Excellent post David. The key phrase you mentioned in my opinion is “cost neutral”. Many times marketing is performed in organizations without discernible or measurable metrics in the name of ‘creating or influencing brand awareness’. So to your points I believe that marketing (and any other position in the organization) can be held accountable to outcomes if a discipline is applied to how what they do influences what is produced in profitability. If you can’t measure what you are managing, and how that contributes to the bottom line, whether it be marketing or anything else you’ve got a cost – pure and simple.
The easiest thing to do is to sign up for an affiliate marketing network like Commission Junction. They provide a marketplace where your affiliate program will be advertised to other affiliate marketers. They also provide the tracking software for your affiliates so you don’t have to build your own tracking system. In some ways this is better because it takes care of the trust issues. Affiliates are always suspicious of whether or not they’re getting credited for the sales they generate. By having an intermediary take care of transaction tracking and payments, the fear of being cheated is alleviated.
3. Paying for leads. Some merchants benefit by paying affiliates on a lead basis. For example, an insurance company might pay affiliates a fixed bounty for each potential customer who signs up for an estimate. Alternately, a car dealership might pay affiliates for each customer that requests information on a specific car, and perhaps an additional bonus if the customer schedules a test drive.
The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.