and is valid for one URL. For rev-share or multiple domains, Coupilia asks that you contact them for custom pricing.
2. For Me To Coupon — This is one of the most popular coupon integration tools.  According to their website: “For Me To Coupon takes the hassle out of running an affiliate coupon or deal site. We spend thousands of hours each month testing, fixing, and categorizing coupons and links so you don’t have to. In addition to aggregating offers available through the networks, we also build deep links to sales and clearance, promotional shipping offers, and provide extensive data on every merchant we support.” They offer three subscriptions from $500 to $1499 per month and each has a free 30-day trial.
3. GoldenCAN — This long-standing tool is primarily focused on product feeds, but it also has a Coupon Integration™ option which “provides an opportunity for the affiliates to display thousands of online coupons, promotions and recent price drops for the products of their selected merchant(s). All these information will be available to their store with just a single line of code. This store can be created for single as well as multiple merchants. Different styles and display options are available that enhance the store functionality and visibility. For example you can create a store for coupons only, for price drop products only or even for both.”
4. PopShops – They have been around a long time and were purchased by Rakuten Marketing (owners of LinkShare) earlier this year. Originally focused on product feeds, Popshops also offers a “coupons and comparison shopping” solution.  Plans range from Free (with rev-share) to $59.99/month, with a 30-day free trial. LinkProfits has no referral relationship with Popshops, but we can offer readers a 10% off coupon for PopShops subscriptions by using the code: LINKPROFITS10

Click to learn more about FMTC's Deal Bank

Please note: I included Prosperent in the graphic, but upon further investigation it is felt their model is more similar to ad serving than it is to an automated coupon data feed service.

VitalMax Vitamins Releases 50% Off Coupon for Labor Day Weekend!

Affiliates of VitalMax Vitamins: this is a MUST promote! Beginning today, and through next Tuesday, the following 50% OFF coupon code is valid on all the entire line of VitalMax’s exclusive formulations.

Below I have provided you with samples of the links I have set up in both Commission Junction and in Shareasale for all these promotions. Affiliates should be sure to log into their accounts in order to retrieve your special links which contain the proper tracking codes.

It’s going to be a big sales weekend for VitalMax! Get in on the commissions by promoting this awesome Labor Day Weekend coupon:

Click to visit our website!

VitalMax Vitamins Labor Day Weekend Sale! Take 50% OFF any order of $80 or more! Use coupon code 644363. Discount provided in shopping cart. Expires 9/3/13

And here’s our coupon code promo for the month of September. Please post this prominently on your site, blog or Facebook page:   

Click to visit our website!

VitalMax Vitamins Rake in the Fall Sale! Take 33% OFF any order of $30 or more! Use coupon code 644362. Discount provided in shopping cart. Expires 9/30/13

New Thyroid Complete is Already a Best Seller!

Never before has there been a combination of natural ingredients that can help promote a healthy thyroid gland. Each nutrient was carefully chosen to assist your body’s ability to maintain proper thyroid function.

Thyroid Complete will help support the balancing of both key hormones levothyroxine (T4) and L-triiodothyronine (T3). Both these hormones are critical in maintaining good weight control, mood swings and a normal energy level.

Use the links below along with any product copy on our website’s product detail page to promote this new winner.

Click to learn more!

New Thyroid Complete helps you to rebalance your thyroid. Solve weight issues and increase your energy levels! Click to save 15% on any order of Thyroid Complete with coupon code 641180. Exp 12/31/13

Introducing New VitaTHIN!

VitalMax Vitamins now brings you and your readers the “best of the best” when it comes to weight control. Every fat-fighting nutrient that’s now making headline news is here to help you curb your appetite, burn off those unnecessary inches around your waistline, and make you look thinner…slimmer…and healthier!

As seen on TV, Dr. Oz was the first to make Green Coffee Extract, Raspberry Ketones, Saffron Extract, and African Mango Seed household names. Now VitaThin brings all four of these powerful weight-reducing nutrients together into one formula!

Use the links below along with any product copy on our website’s product detail page to promote this hot seller.

