PODCAST: Creating an Affiliate Program for Any Business of Any Size with Arlen Robinson

By Itamir Shafir on Jan 20, 2022

Below is the transcript to Episode 35 of The Marketing Umbrella Podcast

Itamar Shafir interviews Arlen Robinson about

  • How affiliate programs can help marketing agencies and
  • How affiliate marketing software can help companies and agencies grow their customer base

Arlen Robinson is a seasoned business owner and co-founder of Omnistar Affiliate Software which gives businesses the opportunity to setup and manage their own affiliate and customer referral programs.

Arlen leads all business development activities for the company and hosts The Ecommerce Marketing Podcast each week.

If you have questions about how affiliate programs work to find new customers, how they are managed, how the commission system works, and how to contact and reward the right influencers, read the transcript or tune in.

Listen to the podcast or Watch the video

Transcript

Itamar Shafir:

Welcome to the Marketing Umbrella Podcast, where we talk with successful marketing experts about ways to build and grow a digital marketing agency. My guest today is an expert at helping businesses get more business in scale. He is the co-founder of OmniSTAR, an affiliate software enabling businesses to scale with affiliate marketing and customer referral programs. He’s also the creator and host of the e-commerce marketing podcast. I’m excited to say hello to Mr. Arlen Robinson. Hi, Arlen.

Arlen Robinson:

Hey, Itamar. Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.

Itamar Shafir:

Oh, I love that you’re here because, believe it or not, you are the first affiliate expert that we had on the program.

Arlen Robinson:

Okay. That’s great. Great. It’s good to be first.

Itamar Shafir:

Yeah, and it’s putting a lot of your shoulders because I’m got to hit you with a lot of questions.

Arlen Robinson:

All right. Well, I am ready. Fire when you’re ready, and I’ll be able to hopefully give your listeners some great value.

Itamar Shafir:

I’m sure you will. And you’ve been in this business for 20 years, so I know you everything. Before we get into actually helping the listeners, maybe you can share a little bit about yourself and how you got to starting an affiliates marketing software company.

Arlen Robinson:

Great, great question. Well, I’ll try to make a long story short. As you can imagine with 21, 20, actually going on 21 year history as a business, I’ve seen a lot, done a lot. But to rewind and take things all the way back to the very beginning, myself and my business partner co-founder of [inaudible 00:01:32] Alfred Terry Jeter, we launched what at that time, which was in the year 2000, a full service web development firm, where we were developing custom web sites, custom web-based applications. We did a lot of niche e-commerce solutions at that time, because it was … internet was a different space there. There wasn’t a lot of these SaaS solutions out there. If you wanted some functionality online, you had to have things customized and built. And so we did that. We did that for several years.

And then we took a look at the market and we saw that a lot of businesses were maturing on the internet as far as needing more than just a static website. They needed functionality, whether it was to send emails to their mailing list, whether it was to sell products online, or whether it was to do some type of niche application based on their business processes, so we saw a lot of that. And what we did, instead of creating custom solutions every time for customers, we said, why don’t we just create tools that a lot of customers can use at once? We hosted on our servers or we provided to them for them to host on their servers. And we created a suite of tools, our affiliates offer was actually one of them. So, that was birthed probably about 15 years ago.

When we created these suite of solutions, we also had a e-commerce solution. We had a email mailing list solution, and we ran strong with those for several years. And then decided that we saw that the affiliate software really took off. That was the one that just kept selling year over year, improving our revenue and so we decided to go all in on that. We discontinued and closeted our other solutions and then went full speed ahead with the affiliate software and been going strong with that ever since. And so, yeah, that’s where we are.

My background actually is computer engineering, computer science, programming background, and got into business. Me and my business partner, we both attended Howard University in Washington DC. And while we were in school, we tossed around … This is when the internet was really just taking shape in the mid to late nineties. And so we said we really wanted to be a part of it, and so we crafted the ideas while we were in college. But we both worked for some consulting firms in the DC Virginia area actually for a couple years before we launched our business. And then we jumped all in and the rest is history, as they say.

Itamar Shafir:

Never looked back. Yeah.

Arlen Robinson:

Yep. Yeah.

