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  1. #1
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    Need advice for starting an Affiliate program for my company
    Hi guys, with so many forums I didn't know where to post. Hopefully this is the right one. Let me introduce myself, my name is Alan and I am very new to this world so please forgive any rookie mistakes. My company is called CLO Systems and we specialize in fully motorized robotic wall mounts. Our flagship product is called the X-arm but we have several new products coming out very soon. You can see more at closystems.com.

    We recently signed a deal with Chief/Sanus that gave them exclusive distribution for the U.S. and Canada. They sell the X-arm as the Visionmount LA112. Although we can no longer sell directly in the U.S. and Canada per this agreement, I am pretty sure that my contact at Chief would be willing to join this program once I have it set up.

    I want to set up an affiliate program for our company but I have no idea where to begin. I am familiar with SAS, CJ, and LS. Are there any advantages to joining one over the other or should we join more than one? We are interested in offering exclusive coupons to our affiliates as well as the usual banners. We can sell and ship our products to basically any country in the world and Chief also can sell and ship directly in North America. Since we only have a small number of products, I don't imagine we need to worry about datafeeds.

    Basically, we really want to increase our overseas sales. Especially in Europe and Asia. We get a ton of clicks from the U.K. for example but our European distributor is not doing a great job so we thought we needed to take matters into our own hands. If we can get our program up and running for international sales, I will then talk to my contact at Chief and try to bring them in for the U.S. and Canada.

    We want to create a very generous and fair affiliate program. The biggest problem is that I am very new to this so I would appreciate any advice on what steps we need to follow to do this correctly. Thanks very much in advance.

  2. #2
    Classic Rocker Mack's Avatar
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    I would suggest you hire an OPM and get professional advice. Although there is a wealth of information in this forum, an OPM can guide you through it more efficiently. Still, read the forum and educate yourself, but do yourself a huge favor and make sure your launch is not a failure.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the advice. I will consider your OPM suggestion and just looked at a few of them on this board. I am doing my best to learn as much as possible by reading relevant threads. We certainly want to have a successful launch and the best way to accomplish that is by arming ourselves with as much information as possible.

    If you took a look at our homepage and products, do you have any specific advice or what program would be the best fit?

    I would also appreciate any OPM recommendations given our goals. Will the OPM pretty much take care of everything or should we go ahead and join CJ or another program on our own first? We want to do as much as possible on our own to reduce costs but I understand the importance of getting professional help to avoid pitfalls.

  4. #4
    Classic Rocker Mack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwmac
    I would also appreciate any OPM recommendations given our goals. Will the OPM pretty much take care of everything or should we go ahead and join CJ or another program on our own first? We want to do as much as possible on our own to reduce costs but I understand the importance of getting professional help to avoid pitfalls.
    I would suggest holding off on joining a network until you consult with an OPM. They can tell you from experience which selection would best suit your needs. As far as them taking care of everything, I think most of them are flexible and work with you to determine how much help you'll require.

    Talk with more than one of them. Shop around.

    As far as reducing costs, everyone will agree with this. The price of hiring an OPM and using them to launch your program will pay for itself over and over again. It will make the difference between becoming just another program or a successful one.

  5. #5
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    Great advice and I will follow it. Should I just post separate threads in the OPM section on this board or contact a few of them directly? One thing I have learned is that the ones on this ABW board seem to be the way to go.

    If any OPM happens to read this thread, take a look at our homepage and products and post a message here. I realize today is Saturday so no rush on that. Hopefully we can talk on ichat, skype, or by phone next week to discuss in more detail.

    One last question, do you think our products lend themselves to affiliate programs?

  6. #6
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    I think you've gone from development and jumped into affiliate channel without even having bus dev nor a regular sales channel. While your product is innovative, techie and gadgety, I think you'd be using affiliates as this appears to be your primary marketing department. Doing so is ill advised and very dangerous for any kind of long term marketing of your products. I therefore echo the OPM suggestion, but not necessarily to discuss which network, but more so to discuss the overall marketing strategy of the company and if it is conducive for an affiliate program.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  7. #7
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Haiko, my sentiments exactly. The affiliate channel is not a branding tool and should not be considered until a converting online sales channel i.e. PPC, SEO, Media, etc. If you hand an unproven product line to affiliates it will just waste both their and your time. Feel free to contact me to discuss first steps.

  8. #8
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    I am not sure I understand what you mean about having gone from development without having a any business development or sales channel. Although I do agree that we have spent far too much focus on the engineering and too little on sales and marketing.We have won several industry awards from CES and Electronic House to name but a few, all listed on our webpage. We have also been selling the X-arm for about two years and have already sold many thousands, and our product is being sold by retailers like Circuit City, Radio Shack, Tiger Direct and many other large retailers. In fact we are by far the best selling motorized mount in the world and hold many key patents. Do a google search for x-arm mount.

    We originally were using K2mounts and Peerless as our North American distributors but recently switched to CSAV Inc (Chief/Sanus) who are the largest mount company in the world. If you visit sanus.com you will see our product rebranded as the LA112 on their homepage. This industry tends to be very old school/brick & mortar type of thinking and I am trying to introduce them to some new internet strategies. AFAIK, CSAV is not using any affiliate marketing at the momemnt. I am definitely here to learn as much as I can and we definitely will not jump into anything. I can see the value of talking to an OPM which I plan to do this week to formulate a strategy.