Click to learn more!

New VitaTHIN is the first complete weight control supplement with Green Coffee Bean Extract and Raspberry Ketones! Buy 2 and get one bottle FREE — Click now to save!

Below is a VitalMax store description you are welcome to publish on your site (be sure to use your affiliate links and not the links from this blog post):

VitalMaxVitamins.com is a great place for valuable heath information and the most advanced nutritional formulas at affordable prices. Each proprietary formulation has been researched and developed by some of the leading health experts in the U.S.. All VitalMax nutritional supplements use only the purest of raw materials produced in our GMP and FDA approved labs. All orders are rushed to your door fast and fresh! And all your purchases are backed by our 100% money back guarantee — every product — every order — every time. Your satisfaction and good health are our top priorities! Visit VitalMax Vitamins!

Log into your Commission Junction or Shareasale account in order to retrieve your VitalMax links.

The VitalMax Vitamins affiliate program is managed by LinkProfits. Please click here to learn more about our Affiliate Program on either the Commission Junction Network or the ShareaSale Affiliate Network. We’re to help you promote VitalMax Vitamins in the best way so you can maximize your earnings. Please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime with your questions or comments — we want to hear from you!

How Affiliates can Link to Any Page on BotanicChoice.com

I’m often asked by affiliates how to link to specific pages on the Botanic Choice website. Here’s a simple way to link to any page on our site:

When you log into your account on Commission Junction and go to the Botanic Choice Get Links area, you have the ability to find existing links to a number of special pages/sections on botanicchoice.com, as well as all our individual product pages. For instance, you can link to our Weight Loss section or to our Thyroid Complex detail page using the links that are already available. Finding just what you want in our Get Links section can sometimes be tedious. An easy way to link to any page on our site is to use our “Deep Linking” link. Here are step-by-step instruction on how to use this handy link:

1. Determine the page on our site you want to refer traffic to. For example, say you want to link to our page that offer Opti Gold Vision Formula (pictured below). When you are on the page, copy the URL for that page. For our example, the URL is http://www.botanicchoice.com/Vision-Health-Lutein/Opti-Gold-Vision-Formula-30-capsules-per-bottle.axd.

deeplinking3

2. If you have not yet done so, log into your CJ account and go to the Botanic Choice Get Links section. Find the text link with the title of “DIRECT LINKING!” (see the image below). Then click on Get HTML for that link.

deeplinking1

3. When the new window pops up for the link, you will need to paste the desired landing page into the Destination URL box as indicated below. You will actually be replacing the URL that’s currently in the text box. Then click on Update Link Code in order to generate your special link.

deeplinking2

You will see a whole new link in the bottom text box that contains your tracking code. The new URL for this example is: http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-YOURCJPID-10416197?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.botanicchoice.com%2FVision-Health-Lutein%2FOpti-Gold-Vision-Formula-30-capsules-per-bottle.axd  The system adds your desired landing page in HTML form to the end of the tracking code. Please note that I put in a placeholder for where your CJ PID would go.

You can use this same technique with any Commission Junction Advertiser links that include this functionality. If you don’t see the Destination URL enabled for any of your Advertiser’s links, then ask your Affiliate Program Manager to check the box “Allow for Deep Linking” for the desired link, assuming they are open to allowing you to link to any of their pages. If you still have questions about deep linking, please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime.

Below is a store description you are welcome to publish on your site (be sure to use your affiliate links and not the links below):

For over 100 years Botanic Choice has been a leading provider of high-quality vitamins, nutritional supplements, natural beauty products, liquid extracts and herbal teas and homeopathic remedies. Since 1910, customers have trusted Botanic Choice for their health care needs.

We deliver superior quality and value. You can expect the freshest natural products available – the same quality or better than the more expensive national brands. Botanic Choice manufactures nutritional supplements and herbal remedies using rigorous quality control standards and strict guidelines in every health-giving product we sell. Our researchers monitor the latest nutritional and scientific advancements to develop the most effective, powerful vitamin formulas you will only find here, like Thyroid Complex, Apple Cider Vinegar Plus with Green Tea, Prostate 9 Complex, and Opti Gold Vision Formula.