Itamar Shafir:

Yeah. Yeah. And you experienced a lot of success and that’s amazing. And for our listeners, all the listeners are marketers, so I guess they’re familiar with affiliate marketing one way or another. Just to make sure that we cover all our basis, can you give us a really one, two minute synopsis [crosstalk 00:04:28] of what is affiliate marketing? Because I think there are a lot of words that intertwine. People think about customer referral program, is this affiliate marketing?

Arlen Robinson:

Right.

Itamar Shafir:

Do I work with affiliate networks, right? The commission junction, what do they do?

Arlen Robinson:

Exactly.

Itamar Shafir:

Those kind of things. Influencers on Instagram, are those affiliates? So can you put some order into that?

Arlen Robinson:

Definitely. Definitely. And I’m glad you asked that, because that’s where I typically like to start, because as you mentioned, a lot of these terms get thrown around. And people think it’s all the same, but there are distinct differences. And where I’ll start at is you mentioned referral programs and affiliate programs. Well, first off, a referral program is different than an affiliate program. What a referral program is, is when a company gets their existing customer base, people that are using their products or services, to refer others for an incentive. And that incentive when you have a referral program is typically discount on future products, because the goal with referral programs is you’re trying to keep the customer coming back. You want them to come back, purchase more products and services and keep reading up on your offering. So, that’s what a referral program is.

Now an affiliate program on the other side is when you are branching out a little bit and you’re getting outside of your customer base and you’re looking for affiliates that may have never used your product or services. And affiliates can really be thought of as the same thing as an influencer. I typically [inaudible 00:06:03] these days, I think influencers are really the affiliates of today because these are people that have their own community, their own networks, where they can promote your product and service to for a commission.

And then for these affiliate programs, typical commission for affiliates is usually cash. It’s usually a percentage of an order total when they refer someone or a fixed amount. That is typical. But like I said, these affiliates, they’re typically not your customers. They may not have ever used your products or services, but they’re going to be promoting for that incentive typically to a larger audience, a network that they have access to via social media, or their own kind of niche network that they have created. And yeah, that’s pretty much a basic definition of both a referral and an affiliate program.

Itamar Shafir:

Okay. So let’s dive into of them one by one. So [crosstalk 00:06:59] when we talk about referral programs for customers, it seems like any company with a customer base can benefit from that. No? Or do you see any niches that you would suggest not even touching or …

Arlen Robinson:

That’s the good thing. Most niches that, like you said, they can do their own referral program. I don’t really see any cases where it wouldn’t be applicable for that business to get their in-house customers, their customers that have used their products and services to refer others. There’s really almost no case that I can think of where that wouldn’t be applicable.

Itamar Shafir:

Right. And in that case, they can use a software like yours. like OmniSTAR.

Arlen Robinson:

Right.

Itamar Shafir:

And they basically create on the software itself, right? And correct me if I’m wrong, on the software itself. They create the structure of the program that they want. Meaning do they want to give a discount on a specific product, or maybe 50 bucks? Or they can do a bunch of things, right? It doesn’t have to be a discount.

Arlen Robinson:

Exactly.

Itamar Shafir:

And then they can say, okay, any member that you bring, any friend that you send to us, you’ll get 50 bucks and you get 50 bucks, for example. Right?

Arlen Robinson:

Exactly. Exactly. That’s typical with the referral program. Like you said, the incentive for your customers to refer others doesn’t necessarily have to be discounts on future products. It could be anything, a lot of companies I’ve seen with referral programs that are customers of ours, they’ll give out gift items, they’ll give out discounts or gift cards for even for other products or other tangible products. I’ve even seen companies that will give out Amazon gift cards as an incentive for them to refer others, so it’s really flexible.

You also mentioned a two way thing, which is also very common, where the customer not only is referring their friends or family to you, but when they do that referral, the people that they refer also can get a discount. And so people have probably have seen give 20, earn 20, something like that, where you can give a 20% discount and then earn 20% on that referral. So that’s something that’s common, like an even balanced structure there where the people that you send through are getting a discount. But on top of that, that customer that referred them are getting a 20% commission or a $20, whatever it is. That’s usually customary.

Itamar Shafir:

And do you see any size of client base that you wouldn’t touch until let’s say the growth or certain size, you wouldn’t spend the effort of actually starting to do a customer referral program?