    Since Chief has taken over all our American distribution and they also sell the product directly, we want to focus more on international sales where we see a lot of potential growth. We have distribution partners in many areas of the world, but they are not really promoting the product as much as we would like. You can see the full list on our homepage. For this reason we are interested in trying to change that and help our distribution partners with marketing.

    The ideal OPM would be very familiar with the European markets, maybe even a U.K. based OPM. From what I have read on these forums, I really like SAS but I am not sure if how much of their business comes from outside the U.S. Our product line is far from unproven and we have a very capable sales and distribution channel already in place.

  9. #9
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    You have just mentioned several points that are not advantageous to the affiliate channel i.e. Big Box retail channel and online resellers. There are networks that sell on both sides pond and too bad you just missed Affiliate Summit London.

    There are several OPM's here who are based outside of the US, check this forum: http://forum.abestweb.com/forumdisplay.php?f=236

  10. #10
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Instead of taking my advice you got defensive and worse ... offended. Here let me reduce it to the ridiculous for you ...

    http://www.google.com/search?q=x-arm

    Results in 87,900 listings in Google, in internet brand awareness terms that's not even a twinkle in Google's eye. So as I said, while your product is cool, techie and gadgety so it can sell. But if no one knows about the damn thing it won't!

    Affiliate programs are not designed to jump start sales nor create brand awareness and trying to do so will only be a waste of time and resources for both you and the affiliate -- that is all I was saying.

    I'm trying to make you work smarter, not insult you.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  11. #11
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    You are preaching to the choir. I completely agree with you that we definitely need to increase brand awareness, SEO, and get a good PPC campaign with adwords up and running. I think I just misunderstood your first post because I thought you meant our product was still in development and wanted to clarify that point. It amazes me that as high tech as the home automation industry is in some respects, they are very old fashioned and low tech when it comes to marketing. Almost the entire budget thus far has been spent on radio, print, TV ads, and even sponsoring the last Superman movie and very little on the internet. I only came on board a short while ago and I am trying to convince them to change their strategy and that is the reason for trying to gather as much knowledge as possible here.

    I am here to learn and I certainly wasn't trying to offend you, I think we both just misunderstood each other.

    If I understand you correctly now, your advice is before we even consider setting up an AP, we need to concentrate on building our online brand awareness with both SEO and PPC.

    As small a blip as the term x-arm has on Google, at least it was far more recognizable than the term Visionmount LA112 which is what Sanus now calls it. I think it was a mistake to change the name, but that decision was out of my hands.

    In terms of overseas sales, at least that is an area where we can work without any restraints due to an agreement. AFAIK no U.S. online retailers that sell our products will ship to other countries. It weighs about 80 pounds which would be very expensive to ship, and there are also certain electrical and certifications that prevent them from doing so. We have a good overseas distribution channel with warehouses around the world. We just need to build the last pieces of the puzzle like selling directly from our webpage and when we have an AP program, give them whatever tools they need to succeed. Instead of attacking the entire continent all at once, I think we should focus on the U.K., France, and Germany first simply due to demographics, the fact that we get a lot more hits from those countries, and we have exhibited in expos in all three of those countries.

    Believe me when I say that I am not ignoring anyones advice here. If you have any more thoughts please share them and realize they are very much appreciated. I think we have a great product that could be ideal for affiliate marketing and I am just trying to figure out what pieces of the puzzle I need to assemble to get this off the ground.

  12. #12
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    Just found a U.K. company called buy.at that looks very promising. Would they be a good place to start for the U.K.?

  13. #13
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwmac
    If I understand you correctly now, your advice is before we even consider setting up an AP, we need to concentrate on building our online brand awareness with both SEO and PPC.
    BINGO!

    I'd also suggest hiring a PR firm and do some homework on digg, engadget etc. As for Buy.at, They are here also, see

    http://forum.abestweb.com/forumdisplay.php?f=421

    But once again they are an affiliate network. Nonetheless, talk to Mal, he's on this side of the pond.
    Last edited by Haiko de Poel, Jr.; November 18th, 2007 at 08:52 PM.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  14. #14
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    I contacted Malcolm by email and look forward to hearing his thoughts. I am currently working on a brand new much more SEO friendly webpage. I inherited the current one and have tried to put band aids on it to make it more SEO optimized but I decided to just make a clean break with a brand new design. I would love to hear what exactly I need to incorporate to make this extremely affiliate friendly. Might be easier to build the new site from the ground up ready for our affiliate program so that when we finally launch our AP it will be good to go from day one.

    I might not know a lot about AM, but I am not too bad when it comes to web design, PR, PPC, and SEO. Now that I have convinced the other guys to give me a decent budget and I finally have some time to concentrate on this, I hope to climb up the Alexa ladder a few rungs.

    One last question, I am looking for a book or e-book that really gives a noob like me a good intro 101 type of course to AM. There are a lot of them out there and since this industry is constantly evolving, I don't want to buy one that is already out of date. Any good recommendations?

  15. #15
    Outsourced Program Manager John Jupp's Avatar
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    Forget an ebook. I know a specific UK based OPM (not myself on this occasion) and she can train your staff. Malcolm knows who I mean.

    As for determining whether an affiliate platform is right for your business model and your future plans, as others have stated, you need to take your time and consult.

    It may well be that your business is not right for an affiliate program. There are other avenues that need addressing before launching into the affiliate marketplace.

    Feel free to contact me through the usual channels if you like, but I cannot overstate just how important it is to take your time over this project.
    Flambi Media Limited - USA/UK/EU Affiliate Management Expertise

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