How to Get More Customers Using Affiliate Programs

Coupon Sites

Affiliate Programs are arrangements with companies or individuals to pay them for selling your product or providing qualified leads.

In the retail world, companies like Amazon sell (and often warehouse and ship the product) the product and pay the affiliate company to send sales their way and pay them a percentage of the sale as a type of commission.  There are at least five types of affiliation to consider:

Loyalty Programs-These companies offer reward programs for customers who make purchases through there partner network.  So when a purchase is made, the loyalty site (think about Ebates for example) gets a commission from the seller.

Aggregators-These companies list lots of products, sometimes with some value add service like specifications or customer reviews and then get a commission when a purchase is made originating from their site.

Coupon/Deal Sites-These sites offer consumers some kind of discount coupon or offer that can be cashed in by entering the coupon code after you click through to the site.  The customer gets a discount and the Deal site gets a rebate from the participating retailer.

Niche Sites-These sites are typically tailored to a specific audience (it could even be a blog like this one!) and offer deals to readers or members who then click through to a site to make a purchase.  Again, a percentage of the sale is paid to the Niche site.

Email Lists-Marketers that have an extensive email list of subscribers blast out information to their list.  When the subscriber makes a purchase by clicking through on the link, the marketer gets a commission.

Companies that sell digital products such as software, e-books etc. also make big use of affiliate programs.  In this case, the product developer sells through affiliates and can offer a large percentage of the sale because the digital product has little cost of delivery.

Finally, financial services companies such as mortgage brokers and insurance companies as well as law firms make use of lead generators.  In their case, the product has a high ticket price and has the potential to offer a stream of continuing revenue that makes each lead very valuable.

For the readers of this blog that are from small companies, it is probably not practical to create your own affiliate network by yourself.  It would be very time consuming and expensive and there would be no certainty of success.  So to get going with this channel, join a well established affiliate program and pay a fixed percentage or flat fee for a sale.  It should not be too hard to figure out how much a lead is worth.  Compare the margin on your product to the fee, or if you can get a stream of revenue, figure out what the lifetime value of a customer is likely to be.

You don’t have to be a marketing consultant to realize that one of the best things about using this channel, is you don’t pay anything (except possibly a set up fee) until you make a sale.  So consider using affiliate programs as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.

How to Get More Customers Using Offline Events

Networking Event

Sponsoring offline events such as conferences, networking events or even meetups can be a successful way to get more customers.  These types of events allow you to engage directly with potential customers to more fully understand and validate your assumptions about the kinds of problems they have.  I can tell you as a small business marketing consultant that this type of marketing is especially usefully when there is no relevant place to congregate online.  In this case, it is more difficult for online ads to reach your potential customers or for you to be able to join an online dialog with your potential customers.  Depending on what type of business you have, these events allow you to meet groups of potential customers in person and begin a dialog.

The first step is to find out what kind of event (or topic/s) your potential clients would come to.  As usual, a good place to start is to ask your current customers.  Then you need a way to get people to the events.  This will be different depending on what you have to work with.  You can invite your followers on LinkedIn, send email or ground mail invitations if you have the requisite address information, use other social media, etc.

Make the commitment process as simple as possible.  If an email invitation, ask them to reply with a Yes in the subject line. Or just call your office and give their name, phone and company.  Do whatever makes sense but try to reduce friction.

If you make the event really valuable for the attendees, you will establish credibility and generate some leads.  You can have another event planned (say in the next quarter) and announce it in the event giving the particulars and ask for business cards as a way to sign up.

Other events you can use are meetups where people come to network, or you could throw a party.  You could combine efforts with suppliers of complementary products or services and have a mini-conference of a half or full day.  The key thing to accomplish is to have your prospective customers get to know you and come away with something that they considered worthwhile.  So consider using offline events as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.

6 Small Flaws in Your Armor That Are Stalling Your Small Business Growth

Operational Improvement

This article has some great advice on overcoming some of the challenges of a growing company.  I especially liked the discussion of growing technology and processes to better control an organization with more employees.  In fact I have an upcoming post on this subject.  In the mean time you can see our information page on scaling processes and technology to support growth.

You can read the full article at:


My Article Published by the RI Small Business Journal – Contractors’ Key to Customer Satisfaction

Satisfaction With Contractors

An article I wrote was just published in the September edition of the Rhode Island Small Business Journal print and online versions ( In it, I describe the most important action that contractors can take to have satisfied customers.

I have found with the research I have done as a small business consultant that having a contractor do the work when he said is what customers most want.  Customers don’t want their lives disrupted any more than necessary for a renovation and delays kill customer satisfaction.  So what is it that allows contractors to complete projects on time?  It really comes down to estimating and scheduling.


I am sure that all contractors try to break down the required tasks and then estimate them accordingly.  Where many contractors fall short is in gathering information during a job and then putting it together at the end.  The most important thing to do is effectively use this information in perfecting their estimating process.


This is the point where most small contractors really drop the ball. They just have lots of challenges in sequencing, resourcing, and identifying dependencies, if they do it at all.  The hardest thing of all is to build in just the right amount of flexibility for potential delays caused by other trades working on the same job.  Without a good schedule that contains all of your existing committed jobs, how can you tell the next prospective customer when you can deliver?  You can’t.  If you do, you are setting yourself up to give your customer a bad customer experience.

As a small business consultant, I can tell you that estimating and scheduling along with solid project management, optimizing workflows and providing a great customer experience are critically important.

So for those contractors that are able to deliver their services when they said they would, they will have given themselves the best chance to satisfy their customers.  Happy customers mean free word of mouth advertising.  This reduces the money you will have to spend on marketing in general and the execution of your marketing plan in particular.

