How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Business

February 3, 2013

The Internet has given everyone a chance to become a part of the business community from the comfort of their own home. An increasingly popular way of doing this is to delve into the world of affiliate marketing. So what is it, and how can you start your own affiliate marketing business?

What is affiliate marketing?

 

This uniquely 21st Century form of marketing is performance-based, and works by rewarding ‘affiliates’ for every visitor or customer they direct to the primary business through their own marketing efforts. So it’s not exactly ‘word of mouth’, but requires some effort on the part of the affiliates to create a marketing strategy that will bring in customers for the primary business. Basically, it’s a method of ‘outsourcing’ your advertising to satellite affiliates.

There are four primary players in this particular marketing strategy:

  • The merchant, also referred to as the brand or retailer
  • The network, which includes offers by the merchant that the affiliate can select and also deals with payments to the merchant
  • The affiliate, also known as the publisher
  • The customer

How to get started in affiliate marketing

 

Choose a subject you know about. The more you know personally about the subject, the more attractive, informative and engaging you can make your website and the higher your traffic flow will be.

Pick a decent web address – one that gives browsers a good idea of the products you will be promoting. The easier it is for your target audience to find you, the more likely they are to visit you and then click through to your merchant’s site.

SEO (search engine optimization) is a crucial aspect of the process, so make sure you understand what keywords are being used to search for the products you are promoting, and that they form a part of your content. But remember not to overdo the keyword ‘stuffing’ to avoid being penalized by the search engines. Talk to an SEO professional if necessary before starting work.

Get a good web host to look after your website. The best way to find a good host is to talk to people who have already gone through the process and find who are the ‘hosts with the most’! Of particular importance when choosing a host is the bandwidth. This will determine how much traffic your website will be able to handle. The basic rule is the more bandwidth you can get, the better!

Design a site that is eye catching, engaging and, above all, easy to navigate. Keep the ‘bells and whistles’ to a minimum because apart from being annoying, data-heavy gifs and flash graphics will slow the download time for your site, possibly encouraging browsers to bounce away.

Make sure that your content is relevant, up to date and readable. Remember that browsers are not keen on scrolling down through reams of information, so keep pertinent information ‘above the cut’.

To earn your affiliate commission you will need to drive traffic that’s been specifically targeted towards your website. Ensure that you have a small business accounting software such as QuickBooks by Intuit so you will be able to keep track of all commission payments for your end-of-year tax returns and to keep an eye on how financially viable the venture is.

The more traffic you get, the more chance of making sales you have, so you will need to market your site. You can use several different methods to do this:

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising – make sure that the cost of the PPC doesn’t outweigh the projected benefits, and keep an eye on costs very carefully, especially at the start of the enterprise
  • Article marketing – write informative, interesting and relevant articles that are related to your affiliate products with a link to your website and publish them on article sites such as eZines.
  • Social networking – forums can be a great way to encourage traffic towards your website, but be aware of each forum’s regulations regarding posting links to avoid being flagged as a ‘spammer’ or ‘troll’.
  • Post on YouTube – a video that goes viral can drive thousands of browsers to your website, as well as giving you an opportunity to showcase your affiliate products.

INFOGRAPHIC:

Author:

Carlo Pandian is a business writes and blogs on entrepreneurship, finance and online marketing. When he’s not online, Carlo loves visiting the countryside and going around town with his bike.


Why The Interest in Pinterest?

April 3, 2012

Pinterest is now the third largest social media site behind Facebook and Twitter.  So, what the heck is the buzz about Pinterest, how does it work, and can it help my home business?  Pinterest is one of the latest social networking services that allow users to connect by sharing pictures, videos, photos, and other media by using a virtual “pinboard.”   Pinterest also connects to Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, giving registered users an option to share within the larger virtual social networking world.

“Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.  People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes.”[i]

Source: etsy.com via Emily on Pinterest

Pinterest uses virtual “pins” and a “pin  it button” to post media that users want to share with friends or the public.  Users can in turn re-post or “re-pin” images found on their own pinboards.  Pinboards are generally themed so that pins are easily organized and found by other users.  Users can allow other users to add to their pinboards or comment on existing pins.

