Setting up an Affiliate Program for your web hosting company is a great way to jumpstart sales and expose your brand to a new set of visitors you normally wouldn’t have access to. I usually like to advise taking a two-pronged approach to ensure a successful Affiliate Program initiative for your web hosting business.
Utilize Your Customers
Easily the best weapon in your sales arsenal is your current customer base. Not only could a majority of them already be publishers on high traffic websites, they’re also loyal, they love your brand, and they’ve used your product. It’s easy for them to create a positive message about your brand that resonates with their friends, family, and followers based on their positive experience working with you. All you have to do is give them that nudge to be your brand ambassador by offering them something they’ll gladly accept in return. Free hosting!
Offer your customers money in the form of account credits for referring their friends and family to your company. Setting up an affiliate program tailored to your customers is as easy as flipping a switch to enable it in most web hosting billing portals and then you just need you to fill out a few configuration items and you’re good to go. Email all of your customers, give them a few “Powered by” banners, and show them how to find their custom referral link in their billing profile. It’s as easy as that to get your customers selling for you.
Join An Affiliate Network
Utilizing your customer base is a great start but it doesn’t always lead to a huge volume of sales. This is where Affiliate Networks come into play. Affiliate Networks bring together Merchants and Affiliates into one marketplace where Affiliates can pick and choose which brands they want to advertise on their websites. As a Merchant, they are much more expensive to operate, but the return can be huge if you run your program correctly.
There are many Affiliate Networks out there but the two I would recommend to a web host are Commission Junction and ShareASale. They are established networks that have a huge pool of web hosting affiliates ready and waiting to sell your products. To join these networks you will have upfront costs including a Network Access fee (or a Set Up fee) and an initial deposit to stock your account for your first payments to Affiliates. You can set up your program to offer a one-time set amount for any referral or make a tiered system based on what type of product is referred. An example of this would be to pay an Affiliate $25 for any shared hosting customer they refer and $75 for any VPS hosting customer they refer. You can also choose to simplify it and offer a percentage rate based on the invoice of the customer they refer. Keep in mind that both of the networks above also will take a percentage on top of the sale amount as a fee. 5% of the payout amount for ShareASale and 30% for Commission Junction.
Setting Your Payout Rates
Deciding how much you want to offer to Affiliates for sending you customers is entirely up to you. Keep in mind a couple things, however. First, it’s important to know the average lifespan of a customer so you can determine if you’re going to make ROI on referrals with the set fee payout rate. Second, you have to keep in mind that you won’t be the only web host within the Network and just like you’re fighting for customers to choose your brand, you also need to fight for Affiliates to sell your brand. If you’re not competitive with your offering, some of the Affiliates will pass you up for another web host that offers a higher payout rate to market a similar product.
Setting Up Affiliates For Success
There are only two things an Affiliate needs to get started promoting your brand: banners and links. Make sure the banners you provide are high quality, up to date (if you change the prices on your website, make sure you update your banners!), and are available in the most popular IAB standard dimensions.
To ensure the most success for your Affiliates, don’t just link to the main page on your website for every creative. If the banner or text link is for your VPS product, link to your VPS landing page. There’s not many things that will kill a conversion faster than advertising a very specific product to a very specific audience and linking them to the main page of your website that has information on four different products the visitor doesn’t care about. Help your Affiliates out and set up your creatives to link to the page that will offer the most success.
Going forward, it’s very important to keep in touch with your Affiliates on at least a monthly basis. Keep them updated with the latest changes or additions to the products you offer. If you have a great new feature added to your hosting product, make sure your Affiliates know so they can help promote it and drive more sales. Make affiliate-specific coupon codes for your Affiliates to use on their websites and occasionally offer an incentive. For example, if an Affiliate records five sales in one month, give them a $100 bonus. The goal is to make Affiliates excited about marketing your brand over all the other options within the Network they have to choose from.