Are you wondering if you can leverage the potential of affiliate marketing in your niche? Internet marketing brings you infinite possibilities in terms of expanding your business. But you only have so many hours in the day. What if you could have a virtual sales force working hard to help you sell more?

Affiliate marketing has long been used in the B2C world because companies can put together a virtual sales force that works on 100% commission only. Paying only for results has been a good thing for many small businesses who want help from internet marketers willing to help them by facilitating a sale. But if you’re in the B2B space, can affiliate marketing help you, too? Definitely. But, you have to do it right in order to get real and sustainable success.

Setting up a B2B Affiliate Program

Planning is important when setting up an affiliate program and if you don’t have expertise in this area you may want to work with (or hire) an affiliate manager who can help you. Setting up a program and the plan whereby you carefully vet applications from potential affiliates and where you map out rules that can help you control your reputation. This could be very important rather than having an open plan where anyone with or without scruples can earn money from you.

Affiliate marketing has gotten a bit of a bad rep due to bad apples who spam people to try to make commissions and in the process they hurt you because it’s your brand that’s being smeared all over the spam filters. You may want to use an affiliate network that helps you manage and police this so you can be sure that your virtual sales team acts with integrity in bringing you real leads that can help start a relationship off right. The right tracking mechanisms can help you weed out the fraud so that you don’t pay affiliates unless they have been legitimately bringing you business. A fee per lead or fee per sale rather than a fee for traffic only or fee for sign-up might be more suitable, for example.

Recruiting the Right Affiliates

You or your affiliate manager will want to continually scour the web for good potential affiliates. Contacting high profile B2B websites or industry expert blogs and e-zines might work to your advantage. An attractive payment structure and a great product can help you attract quality affiliates who will help you grow. Once it grows you may want to foster good relationships to retain affiliates and consider doing annual conferences, contests, and promotions that offer extra incentives to your affiliates to get them working extra hard at helping you sell.

Resources are Vital

Some of the most successful affiliate programs out there, whether B2B or B2C, happen when the company provides good resources to help affiliates sell. Creative materials, website banners and widgets, and content that helps them sell can make a world of difference. Just like you’d provide your internal sales force with regular training and product information as well as fresh marketing collateral you’ll want to do the same with a ‘virtual’ sales force. This can help them be more successful and more motivated in selling your product. Regular communications and support make a big difference in attracting the right affiliate marketers and in helping them achieve success. The more they sell, the more they will want to continue to work harder for you.

An affiliate marketing program is scalable and because it is a pay-per-performance structure it doesn’t usually require a whole lot of financial investment up front. The benefits of having a performance based virtual sales force could help you really put your business on the map as well as lower your operational costs, too.