Can Pinterest help my home business?  Definitely.  Pinterest is growing at an exponential rate.  As of January 2012, Pinterest had about 12 million unique visitors, the fastest social media site to achieve that mark.[ii] Marketing, branding, and sales are excellent uses of Pinterest.  The sheer number of users, a simple user interface, and an ability to host multiple types of visual media makes Pinterest an ideal choice for testing new products and gaining potential customer feedback.  Much like other social media sites, Pinterest is dynamic and easy to modify as circumstances demand.  This flexibility is an advantage for home business; owners can monitor and change Pinterest postings throughout a day.

Pinterest is the latest phase in social networking and is too large to dismiss.  Its demographic – 80% women (ages 35-44) in the United States[iii] – is documented and allows for targeted marketing.  (UK numbers are considerably different with more men than women and a younger age group).  Do you have pictures or video of a new product you want opinions on?  Pinterest may be exactly what you need.  A good website for Pinterest marketing tips is located here.

By Dion D Shaw

Dion D Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs

Homepreneurs.  New Day.  New Opportunity.

Disclaimer

Homepreneurs does not endorse nor have any relationships with any of the services listed.  Homepreneurs receives no compensation or consideration for its suggestions.  Homepreneurs strongly urges all interested parties to conduct research and accepts no responsibility for any losses incurred.

© Homepreneurs 2010 – 2012, All Rights Reserved

References


[i] Retrieved 4/2/2012 from http://pinterest.com/about/help/


Home Business Success Story: Moonlight Designs

September 25, 2011

Homepreneurs loves relating home business success stories!  Entrepreneurs like Alona M. prove that starting and running a business from home is a real possibility.  A look at her talents and products on http://www.etsy.com/shop/moonlightdesigns2 reflect a commitment to quality and excellence.

In her own words: I love designing jewelry from my studio in Alaska, where I am inspired every day by our beautiful mountains and wildlife that surround me to create beautiful works of art to wear and hope you will find one of my unique handmade pieces that is perfect for you!

Alona was very gracious and responded to a recent interview request about her business.  An edited version is found below:

HP:         Why did you start your own business?

AM:        I started my jewelry business for 2 reasons:  I needed to quit the corporate grind per my Doctor –  it was greatly affecting my health – too much stress.  Second I had just lost my father whom I was very close to and one day I guess everything just clicked and I knew that life really is too short and that I would not be happy doing anything else but running my own business.  I use my artistic skills – a big part of me – to create a product line of handcrafted jewelry.  I love what I do and have never looked back!

HP:         How long has the business been around?

AM:        I started my business just 3 years ago and have been working hard to build it up.

HP:         What are the greatest challenges you face?

AM:        Probably the greatest challenge is to not get burned out.  I work pretty much non-stop every day: Creating new pieces of jewelry, taking photos, listing items in my on-line shop, marketing and packaging.

HP:         What advantages does self-employment provide?

AM:        The greatest advantages to being self-employed are of course being my own boss and working from home, no more commuting!

HP:         Do you have any tips/suggestions for those considering entrepreneurship?

AM:        Do your research first before taking the leap to self-employment.  Whatever business you decide to take on, have a business plan!

HP:         Do you use social media at all (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)?

AM:        I use different forms of social media to market/advertise my business such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yammi and others.

HP:         Where do your greatest numbers of customers come from?  Word of mouth, networking, social media, advertising…

AM:        Most of my customers come from networking, including doing shows where I get to meet the public and sell in person.

HP:         If you could change one thing when you started, what would that be?

AM:        If I knew in the beginning how time consuming running your own business is, I may have had second thoughts, however it is well worth the time.

HP:         What are the rewards of self-employment?

AM:        Being self-employed means I am in charge, I choose when to work and when to quit on any given day.  I am also able to get away more for trips out of state or even out of the country.  I simply take my laptop with me to keep in touch with my business and network.

HP:         And where can people view and buy your products?

AM:        http://www.etsy.com/shop/moonlightdesigns2

HP:         Thank you very much for your time Alona, and continued success!

