[Posted by Neil Strother]

Affiliate marketing has taken its share of abuse as a less-than-ideal way to advertise online. However, in today's tough economy, major brands are taking a second look at affiliate programs as a way to boost sales at a very reasonable cost. Indeed, data from our survey of online marketing executives shows that a majority would spend more in online advertising if they had proof it would increase sales. An affiliate program is one such method that is all about lifting sales, and the proof is easily measured since the advertiser only pays for a completed sale of qualified lead.

If done properly, an affiliate program can be a valuable asset to an overall marketing effort, with manageable risk. Commission Junction – a leader in this space – reports that between 5% and 30% of incremental online sales can come through the affiliate channel. My latest report, "Performance Marketing: How To Build An Effective Affiliate Program," outlines a framework for launching a successful effort.

For marketers looking to drive new acquisitions and live within constrained budgets, an affiliate program could be a welcome tool.

Post a comment below, or let me know directly what you think of affiliate programs at nstrother@forrester.com