Arlen Robinson:

Well, if you’re fresh out of the gate and you don’t have really any customers, then yeah. I mean, it doesn’t make sense. You don’t have any customers, but yeah. I mean, from day one, after that, when you get your first customers, that is a time where you need to just get going. And the key thing here is you want to make sure you structure and you promote your referral program in such a way that you’re diligent enough to reach out to really those satisfied and loyal customers, because they’re the main ones that are going to be your top advocates, because they’ve had a pleasant experience with your products and services.

And what a lot of businesses really don’t really realize these days is that even if you don’t have a structured referral program in place, probably the stats really say that a good 70 to 80% of your sales are really already going to coming from referrals because of the way things are these days with social media. If people get a nice product or service, they’re telling their friends, they’re telling their family members, check this out. And they’re doing that with no incentive. So you just have to imagine as a business, if you incentivize people to do that, they’re going to be even more motivated to promote and refer their friends and their family to you.

Itamar Shafir:

Those are great points. And for me as a marketer and for all the listeners, they’re thinking maybe about their clients. They’re saying, okay, yeah, I have an HVAC company. They’ve been around for 15 years, probably have a database of who knows how many clients and post client. Can that become a hassle for me as the agency? I go to my client to tell him, no worries, I’m going to do a campaign for you. And let’s say, I set it up. Now, who pays all these people? Who tracks it? Who decides, okay, Mr. Johnson deserves 50 bucks. Does he get it automatically? Do you need to click a button? What happens?

Arlen Robinson:

That’s a great question. And I know a lot of businesses or agencies are probably thinking the same thing. They’re like, okay, it sounds great. We see the power of word of mouth marketing. We see how all of these referral programs can be beneficial to my client. But the bottom line is who’s going to manage all of this? Who’s going to set it up? Who’s going to maintain it? And so, as a marketing agency, one of the key things that you have to look at is this is something that most people have already heard about either via just being out there, listening to the marketing podcast, listening to marketing blogs. They’re constantly hearing that word of mouth market is key. You got to have a referral program. You got to have an affiliate program.

So as an agency, when you’re approached by customers, your clients, they’re going to be asking about it. And they’re going to say, okay, what about an affiliate program? Are you guys familiar with setting this up? So nine times out of 10, that’s in their back of their mind. And so as an agency, if you have this tool in your toolbox to be able to offer customers, then it’s definitely a win-win. And so what you have to look at it as an agency is, yes, of course, there’s definitely a setup involved. We of course recommend that when you’re setting up a referral program or an affiliate program, definitely get some software to do that, because of course you could do things … just like anything, you can do things without automating it.

I’ve had customers that approach us that get to the point where they’ve just been using spreadsheets to track referrals. And that, as you can imagine, can be a huge pain after a while. Once you get a certain point, it can be a huge time suck and a pain. And so definitely need to get a solution. It doesn’t have to of course be our solution or SI affiliate software. But of course I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t going to plug our solution, because we think it’s a solid tool. So you definitely need to get a solid tool that will allow the agency or the business to be able to do what you said, set it up so that customers or these affiliates can easily sign up so that they can easily get access to a dashboard where they’ll be able to get their referral links, access promotional materials. And then keep track of all of their earnings, their commissions earned and all of that. All of that is very key. You want to make sure that’s in place.

And then of course managing the payouts. When these advocates have earned their commissions and these affiliates have earned everything, you got to be able to pay them out on a timely basis. And so as an agency, one of the things I think that you should always be thinking about is how can you monetize this? Because every business is busy and every business sees the value of this, but they may not want to necessarily manage it. And so if you have this, as I said, tool in your toolbox, it can become a whole nother service offering where you’re providing an out of the box, turnkey affiliate referral solution for your customer base.

And then on top of that, you know what? I’ve seen two different things is we’ve had a variety of different agencies that use our product. And so you probably are going to have as an agency customers that you present with this that say, okay, great, this is an awesome solution. We’ve got such and such Joe on our marketing team that can just totally run with this and just manage it. Maybe you guys could set it up for us, let us know what solution to get. We can have Joe manage it for us.

But then other hand, as an agency, you may get customers that say, we don’t have anyone that can manage this. We’re super busy just trying to keep things going, trying to drive sales. We don’t have anybody on our team that could manage it. Could you guys do it? And then that’s when it becomes really a value add to the agency, because you can act as an affiliate manager where not only do you set it up for them, but you manage it for them. You get it out there, you give them ways to promote it. And then you manage everything from beginning to end with regards to the setup, the pay [crosstalk 00:15:48] of commissions and all of that.