Moonlight Designs is a wonderful example of how dreams come alive.  Alona identified her talents, identified a market niche, and used a low-cost hosting service – Etsy.com – to provide a distribution channel for her product.

By Dion D. Shaw

Dion D. Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs

Homepreneurs.  New Day.  New Opportunity.

Disclaimer

Homepreneurs does not endorse nor have any relationships with any of the services listed.  Homepreneurs receives no compensation or consideration for its suggestions.  Homepreneurs strongly urges all interested parties to conduct research and accepts no responsibility for any losses incurred.

© Homepreneurs 2010 – 2013, All Rights Reserved


Create a Facebook Page for Your Product

August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011 -

Instructions for creating a Facebook page for your business or organization by Facebook!  Facebook is a wonderful outlet for displaying your product and it is free.  I’ve personally created a small Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/SteppingStoneStudios/127183817298258 – for my photography business and have over a hundred visits in a few weeks.  Not bad considering I’ve not advertised it at all.  I provide a few samples and direct interested parties to the main website:  www.steppingstonestudios.com .   This marketing effort combined with actual displays of photos in offices will hopefully yield sales when the economy picks up.  In any case, exposure – especially when free – is never a bad thing.

The Facebook page was very easy to create, perhaps 30 minutes worth of work, and one does not need special technical skills either.  Facebook’s pages are set up for the novice to use; no programming is necessary.  If you are in the market to sell a product, I strongly encourage using Facebook as a marketing tool.  What is lost?  A little time and a slight learning curve.  It won’t cost anything – at least not now – and a skill set may be added to your resume.  In addition, a Facebook page can provide a test market for your goods.  Good luck and let us know how you do.

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Facebook on Creating a Facebook Page

Step 1: Pick a category and name

Pick the category that best fits what you’d like to promote on Facebook. Don’t worry if you don’t find a perfect fit, but pick the closest match since you won’t be able to change your category.

The name of the Page should be the exact same as the name of the business, organization, product, band, or individual it represents.

Click “Create Page.”

Step 2: Add a profile picture

Click “upload a picture” near the top and upload the graphic or photo that best represents you. Make sure that your brand is clear even as a “thumbnail,” since the image will appear at that reduced size throughout the site (for example, on fans’ profiles and on their friends’ Home pages).

Step 3: Add information

Click “Add information to this Page” underneath the profile picture and enter as much basic and detailed information as you can. The fields available will depend on your Page type. The more details you can add about who you are, what you do, and when and where customers can buy your products, the more successful you will be.

Step 4: Make it rich and engaging

Like user profiles, Pages have multiple tabs. By default, your Page has a Wall tab for you and your fans to share content, an Info tab for you to share business information,and a Boxes tab for application modules. You can choose to devote entire tabs to several Facebook applications, such as Photos, Reviews, and Discussion Board. In addition, applications built by outside developers can choose to use Page tabs.The more rich content you add, the more ways users can interact with it and spread that connection to their friends. Post photos of products, employees, and customers. Add video clips of your bar or restaurant in action. ‘Behind the scenes’ content often works well. List an event for your grand opening or in-store sale. Write a note about upcoming promotions. The choices are yours and all these features are free and unlimited.You can also add applications by outside developers to customize your Page further:

  • A restaurant might add the Reservations application to let users book a table without leaving the Page.
  • A film might add Movie Times and Tickets to help users find nearby screenings again, without ever leaving the Page.
  • A small business owner might add the Visa Business Network application to connect with peers.

Thousands of applications are waiting for you. Need help? Browse other Pages in your category to discover applications that will help serve your customers.

Step 5: Publish

Click the “publish this Page” link to share your Page the with world. Unlike a phone book listing or website, this public profile has the power to let your customers engage their friends on your behalf.Optimize your Page’s performance by clicking the “Edit Page” link and setting a variety of controls. For instance, you can control the default landing tab for users who are not yet fans of your Page. You can also choose whether or not to allow fans to share Wall posts, photos, and more; allowing these will enrich your Page and increase its reach across Facebook.Facebook Ads can link to your Page, reach your exact target audience, and increase your fan base. Since Facebook can automatically enhance your ads with stories about these fans engaging with your Page, advertising your Page can generate a virtuous cycle of consumer engagement over time.To link to your Facebook Page from elsewhere around the Web, use a “Find us on Facebook” badge. Don’t forget to like your own Page! Share it with friends by clicking the “Share” button in the lower left of the Wall or Info tab.

