ShareASale Review – How to Market a Small Business Effectively
Would you like to increase sales by about 30%? Would you like to increase sales by 30% for an investment of $650? If you aren’t a marketing wiz, or you don’t have the time and/or budget for an effective marketing plan, does the 30% increase sound even better? If you aren’t necessarily concerned about a sales increase, but want more brand awareness, does $650 sound like a good investment? If any of those sound good, let’s take look at ShareASale.
What is ShareASale?
ShareASale is a 15 year old affiliate network. If you aren’t familiar with what an affiliate network is – it’s basically a platform that houses both merchants and advertisers. The merchant provides compensation or commission for any sales that the affiliate (advertiser) sends their way, while the network acts as the go-between. Advertisers range from bloggers, niche sites, product or service databases, etc. Think of it as an evolutionary version of mass mailing programs. Instead of you designing your marketing material, the advertiser does that for you, and you pay them for referrals. Can you see the viral potential yet?
My experience with ShareASale
I have worked with ShareASale as both a merchant, and an affiliate, so I’m fairly familiar with both ends of the platform. As an affiliate, I use this blog and others to promote products, stores, and merchants that I either use, or have used, and have been satisfied with. You can view this post about BidFusion, or this one about Baklavva to get an idea of how an affiliate accomplishes their end of the deal. On average, I send about a few thousand readers per month to the various product or service websites that I promote.
As a merchant, I started using ShareASale in 2013. I have a few bedding sites that I operate, and wasn’t the most knowledgeable in running a website back then. Most of my selling experience online came from eBay and Amazon. Those platforms do most of the advertising for you. And if you have had your own website, then you know what a different game that is. You really do need some marketing know-how to do it alone. And not just marketing knowledge, but also SEO strategy, marketing budget, social media know-how, time, etc.
Ideally, you would need a few marketing associates to get the job done, but naturally new and small businesses don’t always have the budget for that. That is where an affiliate network like Shareasale comes into play. You have a virtual team of sales people working for you, and getting paid on commission.
What can you expect? Obviously every niche is different, so it’s hard to give an exact figure, as there will be a range. With my bedding sites, I had an increase of about 23% in 2014 compared to 2013 when I first started using Shareasale, and about a 29% increase so far in 2015 (with 2 months still left to go).
Obviously you should already have a functional website set up, one that is both for an actual business, and one that looks good. This isn’t a get rich quick scheme, so think long-term here. The top affiliates earn in excess of six figures a month, so the sale generation potential is definitely there if you have a real business, good products or services, and a good offer for affiliates.
Some obvious (or not so obvious) benefits
- Free backlinks – Anyone who has spent time working on their SEO strategy knows how important backlinks are, as well as how time consuming it is to get them. Every post like this is another backlink to add to your list, which in turn improves the SEO for your own site. Some will be from small and middling bloggers, but others will be from high PR sites.
- Viral potential – A lot of affiliates promote via social media (which you can filter out if you choose). Nothing increases sales or brand awareness like a campaign going viral. Have your affiliates send your social signals for you.
- Outsourced Marketing – Great for those who don’t have marketing skills, budget, or time.
- Low-Risk – Your own marketing plans and campaigns can be costly, especially when they fail. Affiliates remove that risk, as the cost is all on them.
- Pay as you go – Grow sales, and only pay for quality traffic. Quality = sale generating traffic.
Fee Structure and Cost
You will have a one-time network access fee of $550. Along with that, you will need to make an initial deposit of $100, which is then used to pay out any commissions to affiliates for successful sales. This $650 is due up-front, and is the only fee that you will ever have to pay if things don’t work out the way you had expected. There is no contract, and you can cancel at any time, so other than the initial $650, you aren’t locked into anything.
There are two types of recurring fees you will basically incur with ShareASale – Transaction Fees and Monthly Minimum Fees. Transaction fee only occur if an Affiliate sale or lead is made (depending on parameters you choose for payouts on a given campaign).
A monthly minimum fee occurs if, in a given month, your account does not generate a minimum of $25 in fees to ShareASale. However, there is a grace period for new merchants. For the first 60 days, you will not incur that monthly minimum fee, and you will only incur a $10 monthly fee thereafter for the first 120 days after activation. Again, you will only incur the monthly minimum fee if you don’t have $25 or more in paid commissions each month.
So in practice, your $650 initial investment buys you 120 days of promotion before you would incur any other fees. Hopefully by then you are generating enough income to negate the monthly fee.
Features of ShareASale
Walk-though webinars – If you’re not the most online-friendly person, don’t worry, you can access webinars that will walk you through the entire setup (which isn’t really that hard anyways).
You can approve or deny any affiliate that you choose – If you don’t want to be associated with a certain blogger, a topic, etc., you have full approval power over any and all affiliates. And if you don’t care, you can just auto-approve.
Full tracking is provided for all traffic and clicks – You get full merchant API. You can track and see which affiliates had clicks, how much time it took for the click to translate into a sale, etc.
Payment processing – This part is a good hassle-free feature. ShareASale takes care of all check processing – You just take care of your business, track all payment expenses.
Affiliate approval – ShareASale vets all affiliates that sign up, and monitors activity as well. Those affiliates who repeatedly violate policies set by merchants are removed from the network.
Affiliate helpdesk – You choose all of your parameters and policies, adn affiliates contact the ShareSale helpdesk with any questions. ShareAsale handles all the “training” for you virtual “staff”.
Ad serving – ShareAsale serves all of your adlinks, banners, buttons, and text links on your behalf. After your initial setup, you have a pretty much hands-off operation.
Datafeed Upload – You can upload any datafeeds that you may have for affiliates to use, at no extra charge to you. This feature is actually very useful if you have a datafeed. Essentially, affiliates would be able to catalog your full list of products on their affiliate site, and just send the traffic to you for the culmination of the sale. It’s like having multiple sites, while just managing one site.
You define commissions and commission rules – The payout is completely up to you. You can pay by per sale, per lead, etc. And you choose the amount each time. You can also setup rules to disallow certain type of clicks or sales. For example – Clicks that come from coupon sites, or sites with a coupon code already embedded.
You can advertise to or recruit affiliates – Let’s say you have a site that sells shoes or clothing. You can recruit all bloggers or advertisers that are in the fashion niche that are not already your affiliates.
Multiple sites – You can set up multiple sites under one account. No need to pay another one time $650 fee.
Response time – In most cases, you can actually be up and live within a day.
Feedback – Affiliates get feedback, just like in eBay or Amazon. So you can manually remove affiliates that don’t suit your profile.
No monthly contract – As mentioned above, you basically get 120 days before you incur any charges if things don’t go as planned. So you can cancel any time.
If you’re looking for a quick sales fix, ShareASale is probably not for you, as in reality, it does take a few weeks or months to see actual and real results. The $650 initial fee is designed to weed out actual honest merchants and sellers from those looking for a quick fix, or even worse, pop-a-shop adware or fraud providers. But if you think ShareASale is something that could work for you, click the blue link to visit their site and learn more.