====================================================== How to create a lifetime commissions affiliate program
Christopher Pearce, http://LifetimeCommissions.com ======================================================
Affiliate programs are a great way of marketing online. You pay only for results you get - if someone referred to your site makes a purchase.
But if you want to make a really strong affiliate program, with adoring-sales-machines for affiliates, it must be VERY attractive to affiliates.
The best way to do that is to offer lifetime commissions. That means you pay commissions on EVERY purchase a referred customer makes, not just on first purchase.
If you pay commissions for every purchase that your referred customers make, you offer your affiliates chance to earn a lot more money than they otherwise would.
That will strongly motivate your smarter affiliates to work harder and be creative, and that is EXACTLY what you want them to do.
There are lots of things that make an affiliate program great, but one of most important is reliable tracking.
============================== The magic ingredient: Tracking ==============================
If an affiliate sends you a customer, affiliate must earn a commission when that customer makes a purchase.
You would not have that customer if affiliate had not referred them, so affiliate deserves to be rewarded.
To achieve this you must track all referrals reliably, both online and off.
You must make sure that your cookies work with Internet Explorer 6, which will discard cookies not compliant with P3P standards.
Tracking by IP address is not an accurate method of long-term tracking, however it is an effective way to track visitors during their FIRST visit to your site.
It is a good idea to use IP tracking to catch any people who have cookies disabled.
Every time your affiliates send someone to their affiliate URL, your server should send them to either a dynamically generated or pre-generated page with their affiliate ID embedded in it. The affiliate's ID should also be stored in URL, so that if customer bookmarks and returns, affiliate is still credited with sale.
In your database of customer profiles, you should store ID of affiliate who referred each customer. Whenever a customer "profile" makes a purchase (online or off) you should credit appropriate affiliate(s) for sale.
Storing affiliate's ID in customer's profile is best, most reliable way to track in long term, both offline and on.
Some systems also allow you to track offline by supplying user with a fake phone extension. This extension is actually referring affiliate's ID. You can also ask people faxing you to quote an order number - which includes affiliate's ID.
To catch any who "slip though cracks", your order processing software should scan your order history for any orders going to same name, e-mail address or phone number of a customer, and pay referring affiliate their due commission.
======================================== Where to get affiliate tracking software ========================================
You have two options: build or buy.
-------------------------------------------------- Buying affiliate software --------------------------------------------------
Buying affiliate tracking software is way to go. It is so much cheaper than developing it yourself, and quality is guaranteed.
There is only one merchant offering a system that can handle true lifetime commissions: My Affiliate Program, with it's LifeTime Commissions module add-on.
This is only system custom-built for lifetime commissions, and it's fresh off production line (December 2001).
There is one other good near-lifetime system - Ultimate Affiliate.
It is not specifically designed for lifetime commissions, but it can handle residual commissions with ease.
------------------------------------ My Affiliate Program ------------------------------------
This is a great affiliate tracking software suite, recently made even better by addition of LifeTime Commissions module.
It is run by Kowabunga Technologies, and was honored with "Editor's Choice" Award by Dr. Ralph Wilson of Wilson Internet, who called it "the 'Cadillac' of its category."
Wilson Web: http://wilsonweb.com
It is hosted on Kowabunga's secure servers, though a version hosted on your own domain is possible. Over 500 Merchants use MYAP.
It tracks primarily by a cookie for first purchase. CGI/ASP tracking is also available, and it can even track sales made over phone.
Affiliate management is also simple, with automated sign-up and a clear interface.
You can even reward your top earning affiliates with bonuses that can be easily and securely awarded.
The LifeTime Commissions module itself works by generating a "LifeTime identifier" when your customers make a purchase.