Itamar Shafir:

Yeah. That’s exactly what I was thinking. For a marketer, it’s classic, because you obviously need a good promotion. You can’t just buy the software and you hope everything is going to be okay.

Arlen Robinson:

Right.

Itamar Shafir:

You need a good promotion. You need to do it time and again. You need to provide good content around it. You need to make sure that there is an explainer. You need to make sure that everybody knows what to do from a customer perspective. And on the financial side, do you pay via the software? How does that work?

Arlen Robinson:

Well, I can speak to what happens generally and with our software. Usually most solutions, even with ours, you can pay people through the software. In our case, we have integrations with PayPal where when your affiliates or advocates sign up, you can request their PayPal email and have that be the method of payment. And so within the software, we have connections with PayPal so that you could easily pay out whatever their commission is at, whether it’s on a monthly basis or weekly basis, however you decide, through PayPal. And that’s definitely something that you want to look for.

There’s other solutions also that are out there. There’s other tie-ins and we’re actually working with others, because these days, there’s a lot of ways to pay people from [crosstalk 00:17:01] Cash App here in the U.S. I’m not sure if that’s available where you are in Israel, but there’s a lot of these payment applications where people can easily set up a link with their bank account. And then as long as you have access to be able to push funds that way, that’s another way. So yeah, there’s always tie-ins depending on the solution that you get, but if you don’t use a tie-in, it’s really just up to you as a company, as a preference. We’ve had other companies that they already have their own in-house way of sending funds out. Or even if you want to go to old school route, send out checks, you can definitely still do that. Or even direct deposits if you have access to these advocates and affiliates’ bank account information.

Itamar Shafir:

Definitely, so okay. And by the way, that goes to explain maybe why a discount program is easier to manage than a program where you actually need to send money to somebody [crosstalk 00:17:58] from a management perspective.

Arlen Robinson:

From a management perspective, yeah, it’s a little bit more involved. I mean, once you get it integrated and up and going and have the process down, yeah, it’s not much to it. It’s just a matter of figuring out what that schedule is. A lot of what you can do and what I’ve seen many of our customers do because they’re thinking, okay, we have X affiliate, Bob, the affiliate, he’s earned $20 this month and that’s it. And so we also have 20 other affiliates that have earned five and $10. And so you think, wow, I’m going to want to have to go out and take my time making all these little small payments every couple weeks or every month. It doesn’t make sense, and so one of the things that we recommend and a lot of our customers do is set a threshold.

And this is what a lot of affiliate programs do is you’ll be able to track all of your earnings, but we don’t do a payout until your commission value or your commission amount reaches, let’s say $100. Once your commission amount reaches $100, then we do a payout. That’s pretty customary. We actually are also affiliates of other companies. We do promote other products as well. And so I’ve seen that that’s really common, where there’s a threshold so that you’re not making all of these small little payments every month and don’t have to worry about the workload that will be involved to making all those payments.

Itamar Shafir:

Yeah. Okay, so this is classic for agencies. I think this is perfect creating a customer referral program using OmniSTAR to make it easy for them, offering affiliate services and marketing services on top of that program. Now let’s talk about the other side, pro affiliates, affiliate marketing, not my customer base. I want to grow. I’m an agency now. I’m thinking about, okay, how do I grow my client’s business?

Arlen Robinson:

Okay.

Itamar Shafir:

And I do some PPC. I do Facebook, now I want to do something else.

Arlen Robinson:

Okay.

Itamar Shafir:

You know what? Before we even get to that, you need to give me some sort of explanation about the affiliate networks. I think that’s a black fold for a lot of people.

Arlen Robinson:

Right, right.

Itamar Shafir:

And they don’t know exactly what’s going on there. They think, can I go [inaudible 00:20:15] to CJ and everybody will stop promoting me? How does that work? Right?

Arlen Robinson:

Right. Great, great question, because when you do hear affiliate marketing, like you said, it brings up a lot of ideas people have or misconceptions. And what is all this? What is an affiliate network? And so great question as well. Now, an affiliate network is really a company, like you said, commission junction, CJ. There’s other companies out there, like ShareASale, there is ClickBank. And what these companies are, are they are a whole network that’s made up of affiliates as well as merchants selling a variety of products in various categories. And what they do is they facilitate, I guess you could say, like a marketplace.

