Prune Possible Partners By Eliminating Highrisk Programs

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Find the good programs and eliminate the dogs by considering the following plus signs, minus signs, and red flags. Let's start with the plus signs, signified by +, which means "good things to look for." Here they are, in the approximate order of importance...

+ High quality product or service -- remember, it's your reputation that is on the line (and online!). Don't recommend products that UNDERdeliver.

+ Merchant has a good site that sells effectively.

+ Ability for affiliate to link straight to individual products, rather than just to the home page. (If the visitor has to find the product that you recommend, your Conversion Rate plummets.)

+ Type of payment model... Pay-per-sale and pay-per-lead are good. This is true "performance marketing." If your referred visitor delivers the desired response, you get paid. What about "pay-per-click?" See red flags below.

+ Affiliate Support...

• Accurate, reliable real-time online accounting, preferably with some kind of ability to "audit" by spot-checking

• Detailed traffic and linking stats

• Notification by e-mail when a sale is made

• Useful marketing assistance, provides traffic-building and sales-getting tools

• High-quality newsletter that educates, trains, and accounts for amounts earned

• Professional marketing materials available

• Affiliates receive discount on products

Great affiliate support is important for a "between the lines" reason, too. It indicates a high degree of commitment to the program and its affiliates.

+ Pays good commission -- hard goods have lower margins than digital ones. So their commissions will be lower. Still, you should make at least 10% (hard good) or 20% (digital good) on any product that you recommend. Don't be scared off by low-priced products if they offer a good % commission -- the lower dollar value per sale is offset by the higher sales volume.

+ Must be free (no charge) to join, no need to buy the product.

+ Lifetime commission -- if the program pays a commission on future sales of other products to customers that you refer, this is a huge plus.

+ Two-tier commission -- if the program pays a commission on affiliates who join because of you, this is also great.

+ Lifetime cookie -- Do you receive a commission if the person you referred returns and buys within one month? Three months? The cookie that tracks this should not expire.

+ Restriction on number of affiliates -- you won't find many of these. But if you do, grab it.

+ Monthly payment, with reasonable minimum.

Do all those pluses have to be present? No. But the more, the merrier.

Minus signs are definite detractors. Naturally, if you are unable to give a + to any of the criteria listed just above, consider its absence to be a minus. And watch out for these negative factors...

— Unethical conduct of any kind.

— Allow spam, or seem to spam themselves.

— Defective affiliate-joining process. Hey, if they can't get this right...

— Clauses in the agreement that you find unacceptable

• Example... If lifetime customers are important to you, then a clause that allows unilateral termination or modification of the agreement at any time by the company, without just cause, effectively makes the lifetime commitment of no value.

• Example... No exclusivity -- i.e., you should be allowed to represent more than one book vendor.

And perhaps the most worrisome factor of all.

— "The dark side" of affiliate programs. Is the program really just a way to legally bribe folks to recommend overpriced, UNDERdelivering products in order to collect excessive commissions?

There is a commission that is "just right" for each product. If the commission is too low, it is not interesting enough for affiliates. If it is too high, it's a consumer rip-off. (Excessive commissions also push the price of the product up to levels that cannot survive for long in the competitive Net marketplace.)

Your job as an affiliate is an important one. You deliver high-value content that gains the confidence and trust of your visitor/reader. You include recommendations and referrals to your new friends as part of your service and content. Recommending anything less than sterling products is simply sophisticated, subtle fraud.

If you find products that fit your theme but that don't deliver quality, sell them advertising. This way, you don't compromise your ethics... your reputation. Because the customer recognizes advertising for what it is... a promotion. Nothing wrong with that at all, because their "guard is up."

Bottom line...

Don't allow yourself to be bribed into recommending such products -- in the long run, your reputation will be ruined. And so will your business.

On the other hand, when your visitors are rewarded repeatedly by your rich recommendations, their increasing like and respect of your judgment will keep them coming back for more!

Red flags are warning signs...

"Pay-per-click" method of payment. In this method, you get paid whenever a visitor clicks on your link. No purchase or lead-generation necessary.

Unfortunately, it's wide open for abuse -- very sophisticated folks create incentives to get thousands of people to click on their links. But the visitors could care less about the products being promoted. It's virtually unstoppable. And merchants end up paying for nothing.

So merchants cancel or change the program. Microsoft's Clicktrade (see above) used to offer pay-per-click backend programming for merchants. They dropped it due to the level of fraudulent activity that hurt merchants.

Multi-tier commission -- this is online MLM, which is perfectly legal. Do your due diligence to make sure, of course, that a multi-tier program is not an illegal pyramid scheme. If the "game" is to earn income by signing up others, you most likely are dealing with a pyramid. Many people confuse honest, legal MLM with dishonest, scammy pyramid schemes.

With MLM (also known as Network Marketing), it becomes as important to build a strong downline as it does to sell product. Also, MLM companies are subject to numerous regulations (to prevent them from becoming pyramids, basically). Not all online companies are complying (or even know about this!).

Watch out for a big shakeout with many of these companies going belly-up. If multi-tier interests you, I would recommend that you check out established offline MLMs that are now online.

Or... investigate all others extremely carefully before you decide to invest a lot of time in these.

If you are an Network marketing representative who is using Site Build It!, go like crazy! You have a big edge over 99% of Network marketers, who are mostly failing online. Be sure to join the 5 Pillar Program before you tell your entire downline about how much Site Build It! has built your online business.

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