All Botanic Choice purchases are backed by a money-back guarantee. If you’re not 100% totally satisfied, simply return the unused portion for a full and prompt product refund. We are members in good standing of the Better Business Bureau and follow all compliance regulations for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) as outlined by the FDA. Visit BotanicChoice.com!

I’m here to help!

Please keep in mind, I’m here to help you promote Botanic Choice in the best way so you can maximize your earnings. So don’t hesitate to contact me anytime with your questions or comments — I want to hear from you.

The Botanic Choice affiliate program is managed by LinkProfits. Our valued affiliates earn 15% commissions, with easily attainable bonus levels that bump your monthly commission to 18% with just $200 in referred sales. We provide monthly coupon codes and a product catalog/datafeed to support your efforts.  Please click here to learn more about our Affiliate Program on the Commission Junction Network.

Vitamin Programs Release Deals Producing Healthy Commisisons!

Two vitamin supplement merchants have just released some pretty awesome coupon code deals — check ’em out:

Botanic Choice Offers HALF OFF August Deals!

With summer and vacations is full swing, Botanic Choice decided to really get sales moving this month with the release of some of the very best coupon code deals ever!

Affiliates: This is your opportunity to really cash in, but you must give these deals extra exposure to your audience. Feature these deals on your homepage and in your subscriber newsletters, do a blog post and let your Facebook followers know — and you will surely generate some nice commissions. Click now to save 50%!

HOT Vitamin Sale! Use Coupon Code: HOTBUYS50 — Take 50% off any order of $50+, plus get free shipping when you spend $25+. Valid on everything, even sale items! Expires 8/31/13 Click now to save!         AUGUST-2013-HOTBUYS25

 

 

 

HOT Vitamin Sale! Use Coupon Code: HOTBUYS25 — Take $25 off any order of $50+, plus get free shipping when you spend $25+. Valid on everything, even sale items! Expires 8/31/13 Click now to save!

 

Below is a Botanic Choice store description you are welcome to publish on your site (Be sure to use your affiliate links and not the links on this page as they do not contain your affiliate tracking ID.):

For over 100 years Botanic Choice has been a leading provider of high-quality vitamins, nutritional supplements, natural beauty products, liquid extracts and herbal teas and homeopathic remedies. Since 1910, customers have trusted Botanic Choice for their health care needs. We deliver superior quality and value. You can expect the freshest natural products available – the same quality or better than the more expensive national brands. Botanic Choice manufactures nutritional supplements and herbal remedies using rigorous quality control standards and strict guidelines in every health-giving product we sell. Our researchers monitor the latest nutritional and scientific advancements to develop the most effective, powerful vitamin formulas you will only find here, like Thyroid Complex, Apple Cider Vinegar Plus with Green Tea, Prostate 9 Complex, and Opti Gold Vision Formula. All Botanic Choice purchases are backed by a money-back guarantee. If you’re not 100% totally satisfied, simply return the unused portion for a full and prompt product refund. We are members in good standing of the Better Business Bureau and follow all compliance regulations for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) as outlined by the FDA. Visit BotanicChoice.com!

I’m here to help! Please keep in mind, I’m here to help you promote Botanic Choice in the best way so you can maximize your earnings. So don’t hesitate to contact me anytime with your questions or comments — I want to hear from you.

The Botanic Choice affiliate program is managed by LinkProfits. Our valued affiliates earn 15% commissions, with easily attainable bonus levels that bump your monthly commission to 18% with just $200 in referred sales. We provide monthly coupon codes and a product catalog/datafeed to support your efforts.  Please click here to learn more about our Affiliate Program on the Commission Junction Network.

VitalMax Vitamins Steps Up with 25% Off and Free Shipping Coupons!

