September 16, 2009
A successful affiliate program takes more than just high commissions. A proven product and an optimized landing page can be just as important.
Read how a team of software marketers kick-started an affiliate program by running their own landing page tests and, yes, offering a high commission. Sales of the target product have tripled since making the changes.
Phil Schnyder, Director, Online Business Development, Avanquest Software, never had smashing success from affiliate networks.
"I heard that people were selling huge quantities, and we just never achieved that," he says.
Then, in December 2007, Schnyder met a business associate who convinced him to let his company sell Avanquest’s Driver Genius software as an affiliate. The company would only sell the one product, and if the program proved successful, Schnyder’s team could expand it to include more affiliates.
The new partnership gave them a chance to try new tactics that would re-invigorate their affiliate sales channel.
The team worked with their new partner to develop a new commission structure. They also tested the landing pages and shopping cart used for affiliate sales of the Driver Genius product, which updates software drivers on customers’ computers. Then, they opened the program to an entire network of affiliates, who could focus on driving Driver Genius sales.
"I think there is a certain mentality with affiliates -- they want to see if something will work" says Schnyder. "If they see that it works and they’re making money, they’ll go make it better."
Here are the steps the team took:
Step #1. Establish a mutual shopping cart
The team set up a shopping cart through which the new partner could drive sales, and which other affiliates could use when the team expanded the program. Sales made through the cart automatically accounted for commissions owed to the affiliates.
The team used a shopping cart that had already been tested and refined to help drive conversions for digital products, like Avanquest’s software. Schnyder says he considered it a strong performer, and his team was able to pull data from the cart easily to view sales, conversion rates, and customer data.
Step #2. Set a high commission
The team wanted to move a high volume of software, and decided to offer a very high 75% commission rate to their affiliate partner (and later partners) in this program.
"We had never given commissions that high before," Schnyder says.
While a high commission was a big incentive for affiliates to drive sales, Schnyder’s experience told him that the commission alone would not make this program a success.
"All the pieces have to fit together," he says. "You have to know what your message is, you have to have the product working properly, and you have to know that your pricing is right. These things have to be there. If they aren’t, even if you give someone 75%, they still might not be able to sell your product."
Step #3. Develop PPC campaign and landing page
The team set up a series of pay-per-click ads to target keywords related to driver software and the Driver Genius product. The campaign was simple and small in scale, Schnyder says, and gave them just enough traffic to effectively test the landing page.
Because the team had been selling Driver Genius for several years, they had a good idea of how they wanted the landing page laid out:
- They created a landing landing page that offered visitors the option to either purchase a full version of the software, or to download a trial version.
- The trial version scanned the customer’s computer for outdated drivers. After the scan, the software directed users to a webpage to purchase the recommended driver updates.
Step #4. Test landing page elements
Using their new landing page as the control, the team ran a series of tests to optimize specific elements on the page.
Here are some key landing page elements the team tested, and the changes they made based on the results:
- The offer
One test removed the offer to buy the product directly from the landing page, and pushed only the trial download. More sales were occurring after customers tried the product, Schnyder says.
"That was the kind of thing that made a big difference -- basically removing a big button that said ‘buy.’"
- The trial version
The team simplified the trial version of Driver Genius to encourage conversions. For example, they eliminated a step in the trial that asked users if they wanted to back up their drivers before doing a scan. The process took five minutes, and made the trial less appealing to customers.
"We focused on making the product as easy as possible for the user. There were really dozens of changes that were made," Schnyder says.
- The product messaging
The team decided to have the page emphasize the free trial, rather than the price of the premium product.
They also changed the text to emphasize that a visitor’s computer drivers could be out-of-date and slowing down performance, rather than emphasizing that they could get "100% updated drivers."
"People want their computers to run better. And getting people to check if their drivers are up to date was much more effective than trying to explain why they should buy a driver update application," Schnyder says.
Step #5. Open the program to other affiliates
After about five months of testing the program and its landing page, the team made the program available to more affiliates in June 2008. The affiliates drove sales to the same shopping cart that the team set up with the initial partner, and were offered the same commission.
The team also passed on the landing page to new affiliates to help jumpstart their sales. Then the team let affiliates modify that page or develop their own pages.
"At the beginning they were using the pages that I designed, and then they basically made their own that were much better," Schnyder says.
Overall sales of Driver Genius have jumped to three times the level seen before the program.
Changes to the trial version increased purchase rate 371% among those who downloaded the software:
- When the team started testing their landing page, only .7% of those who downloaded the trial purchased the full version.
- After testing, 2.6% of those who downloaded the trial ultimately purchased.
"Sometimes a lot of little changes can make a big difference," Schnyder says.
Useful links related to this article:
Creative Samples from Avanquest’s affiliate campaign
RevenueWire: Affiliate network the team used