The latest marketing roundtable hosted by the American Booksellers Association offered booksellers tips on how they can establish, manage, and maintain a successful affiliate marketing program.
The July 26 roundtable — one of the biweekly online video conferences hosted by ABA on Zoom.us — explored the different possibilities of what an affiliate-bookseller partnership can look like, as well as how to properly manage multiple affiliates at a time and how to tailor the program to fit the needs of individual bookstores. IndieCommerce Specialist Ryan Quinn selected the Ambassador.com article “19 Affiliate Marketing Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know” and the SalesandOrders.com article “A Guide to Creating an Affiliate Marketing Program for Your eCommerce Brand” to use as a springboard for the discussion.
SalesandOrders.com describes affiliate marketing as “referral marketing,” meaning that booksellers can outsource some of their marketing needs to a social media influencer or blogger who can then refer their followers to the bookseller’s website on commission.
One easy way to find potential affiliates is to recruit existing customers, according to Ambassador.com, which can be done through an e-mail that outlines the benefits of joining an affiliate program. Benefits can include a commission or store credit.
Quinn recommended that booksellers do a quick Google search to find potential affiliates outside of their store’s customer base. While those with a large Internet following are ideal, there is a wide range of other valuable affiliates as well, including local authors, who tend to be enthusiastic about working with independent bookstores.
Droppert also works with authors local to the Pacific Northwest. Poet June Cotner links to Liberty Bay Books on her website and Liberty Bay Books sells autographed copies of her books in return.
Once booksellers have found affiliates to work with, they should keep a detailed spreadsheet that lists all of the most pertinent information about their affiliates, suggested IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies. If regularly updated, this spreadsheet can be used to track the evolution of an affiliate’s brand, which can inform booksellers whether the partnership is still beneficial as each business expands.
Davies also told booksellers to keep in touch with their affiliates, as showing continuous interest beyond sending introductory e-mails and information helps to strengthen a partnership, leading to better product promotion and brand endorsement. As website art and assets change, Davies said that booksellers should send updated images for their affiliates to use; booksellers should keep their affiliates in the loop about changes in business practices and inventory as well.
According to SalesandOrders.com, a “drip e-mail campaign” — which sends out scheduled marketing e-mails over a set period of time — is an effective way to keep in contact with affiliates, as business owners have the option of scheduling e-mails to go out as often as needed.
Quinn reminded booksellers that one of the most important parts of establishing a successful affiliate program is also one of the most forgotten: advertisement. Booksellers should clearly state on their website that they have an affiliate marketing program with a link that directs potential affiliates to more information. If booksellers are still in the early stages of developing a program, Quinn suggested posting a query to gauge interest.
To maximize potential sales, booksellers should use a variety of different methods to promote traffic to their websites; coupons and special links are effective tools that affiliates can use to attract potential customers. Additionally, stores should consider setting up pop-up ads on their own website that offer exclusive deals, according to SalesandOrders.com.
All ABA members are invited to join these 30-minute marketing roundtable video conferences, which are held at 11:00 a.m. EST on two Thursdays a month. Booksellers who would like to participate can send an invite request to ABA’s Phil Davies