See the full article on page 13 of the September issue at:

Getting More Customers – Using Trade Shows

Marketing Plan, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Consultant

Using Trade Shows To Get More Customers

Trade shows offer a good opportunity to showcase your products or services in person to prospective customers.  They are generally designed to facilitate interactions between vendors and the events’ attendees.

The first step in using trade shows is to identify potential trade shows that you might want to be an exhibitor at.  Then you need to evaluate the benefits for each show.  If you have previously attended the trade show, you already know how crowded it was, the number of attendees, and which type of people attended. What was the vibe?  If you have not attended before, read reviews and reach out to previous attendees if you can and ask for their input.

The next step is to determine what you want to get out of the show.  Are you just going to get leads or close some big deal that is in the works?  Are you trying to look for potential partners to work with, get good press or something else?  How does it fit into your goals?  Speaking of goals, you should write them down.  What types of interactions will help you achieve your goals?  Do you need big blocks of time in an intimate setting to ply your wares or just identify lots of potential customers?  Does the event meet your needs?

Then you can prioritize the events and compare the events in terms of timing (your availability and how it fits into an annual calendar), cost, effort, resources needed, etc.   How does all of this fit with your budget?  It won’t take too long to figure out how to create the schedule.

For each trade show, you need to prepare.  You want to get the attendee list in advance and identify who you want to meet with.  You can then try to reach out to them and arrange some event to meet at.  You can sponsor an event and invite them to it.  Your event can be a private dinner somewhere or a hospitality suite.  If it is more of a private event, you want to have a good mix of prospective customers, reference-able existing customers and people from you company.  This can include product development people, product management and sales people.  Prospective customers always want to talk with existing customers and get their feedback.

For your booth, you need to determine if you need a high traffic area (to get lots of leads) or a low traffic are that you expect to draw specific types of prospects to.  You want to have an impressive display to make a good impression.  You should have a big banner, sales materials, business cards and a compelling demo and/or some product people from your company that know your product or service inside and out.  The more engaging your display, the longer people will stay around to get hooked to go to the next step.

You can use some kind of incentive or give away to attract people to your booth. You can give away bags to hold all the stuff people collect and have people hand them out where people are entering the show. Besides your name and some enticement, the bag should have your booth number.  You want to have a call to action.  So consider using trade shows as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.

Getting More Customers – Using Sales Teams

Marketing Plan

Using Sales Teams

If you have a product or service that needs a lot of in person interaction to get a sale, then you need a repeatable sales approach and one or more people to carry it out.  Basically you need a process to generate leads, qualify them and convert them into paying customers.  From my own experience things like enterprise software systems need this kind of approach.  In general, something whose benefits are complicated to understand or difficult to implement will need a sales team.  Services like consulting that need to be tailored to the problem at hand, is another example.

Your leads can be generated through advertising, SEO, etc, virtually any channel that we have discussed.  The next step is to meet with the prospective customer to discover more about their buying intentions and explore the prospect’s problem(s) and pain points.  Then you want to understand the implication of these pain points such as lost sales, low productivity, etc.  Next you want to lead your prospect to consider the benefits of addressing the problem.  You want the prospective customer to recognize the value of addressing the problem.  Finally you want to explain how your product or service would solve the problem and capture the benefits of addressing the problem.

Something I learned a long time ago when working with larger companies.  There can often be an imbalance between the benefits to the company and the risk to the person making the decision.  For example, if the person chooses to move to a new software product and it is successful, the decision maker may get a pat on the back from his bosses or a modest bonus.  However if it goes south, the decision maker could lose their job.  Because of this, you need to demonstrate how you are going to control the implementation in such a way that the risk to the decision maker will be minimized or entirely mitigated.  Think about it!  You also need to be sure it is truly a good fit.  So consider using sales teams as part of your marketing strategy and your marketing plan.

Best Buy’s Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age

Improving the Customer Experience

A great article about Best Buy and how it has adapted to the competition by creating a great customer experience.  I have over 20 posts on improving the customer experience just this year.  It is really important for all companies but a matter of life and death for small companies.

Read the full article at:

Getting More Customers – Using Partners

Partnering With Other Companies

With partners, you are partnering with other companies to get customers where both partners get something out of the deal.

These are the different forms partnering can take:

Regular Partnerships – Two companies work together to give better benefits to the consumer by having the products work together.

Joint Ventures – Two companies work together to create a new product.

Licensing – One company wants to hook up with a bigger well known company to take advantage of the bigger company’s well known brand.

Distribution Deals – One party distributes a product through a company that has customers  that could use the original company’s product.

Supply partnerships – This helps a company that needs a source for a key input (ingredient or component) to their product while the supplying company needs to move the product they are supplying.

For partnerships to work effectively, each party needs to have a clear understanding of each other’s objectives.  You want a mutually beneficial relationship with each party having an incentive for it to work.  You want metrics to see if it is working and set goals for the metrics with timeframes and volumes expected.  You should have a way out if it does not go as planned.

To get going, you need to identify some potential partners and ask yourself these questions:

What does the partner need to be more successful?

Will my product or service meet that need?

How can a deal be structured to make both parties happy?

With the above questions answered, you are ready to make your pitch. Then you need to identify who in the potential partner’s organization would be the right person to make your pitch to.  Then go for it!

One last point, work on several partnership deals at the same time as lead times can be long and you want a fallback position that does not take too long to come to fruition.  This way if the first potential partner walks away or offers you a deal that does not make sense for you but by that time have become desperate and need any deal, you have a backup plan.  So consider using partnerships as part of your marketing plan.