So if you are a person that wants to be an affiliate or is a current affiliate, and you want to look for companies that have affiliate programs, you want to be able to do that all from on area, one database, then you would join these networks. And then try to link up with these companies to become an affiliate of them. And then at the same time, on the other side of the coin, your business … and you’re thinking, okay, I want to get instant exposure. I want to get instant exposure to a database of affiliates. I want to get my program out there. And let’s just see who we can get to promote it, then yeah, these networks are for you.

Now, listeners are probably wondering, or agencies that are listening are probably wondering, why would I push one versus the other for my customers when they’re probably asking me about this? What about CJ? What about ShareASale versus creating my own program? Well, there’s pluses and minuses just like anything for creating one or the other. Now the number one thing that you need to be mindful of with the affiliate networks is that there is a pretty sizable fee that you’re paying not only upfront, but per transaction that you get.

And I’ll speak to CJ, for instance, commission junction. I believe right now their initial … I don’t know what they call it now. It’s either entry or a shut fee is anywhere between three and $5,000 just to get into their network. That’s just their initiation fee, I think is maybe what they call it, to get in there. So, that’s a pretty big fee up front. If you’re a small business, that could be a little bit much to swallow initially. And so that’s one thing you have to be mindful of, that initial fee. And most of the other larger networks are the same way. There’s an initial fee.

And then on top of that, what these it works do because they feel they’re providing the value, they create this whole marketplace and this whole platform, they are going to charge you a percentage of each transaction. So if you got an affiliate that’s referring your business and they’ve come through the network and they purchase your product, not only are you going to be paying that affiliate a commission, you’re going to also be paying a service fee or commission fee to CJ or one of these other platforms. And so you definitely have to be mindful of that, that there are fees in involved there depending on the network side.

So CJ is kind of one of the top. They’re probably one of the most costly, but there are other networks like ShareASale, where there is an initiation fee. I think it’s a few hundred dollars maybe, so that’s a big difference between $3000 and $5,000 with CJ. And so there’s networks like that. ShareASale also does charge service fees, commission fees on top of the commissions that you pay out. So you have to be mindful of that.

Now on the other side of the coin, creating your own affiliate program with, let’s say, a software solution like ours, then it’s all yours. It’s on you to create that program, you deciding what the commission is, and you are controlling all aspects of it. Really, the only fee of course, in this case that you’re going to be paying is going to be for the cost of the software that you’re paying on an ongoing fee. And of course, if there’s any other resources that you have tapped that’s going to be managing it for you. But the advantage to this is you don’t have that hefty initial fee, and you don’t have the commission service charges that are available there. And so [crosstalk 00:24:31] it’s a trade off, but of course, with creating your own affiliate program, you do have to get out there. You do have to market it. You have to recruit your own affiliates and expose it to the world.

Itamar Shafir:

In my experience also with affiliate exchanges like ClickBank, for example, that we have some experience with, you also need to work in getting affiliates. It’s not like you put your product and everything just streamlines. Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, that’s a great product. Let’s stop promoting it.

Arlen Robinson:

Yeah.

Itamar Shafir:

No, there are tactics. You need to go after affiliates. You need to show them your products so there’s work around it.

Arlen Robinson:

Yeah.

Itamar Shafir:

Okay. So thank you for that explanation. Now another breakdown. There are, at least for our marketers and I guess for any other marketer out there today, a lot of our marketers are doing offline businesses, right? So obviously everybody can understand how this is working for e-com immediate transaction. Right? You [inaudible 00:25:37] up traffic, they buy, I get a commission, for example. But what do you do with the offline guys? The retailer, the dentist, the HVAC companies? Maybe attorneys is not relevant, but I’m trying to think of services that [crosstalk 00:25:52] that … For example, there are HVAC companies spending a ton of money in advertising traffic, a ton.

Arlen Robinson:

Absolutely, definitely.

Itamar Shafir:

So can they use affiliate marketing and how?

Arlen Robinson:

They definitely can. And I’m glad you asked that because a few years ago in our business, we got to a point where … I mean, this was on a weekly basis where we were getting approached by so many offline companies. We’re talking service companies, like roofing, electricians, plumbers. Everybody hears about referral marketing. They hear about affiliate marketing. Even if you’re an offline business and you’re like, all right, how am I going to take advantage of this? And so [crosstalk 00:26:34] where we’ve been around for a while. We have an age domain, so we come up pretty high in a lot of the searches. And so we’re getting a lot of these business to say, okay, how can this software be used to me?