The VitalMax Vitamins Affiliate Program pays its affiliate partners a category-leading 20% commission on all referred sales. LinkProfits’ Affiliate Program Management is there to provide you with everything you need to promote VitalMax’s healthy products, including: a comprehensive product datafeed, content links that make for highly effective blog posts and email campaigns, monthly coupon codes and exclusive coupons, and plenty of great banners.

VitalMax Vitamins End of Summer Sale! 250x250_Soak-UpTake 25% OFF any order of $50 or more! Use coupon code 641320. Discount provided in shopping cart. Expires 8/31/13 Click now to save!

VitalMax Vitamins has also released a FREE SHIPPING Coupon Code — Valid Until the End of the Year!

Get FREE SHIPPING with ANY order when you shop at VitalMax Vitamins! Enter coupon code FREESHIP during checkout. Coupon codes may not be combined. Expires 12/31/13 Click now to get free shipping!

Below is a VitalMax store description you are welcome to publish on your site (be sure to use your affiliate links and not the links from this blog post):

VitalMaxVitamins.com is a great place for valuable heath information and the most advanced nutritional formulas at affordable prices. Each proprietary formulation has been researched and developed by some of the leading health experts in the U.S.. All VitalMax nutritional supplements use only the purest of raw materials produced in our GMP and FDA approved labs. All orders are rushed to your door fast and fresh! And all your purchases are backed by our 100% money back guarantee — every product — every order — every time. Your satisfaction and good health are our top priorities! Visit VitalMax Vitamins!

Log into your Commission Junction or Shareasale account in order to retrieve your VitalMax links.

The VitalMax Vitamins affiliate program is managed by LinkProfits. Please click here to learn more about our Affiliate Program on either the Commission Junction Network or the ShareaSale Affiliate Network. We’re to help you promote VitalMax Vitamins in the best way so you can maximize your earnings. Please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime with your questions or comments — we want to hear from you!

New, Powerful Content Links Now Available to VitalMax Vitamins Affiliate Partners

VitalMax Vitamins recently added some great Content Links for affiliate partners to use as email promotions to their subscriber lists or to post on their blogs or websites.

These promotions are a powerful way to generate big sales and commissions with our program. Each one points to a long copy page this is PROVEN to convert your referrals into buyers of our products! Several of these offer a free report on the particular health concern and/or special pricing/discounts on each proprietary formulation.

These are the exact same promos we provide to our Joint Venture Partners who generate tons of sales from these. BTW, if you have products to offer our buyers, then please contact me to discuss a JV partnership!

I’ve listed each of the new Content Links below. Simply log into your CJ account using this link and you will be taken directly to our Advertiser Detail page. Then click on Content Links to access these promos. I’ve provided image samples of some of these promos at the end of this post. You can click on these ads to also preview the landing pages. These ad samples are for information purposes only –be sure to get your promotions from within your CJ account.

Content Link #11269774: Turbo-Trim HTML Email or Blog Post (see it below and click on the image to see the powerful landing page)

Content Link #11030418: Hair Energizer HTML Email or Blog Post

Content Link #11030408: Vita-Vision HTML Email or Blog Post (see it below and click on the image to see the powerful landing page)

Content Link #11030384: Prostanol® HTML Email or Blog Post (see it below and click on the image to see the powerful landing page)

Content Link #11028910: AccuHear™ HTML Email or Blog Post (see it below and click on the image to see the powerful landing page)

Content Link #11030461: Age Essentials™ HTML Email or Blog Post

Content Link #11030433: NeuroFlex™ HTML Email or Blog Post (see it below and click on the image to see the powerful landing page)

The VitalMax Vitamins affiliate program is managed by LinkProfits. Our valued affiliates earn a category-leading 20% commissions on all referred sales. We provide monthly coupon codes and a product catalog/datafeed to support your efforts.  Please click here to learn more about our Affiliate Program on either the Commission Junction Network or the ShareaSale Affiliate Network.

We’re to help you promote VitalMax Vitamins in the best way so you can maximize your earnings. Please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime with your questions or comments — we want to hear from you!

Click to view landing page!

 

 

Click to view landing page!

 

 

Cick to view landing page!