Affiliate marketing has grown quickly since its inception. The e-commerce website, viewed as a marketing toy in the early days of the Internet, became an integrated part of the overall business plan and in some cases grew to a bigger business than the existing offline business. According to one report, the total sales amount generated through affiliate networks in 2006 was £2.16 billion in the United Kingdom alone. The estimates were £1.35 billion in sales in 2005. MarketingSherpa's research team estimated that, in 2006, affiliates worldwide earned US$6.5 billion in bounty and commissions from a variety of sources in retail, personal finance, gaming and gambling, travel, telecom, education, publishing, and forms of lead generation other than contextual advertising programs.
Market pioneers are known to often open a new market to consumers based off a major innovation. They emphasise these product developments, and in a significant number of cases, studies have shown that early entrants – or pioneers – into a market have serious market-share advantages above all those who enter later. Pioneers have the first-mover advantage, and in order to have this advantage, business’ must ensure they have at least one or more of three primary sources: Technological Leadership, Preemption of Assets or Buyer Switching Costs. Technological Leadership means gaining an advantage through either Research and Development or the “learning curve”. This lets a business use the research and development stage as a key point of selling due to primary research of a new or developed product. Preemption of Assets can help gain an advantage through acquiring scarce assets within a certain market, allowing the first-mover to be able to have control of existing assets rather than those that are created through new technology. Thus allowing pre-existing information to be used and a lower risk when first entering a new market. By being a first entrant, it is easy to avoid higher switching costs compared to later entrants. For example, those who enter later would have to invest more expenditure in order to encourage customers away from early entrants. However, while Market Pioneers may have the “highest probability of engaging in product development” and lower switching costs, to have the first-mover advantage, it can be more expensive due to product innovation being more costly than product imitation. It has been found that while Pioneers in both consumer goods and industrial markets have gained “significant sales advantages”, they incur larger disadvantages cost-wise.
One of the most important information resources you'll find is the SBA. The SBA was created by Congress in 1953 to help American entrepreneurs start, run, and grow successful small enterprises. Today there are SBA offices in every state, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Among the services offered by the SBA are financial assistance, counseling services through Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), management assistance through programs like SCORE, and low-cost publications. The counselors at SCORE can provide you with free consultation on what type of research you need to gather and where you can obtain that information. They may also be able to suggest other means of gathering the information from primary sources. SBDCs generally have extensive business libraries with lots of secondary sources for you to review.
Typically the firm will attempt to leverage those opportunities that can be matched with internal strengths; that is to say the firm has a capability in any area where strengths are matched with external opportunities. It may need to build capability if it wishes to leverage opportunities in areas of weakness. An area of weakness that is matched with an external threat represents a vulnerability, and the firm may need to develop contingency plans.
Strategic planning typically begins with a scan of the business environment, both internal and external, this includes understanding strategic constraints. An understanding of the external operating environment, including political, economic, social and technological which includes demographic and cultural aspects, is necessary for the identification of business opportunities and threats. This analysis is called PEST; an acronym for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. A number of variants of the PEST analysis can be identified in literature, including: PESTLE analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental); STEEPLE (adds ethics); STEEPLED (adds demographics) and STEER (adds regulatory).
Affiliate agreements can be entered into by any type of business, from sole proprietor to corporation. Affiliating with another company is a good way to promote your business and make more money by joining with someone who has a proven track record and a larger customer base. But before you join an affiliate program of any kind, consider these questions (from Leslie Truex, Home Business expert).