And so what we did at that time, because prior to several years ago, our tool was primarily for just online businesses that were using it, because with an online business, as you can imagine, the trackings a lot easier. The software generates such a unique trackable link to the company’s website. And if it’s an e-commerce site or a service site where you do the transaction online, it’s pretty simple. We have a snippet of code that goes in the order thank you page that tracks if that order came from an affiliate or one of your customers. So pretty straightforward, pretty smooth.

But then when you’re thinking about, let’s say, a roofing company, for instance, which is to totally different, a totally different animal, where people are buying 20, $30,000 roofs, at least that’s what the typical cost here in the U.S. is. And so with a roof, you don’t just go on the website, go to the shopping cart, put a $20,000 roof in the checkout and then check out. That doesn’t happen. It’s a process. With these service based businesses, they work on leads and that’s really what they’re trying to get, as many leads as possible to the business.

And so, one of the things that you can do as a service based business and what we’ve done within our software is we’ve created some tools where a service based business can get a lead form that is integrated into our software, our technology. And so that’s one of the things you want to look for, even if it’s not our technology, if there’s a solution out there that allows you to get a referral program where you can actually track and capture leads. And so what we do is we will be able to set up a lead for these business, let’s say it’s a roofing company. It’s tied into our software and they get their … we’ll look at the customer referral portion of it. They get their current customers to join the referral program and they say, okay, great. If you refer your neighbor or your friends that you know, they get a roof job or the roof repair, we’ll give you let’s say $100 gift card to Amazon or whatever it is. And so that’s the incentive there. That’s where you motivate people to do it.

And then what they do then is they get their link and share it with their friends. That link will take people to the lead capture form, that capture form is filled out. It goes to the roofing company, the roofing company then sees that it’s been added into our software and that it came from such and such customer, John Smith. And they know, okay, great, John Smith gave us a referral. We can thank him for that. We can let them know that if the deal closes, he can get his $100 gift card. And then our system will be able to track it. So if the deal closes, they’ll be able to see who referred that person. And so that’s really the main thing that you want to think about regardless of the solution that you’re using is, is there a way to be able to track referred leads and then keep them in a database so that if these leads do convert, you know who to pay out? That’s really the main thing that you need to look for and it has to happen.

Itamar Shafir:

That’s perfect, so it’s a paper lead basically program. And then it makes a ton of sense that you can use basically affiliate marketing, like you use any traffic source.

Arlen Robinson:

Right.

Itamar Shafir:

What about actually getting those [inaudible 00:30:01] So any tips on tools or places where you can find them? More tactics, how you can find them?

Arlen Robinson:

Sure, definitely. Now I did mention that these days, I’d like to think of influencers as really the affiliates of today, because when we think of influencers, we’re talking about really … it doesn’t necessarily have to be a celebrity or big entertainer that has millions and millions of followers. When we’re talking influencers, there’s various levels from the micro to the macro influencer. And we’re going from people that on the micro level that have up to five or so thousand followers on any of the given social networks. And so as a business, you’re wondering, okay, how do we reach out to these people? How do we find these influencers and pitch our pitch and get them to find out about our affiliate program?

So a couple quick tips that I recommend, and I’ll give a quick example. Let’s say your business is in fashion, for instance. And if you’re in the fashion niche and you want to reach out to some affiliates and some influencers that have a good following of people that are into fashion and would be a great person to be able to spread your products or services to their network. And so, one of the things that you can do is utilizing the social networks. If, let’s say, you’re in the fashion space, let’s say you’re located in the city of Chicago, for instance, you can go on to let’s say Instagram and do a hashtag search. This is something that’s really underutilized. I don’t see a lot of people doing it, but if you do a hashtag search in Instagram for, let’s say, a specific hashtag like Chicago fashion, hashtag Chicago fashion blogger, this will return … I think right now you’ll probably get 20 or 30,000 results, which is quite a lot.

And that’s just an example, but that’s a specific hashtag that’s most likely only utilized by somebody that’s blogging about fashion in the city of Chicago. These would be people that would be prime and ripe to be your affiliates, your advocates that you could reach out to. And then, so then once you go through, do these searches, and it doesn’t necessarily have to just be Instagram, you can do the same thing on Twitter, wherever hashtags you use or wherever you think would be a great pool of affiliates for you, do this search.