Step 6: Update Regularly

Updating your Page regularly with fresh photos, upcoming events, and the latest promotions means your Page won’t just look like a profile, it will feel like one, and that will keep users coming back. Facebook users are used to getting information sorted by what happened most recently. If you keep your Page active, which you can do through mobile integrations and applications, you’ll find that your fans are more engaged and more interactive.You can also send some or all of them messages by clicking “Send an Update to Fans” in the upper-left of your Page (under the profile picture). Updates are useful for sending out announcements like promotions, sales or events. For more information on how to use Pages, please see our Help Section.

Source:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/learn.php?campaign_id=149637918387469&placement=broad&creative=7106991032&keyword=create+a+face+book+page


Why Your Business Needs Social Media

May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011 -

Social media is the current big buzz for online communities and business since launching about 3 years ago.  Homepreneurs, small business and large can benefit from using tools provided by social media platforms.  Despite its omnipresent nature, much confusion and uncertainty exists over its nature, usefulness, and safety.  I will attempt to cover basic definitions and answer some questions with this post.

Social Media Defined

In order to understand social media, we must define the term and its application to business:

- Social refers to interaction and communication within human society, persons and organizations alike
– Media are tools used to transmit, store, and display information or data.  Social media implies the tools are electronic or digital and possibly mobile.

Wikipedia defines social media as “… media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.” 1

Characteristics

Social media allows for conversation, networking, sharing, collaboration, gaming, and similar functions at rapid speeds.  Information from news to pictures to opinions are shared and transmitted via social media platforms and may allow anyone to comment or add to what is posted.

Social media is virtually instantaneous with very little technical knowledge or talent required.  Its ability to reach across the entire planet creates opportunities for groups to organize and plan anything from reunions to revolts (social media possibly contributed to recent Arab uprisings).

Tools or platforms that qualify as social media include: Blogs (e.g WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot), social networks (e.g. Facebook), micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter), Internet forums, wikis (collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access), and other web tools that help share multimedia or news with others (e.g. YouTube, Digg, Fickr)

Business Application

This is a short list of commonly cited business applications that social media provides:

- Advertising: Advertising on social networks is growing at an astounding rate.  Most young consumers have a social media account.  Reaching these audiences is a must for business.
– Authority:  Creating a website, blog or contributing to a wiki can demonstrate expertise in an area and show off a business as the “go-to” source for all things related to a product or service.
– Branding: For many consumers, delivering a product isn’t enough.  They want to provide feedback (positive or negative) and see what others say about the product.  Creating a company blog and interacting with customers enhances image and also helps retain current customers while acquiring new ones.
– Collaboration: Social media helps business organize better than ever before.  Small and large business alike can benefit from working with international partners in virtual real-time. Companies can use wikis to build on ideas and share product pictures with platforms like Flickr.
– Networking:  Simple lunch meetings are passe – why not have virtual meals while video conferencing with Japan?  A personal blog can supplement a resume while interviews are conducted via Skype.

Social media has many applications for personal and business use, but the most important thing to remember is collaboration.  When utilizing social media for business, engage customers and be transparent; these are core features of social media and customers will expect both.  Social media allows even the smallest home business to appear much larger and compete with the major market companies.  Social media is a powerful platform for consumers and businesses and in this new era of online business, it must be embraced.

By Dion Shaw

Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs.

Reference:
1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media


Domain Names and Email Addresses for Home Business

March 15, 2011

Domains

Domain name selection often comes before an email address and definitely before a web site.  “A domain name is an identification label that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet. Domain names are also hostnames that identify Internet Protocol (IP) resources such as web sites.” 1  Examples of domain names include: Microsoft.com, USA.gov, RedCross.org, etc.

