As someone who lives and breathes Marketing Partnerships for a living, I am often asked about the pros and cons of developing an Online Affinity Marketing Program with the support of an established Affiliate Marketing Network or going it Alone? Both strategies are effective...yet what really matters is what you readily have available to leverage to effectively run the program!

What do I mean? Well, put it this way...If you have an established audience to market the Affinity Partner offers to and can effectively negotiate compelling offers from those Partners to make them exclusively available to your customers then it's likely a good way to go. Why? Because leveraging an established Network like Linkshare or Commission Junction or NextJump will certainly lighten your work load in terms of Partner Acquisition, but forget about having any unique offers for your customers. You will end up with the same, run of the mill, readily available offers that are available to anyone who is part of their network. It certainly reduces those unwanted time consuming tasks like acquiring Partners and managing Partner Relationships, yet at the end of they day, you will not be providing your customers or audience with a true unique value proposition. Only one that is available anywhere else on the net unless you have a form of currency of your own as a business and can effectively integrate it such as 'points' for a loyalty program.

Having said are the Top 10 questions to answer before deciding how to proceed with your Online Affinity Marketing Program:

1. Where will my traffic (audience, customers, users) come from and how do I plan on getting them to engage with my program?
2. How will I acquire Affinity Marketing Partner relationships and manage them?
3. What kinds of offers do I want to offer my audience, customers, users? Have I done any research?
4. Do I have the time to focus on building and engaging an audience and acquire and manage new partner relationships?
5. Do I want my program to have unique or exclusive offers and do I think that I have the assets to leverage to negotiate such arrangements? Am I being realistic?
6. Where will I host the program?
7. If I work with an Affiliate Marketing Network partner, can I afford the fees?

Comments are welcome. What has your experience been with Online Affinity or Affiliate Marketing Programs?