And it doesn’t have to be that particular example of search, but think about hashtags that are used by influencers. This is a great way to uncover them, and then do your due diligence. Get out there, do direct messaging them, do your pitch, let them know what it is, what’s in it for them, what you’re offering, and then try to land them that way. So that’s definitely one great cost effective way of doing it because it’s really just going to require time, somebody on your team just going in there, doing the searches, doing the follow ups, and then seeing who you can find. Outside of that, these days, there are a ton of databases, influencer databases, and platforms where you can go on. Some are free, a lot are paid, where you can go on there and do a search by categories. You can do a search based on the amount of followers people have, and then find affiliate and influences that way.

Itamar Shafir:

And from my experience, small influencers, sometimes they have just flat rates because they don’t create enough traction to do commission based or CPA.

Arlen Robinson:

Right.

Itamar Shafir:

For an agency starting out building an influencer affiliate program for their let’s say a small business, a small client, what would you recommend as a starting budget? When we say starting budget for PPC or a starting budget for Facebook, what would you say would be a starting budget to basically buy enough traction from those affiliates, these small affiliates? Obviously somebody that has 50 million users is probably not going to talk with your small business, so you need those micro influences, right? How much should I spend on those? Or how do I check how much should I spend on those?

Arlen Robinson:

Gotcha. Gotcha. That’s a great question. That’s something that we’ve often been asked is, what’s that sweet spot? What is that commission that you pay for these people? And as you mentioned, you’re totally right. There’s no fixed amount. It’s, I guess you can say, a sliding scale. And it really is going to depend on the value that they can bring, the amount of followers that they have, the amount of exposure that you can give them. So I think what you want to look at is a couple of things. You want to look at the price points of your product for one, and you want to look at, on their end, their level of exposure that they can give you. And so when you’re thinking about, all right, what’s that sizeable commission, if it’s not a percentage of an ordered total.

I guess a good example would be, let’s say if your average product cost is let’s say on most of your products, let’s say $100 and you’re thinking about, okay, what would be a good fixed amount fee? What usually we think about and what I’ve seen a lot of businesses do is they think about, okay, out of that, what can I actually get away with and make still a return on it? So there’s really no set amount. One of the things that I would see if you’re looking at a fixed amount, we’re looking at a hundred dollars product, I would say somewhere between maybe 10 and $20 of that, if that’s something that fits in your margin on a hundred dollars product as an incentive. And that’s per referral that you give them as a fixed rate or fixed amount. So that’s just [inaudible 00:35:45] an example, but that’s in no way something that I would say would be blanket across the board for every business. So there’s still a lot of variables there.

Itamar Shafir:

Okay. So talking about … let’s say somebody wants to go into this more seriously. Obviously they need to learn more about this process, how to run an affiliate program, what are the best incentives, and how to find these kind of people? Is there any educational side or good coach or video, YouTube channel that you would recommend them to go and watch to learn more about affiliate marketing?

Arlen Robinson:

Yes, definitely. These days, there’s a lot out there. And a lot of times people are trying to navigate this whole world of information because there’s so much. You don’t know who to trust. I always like to mention some key figures in the digital marketing space that are solid and reliable, that you can trust as far as putting out solid information. Well, for one thing, taking it back to us as a company, we do put out a lot of information and resources on our blog, on our website. Most of it is around affiliate and referral marketing. So on our site, osiaffiliate.com, we have a blog where you can get some good information about articles there. And we also have a resources section as well, where you can get access to articles, of PDFs. And so we try to maintain that because we know a lot of people are, like you said, very curious about where do we go? Where can I learn more about all of this?

Secondly, some key figures in the, I guess you could say, digital marketing space that I trust for information. Number one would be Neil Patel. He has a blog. He also has his own agency, Neil Patel Digital, where he works with companies. He has his own agency. And he is, I would say when you’re thinking of digital marketing, education, blogs, and information, he’s pretty much one of the top people there that put out a lot of relevant information. So you can just do a search. You can check him out not only on YouTube or all the social channels [crosstalk 00:37:56]

Itamar Shafir:

Or listen to our podcast with Neil. We had him a month ago.