“Domain names are often referred to simply as domains and domain name registrants are frequently referred to as domain owners, although domain name registration with a registrar does not confer any legal ownership of the domain name, only an exclusive right of use.” 1  Examples of domain name registrants are: netsol.com (network solutions), register.com, and godaddy.com.
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I suggest choosing the domain name first to secure it, and then selecting an email provider and address.  My reasons are simple:  1) If your business will have a website, reserve the name before someone else; 2) A business can operate with email and telephone for communication with customers while a website is built; 3) Domain names launch the branding and marketing process; 4) If social networking tools are in the future, reserve those names as well.  I personally chose SteppingStonesStudios as a domain name before I selected an email address.  It will take me a while to build a website; while waiting, I hand out business cards with my email address and telephone number.

Domain names are not expensive: SteppingStoneStudios costs me $29.15 a year for business registration and includes privacy settings.  With privacy, no one can look up my address or other information I don’t want them to see.  Consider this a cost of doing business.  Email is free through Gmail (Google) and free blogs – Homepreneurs is one – are available through many sources.  Further, Twitter and Facebook accounts are free, for the present, and may be part of your branding and marketing campaigns.  A basic public relations campaign costs me less than $30 per year.  Get free business cards through Vistaprint and you are in business!

Email

Most – if not all – businesses have an email address for communication.   One nice feature of email accounts is many are free.  Accounts may be registered through Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Juno and others for no charge.  A little advertising may be present – hosts have overhead – but this is not horrible nor intrusive.   However, if one wishes to present a strictly professional image, use an email address from a website host or another paid service.
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About name choice: When selecting a domain and/or email address for a business, consider wording carefully.  Try to reflect the nature of the business in the name.  For instance, hompreneurs’ email is homepreneurs@gmail.com.  Homepreneurs is a combination of home and entrepreneur, of course.  My startup photography business is SteppingStoneStudios@gmail.com .  Stepping Stone was chosen because I consider this as one of my best photographs and the name was available.  Studios sounds bigger and professional and the name is generic enough that if I expand to other crafts, I can use the same name.

Many names are owned: Stepping Stone was my third or forth choice.  Seagull, Salt Creek, Blue Heron (other pictures) were already in use.  Be patient and creative when trying to find names; sometimes a ‘-‘ or ‘s’ or phonetic spelling can work quite nicely.  Consider alliteration; the pleasing sound of  invokes positive emotions.

By Dion D Shaw

Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs.

Reference

1. http://www.wikipedia.org


Social Networking for Small Business

October 4, 2010

Are social networking outlets valuable for more than just social contact? An article – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8273667.stm – on BBC’s web site believes this is true.

According to the author, Claire Prentice, Facebook and Twitter have become a ‘virtual marketing lifeline’ for small businesses struggling during this recessionary period.

Smaller companies often have limited funds for elaborate marketing campaigns and depend on word-of-mouth for promoting their products and growing their customer base. In support, Prentice cites specific customers that are using Twitter and Facebook as a “virtual focus group, a bulletin board, a marketing campaign, and a branding exercise rolled into one.”

Some businesses use social networks for more than just marketing. Appointment filling, surveys, promotions, and discounts are mentioned as additional advantages. Keeping in touch with customers, ability to react and offer rapid changes, and an additional ‘personal touch’ are considered valuable additions to customer service.

The author also points out dangers inherent in social networking. The potential for loss of control over an advertising message by opening a dialogue with customers is a significant concern. Some information systems experts suggest limiting social networking use to conversation and avoiding advertising. Another concern is saturation. The fine line between useful information and an overload of electronic hype is often blurred and easily crossed.

Social sites have arrived and are used frequently, if not continuously, and provide a wonderful opportunity to promote a brand or to gain a loyal following. These bonuses may be ultimately offset by a lack of content control and anonymity. Caveat emptor.
A Homepreneurs note:  We started homepreneurs with an idea and launched a Twitter site shortly thereafter.  It has demonstrated value time and again; many of the visits to this blog are from our Twitter site.


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