How Affiliate Programs Fit into
B2B E-commerce

Affiliate programs have already been proven successful in the B2C market. Applying performance-based marketing techniques to B2B e-commerce has its own unique challenges.

The good news is that according to Forrester Research, online B2B marketing budgets will hit $10.1 billion in 2005 overall, with affiliate programs reaching $1.3 billion.

For a B2C merchant, recruiting can be accomplished by simply directing potential affiliates to an application page through a link on the home page, or by joining affiliate network providers who do the recruiting for the merchant. Today, these do not work well in the B2B world.

The pool of available B2B affiliates is smaller. In addition, they typically have a longer cycle of recruitment and require more attention. An affiliate can be a reseller in a vertical market, a business content site, a third party, or a professional organization. The merchant - for the time being - will heavily depend on a strong business development group, sales force or an outsourced third party vendor to recruit affiliates and partners.

If you are considering adding an affiliate program to your website, choosing an affiliate based network provider such Be Free, Commission Junction or Linkshare is strongly recommended. The program's implementation will be faster and its budget smaller, since the up front costs are lower compared to building the program in-house.

Some performance-based marketing network providers such as Be Free offer a variety of compensation models that will give the merchant the flexibility to support their online goals. For example, a merchant that offers large customized systems could use the affiliate program as a cost efficient lead generator. Instead of paying for traditional CPM advertising upfront, it will give the merchant the opportunity to test new channels and only pay for successful leads.

Challenges ahead

B2B e-commerce is still in the process of reinventing and defining itself, as are B2B affiliate marketing programs. Nonetheless, an affiliate program can be used in many creative and revenue-enhancing ways. It can be simply a tracking tool for your performance based marketing deals or a testing ground for new channel enabling.

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Executive Summary

B2B Affiliate Marketing
is still in its infancy.
One of the primary challenges
is the recruitment of affiliates.