Arlen Robinson:

Oh, you did? Okay. Awesome. Awesome. He was actually on my podcast as well [crosstalk 00:38:04]

Itamar Shafir:

He didn’t talk about affiliate marketing though. I didn’t know he’s into it. Okay.

Arlen Robinson:

Yeah, like I said, he’s a good person. And I’m sure by looking at his blog, you can find information about affiliate referral marketing. So I would say he’s definitely one to trust. Another resource would be a company that actually has a digital course, as well as a blog. They’re called Authority Hackers. And so Authority Hackers is a group where not only do they put out a lot of information about affiliate marketing, they’re called authority hackers because one of the things that they do is they put a lot of information out if you’re looking to become an affiliate for a particular brand or create an affiliate or niche site and be able to promote that.

Let’s say you put out a niche site and maybe you’re an Amazon affiliate and you’re promoting Amazon products. They have a lot of resources and information about that, but not only that, they have a pro course that they launch every few months that is one of the most comprehensive pieces of online courses that I’ve seen, because I’ve seen a lot, as you can imagine, these [crosstalk 00:39:16] years. We consume a lot of information and blogs on our end with our team, and they’re the real deal. They’ve created a set of different blueprints about really, almost any digital marketing topic that you can think about. And when you access their course and go through these blueprints, they break it down. Their videos are very comprehensive. It’s not just fluff. They take you step by step on how to do things, how to do link building, lead generation. You name it, they have a blueprint probably for it. So those are two big resources that I would highly recommend.

Itamar Shafir:

Excellent. Excellent. So we’ve reached a portion of the podcast, which we call rapid Q&A.

Arlen Robinson:

Okay.

Itamar Shafir:

It’s a list of about 10 questions, quick questions, quick answers.

Arlen Robinson:

Sure.

Itamar Shafir:

The questions are in no way edgy, but if you feel uncomfortable by any of them, just say pass. Okay?

Arlen Robinson:

All right, no problem.

Itamar Shafir:

But they’re not really, so no worries.

Arlen Robinson:

Okay.

Itamar Shafir:

Okay. Did you get along with your parents growing up?

Arlen Robinson:

Yes, definitely. I had a great relationship with my parents, not too many conflicts.

Itamar Shafir:

Do you have siblings?

Arlen Robinson:

Yes, I have an older brother. He’s four years older.

Itamar Shafir:

Do you have a pet?

Arlen Robinson:

I do not have a pet.

Itamar Shafir:

Do you have kids?

Arlen Robinson:

No kids

Itamar Shafir:

When do you wake up?

Arlen Robinson:

Approximately 6:30 AM eastern time, the U.S..

Itamar Shafir:

When do you go to bed?

Arlen Robinson:

These days, probably later than I should. Usually about 11:00 PM, 11:30 sometimes

Itamar Shafir:

Not too bad.

Arlen Robinson:

No.

Itamar Shafir:

Ideal vacation?

Arlen Robinson:

Ideal vacation is warm climate by the ocean where I can do a variety of water activities from boating to just relaxing on a beach.

Itamar Shafir:

Are you a man of faith?

Arlen Robinson:

Yes, I am.

Itamar Shafir:

Excellent. Thank you, Arlen. You’ve been awesome. Your information is stellar.

Arlen Robinson:

Thank you.

Itamar Shafir:

You’re a true guru. I know we just touched on, I don’t know, 1% of the iceberg of this. So guys, please go to arlenrobinson.com. On his website, you’ll find a bunch of links also to his company, of course, but to other resources as well. And check out osiaffiliates.com, and that’s the website of the software. They’ve been around for 20 years, so they definitely know what they’re doing. So if you’re planning on doing a referral program, which I’m definitely going back to the umbrella team now are going to talk about me, because you’re right. What business doesn’t need a referral program? I don’t know, very few. I could start thinking in my head, but most of them do.

Arlen Robinson:

Right.

Itamar Shafir:

So I think it’s a critical element for market and something you need to start learning and start implementing. So go to osiaffiliates.com and start learning about it and maybe implementing with it if you’re already ready. And Arlen, thank you, man. You’ve been great.

Arlen Robinson:

Awesome. Well, thank you, Itamar. I appreciate the opportunity. I’m glad I was able to impart some knowledge to your listeners. And this word of mouth marketing is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s never too late to jump on.

Itamar Shafir:

100%.

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