30 tips for growing your affiliate program

Grow your affiliate program

Looking to increase revenue from your affiliate program? The process takes time, commitment, and effort. Below are thirty tips to help you grow your program. Because there are so many aspects of growing your affiliate program, we have categorized them below: 

Prefer to watch? Check out our video version of this article featuring all 30 great tips for growing your affiliate program.

Strategy Tips

Affiliate strategy tips

Don’t just “set it and forget it” follow best practices and come up with systems to help your program flourish. The following tips will help your overall affiliate marketing strategy and planning for both the short and long term.

1. Have a plan

Managing your program requires onboarding new affiliates, engaging affiliates with incentives, actively monitoring your program, paying affiliates, continual optimization, and recruiting affiliates. With a list of tasks this long, it is easy to forget to focus on specific aspects of running an affiliate program. Plan ahead by listing out the specific tasks involved with growing and managing your program and decide whether you or your team members will be responsible for completing each of the tasks. Here is a rough estimate for allocating your time for each part of managing your program: recruitment (30%), onboarding (20%), engagement (20%), monitoring (5%), rewarding (5%), and optimizing (20%).

2. Put tasks on a calendar

To aid in the prioritization and time boxing of your program’s management, consider creating an affiliate program schedule, and add it to your calendar.  Set aside a specific amount of time each day/week to manage your program. Your affiliate management calendar might include repeating events such as crafting monthly newsletters, recruiting, affiliate payouts, brand monitoring sessions, or promotion planning. We created an example calendar template to help with this process (View our affiliate program calendar). You can choose whether or not to include daily tasks that might involve responding to affiliate queries or approving affiliate applications.

3. Set yourself apart

There will always be competitors. Hopefully, you followed our guide to conducting a competitive analysis for your affiliate program. In your research, you might have found that your business can’t afford to have the highest commission rates. Not to worry, there are other ways for your affiliate program to stand out from the competitors. Other aspects you might want to focus on include having incredible affiliate creatives or landing pages that convert well. Higher conversions mean more sales for affiliates, which can be more profitable than a higher commission rate that gets fewer conversions. 

Other ways to stand out include coming up with unique incentives that motivate and keep your affiliates performing. Another option is to be the most engaged affiliate manager by quickly responding to affiliate queries, having a fast approval process, a highly personal onboarding process, or extra communication with affiliates through newsletters or direct outreach.

4. Commit and don’t expect results overnight

Running an affiliate program is more than just approving affiliate applications. It takes time to build up your program. Be persistent in your efforts. The process takes consistent effort and time. Plan on working on your affiliate program for at least 4-6 months before seeing real traction. The amount of time it will take will largely depend on how quickly you can find and recruit affiliates to your program. 

5. Don’t forget the basics

There are some necessary tasks to run a successful affiliate program. Make sure you are doing all the basics: paying affiliates, approving affiliate applications, and responding to affiliate requests. And make sure you aren’t making these top 10 affiliate management mistakes.

6. Perform a detailed biannual or annual review of your program

Conduct an audit of your program to figure out what is and isn’t working. The process might include going over your affiliate program financials, reviewing conversion rates for creatives, links, and landing pages. It can also help to examine competitors’ affiliate programs again and reexamine your commission rates and inventive strategies. 

7. Ask affiliates for feedback

If you feel like you have a good number of affiliates, but they aren’t converting any sales, ask your affiliates for feedback. Your current affiliates can often provide feedback on your commission rates, creatives, and overall program setup. Don’t be afraid of feedback, it might help you grow your affiliate program. 

Engagement Tips

Affiliate engagement tips

Many affiliates need continued engagement to promote your product or service. Below are a few tips to help you grow your program by engaging your affiliates. 

8. Connect with Top Affiliates

Reach out directly to top affiliates to see how you can help them. The Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) applies to affiliates, and you will most likely find that 80% of your affiliates’ sales will come from 20% of your affiliates. It’s generally easier to help your top affiliates increase sales than it is to recruit new affiliates. With that said, don’t ignore your other affiliates but do take extra time with your best affiliates. 

9. Provide free samples or let affiliates try your service

Send affiliates a free sample of your products. It will allow them to test your product and look at the quality. If you have a SaaS, give your users a free month or more extended subscription to enable them to use the service. Free samples are a great way to get affiliates excited about your product or service.

10. Encourage product or service reviews

Online reviews of your product or service increase customer confidence. Encourage affiliates to review your product or service by providing a discount or providing a free sample. The result is not only a review but more potential photos shared on social media. Not sure which affiliates to give out a free product or service? Look at your affiliate types to find the right fit or send out free products to anyone who has made X number of referrals.  

11. Link affiliate reviews

If affiliates write a review about your product, consider linking it on your website or social media. Affiliates love knowing if they create great content, you might share it on social media or as a link on your blog. 

12. Content collaboration

Offer to collaborate with affiliates on content creation. Taking on a portion of the content creation, whether that be planning, writing, or graphics, will make it much easier for the affiliate to promote your product or service to their audience. 

Incentives Tips

Affiliate Incentive tips

Motivate affiliates to promote your product or service with incentives. Here are a few ideas that can help not only get affiliates started but also to help them increase their monthly referrals. 

13. Use an activation incentive

Provide a commission bonus or gift to affiliates after setting up their affiliate links or getting their first/second referred sale. Activating affiliates during the onboarding process is critical to the success of your program. Don’t let affiliates sign up for your program and then not participate. 

14. Exclusive Coupon or Landing Page

By providing an affiliate an exclusive offer, they are more likely to share with their audience. In some cases, it might mean creating a custom landing page with a special offer only available to that affiliate’s audience. 

15. Reward affiliates with perks beyond commission rates

Provide bonuses such as free products or store credit from your store. Other ideas include a 3rd party gift card or a free t-shirt or coffee mug with your logo on it.

Communication Tips

Affiliate communication tips

16. It’s all about relationships – Treat affiliates like business partners. Be responsive to affiliate questions, requests, and applications. Keep the relationships personal when possible, and try to understand your affiliate’s needs. Those needs might be in the form of creatives, content, promotional ideas, or incentives to keep them performing and motivated. Show appreciation for your successful affiliates with thank you gifts or rewards for reaching certain sales milestones. Cultivate relationships with affiliates, and the results will likely make your program more successful and get affiliates to promote your product over your competitors. 

17. Promotional Calendar

Have you created a promotional calendar? Consider promotions around major holidays and others that are specifically related to your business. There is no shortage of holidays and days of celebration around the world. Adding these dates to a calendar will allow you to plan and make sure your affiliates have creatives and links available in time to share their product or service. 

18. Consistent communication

Send newsletters at least monthly. Newsletters should be helpful, motivating, and include new information each month. Newsletters with repeating content each month will not be useful and will result in fewer opens each month. Some ideas for newsletters include current bestsellers, holiday/seasonal product lists, category-specific product lists, business news, or affiliate promos. Consider sending affiliate welcome emails, activity reports, and email sequences to educate your affiliates. 

19. Audit your communications

What percentage of your emails were opened by affiliates? Find ways to track the opens and responses to your communications to affiliates. If you have low engagement, it might be worth reviewing the deliverability of your emails. If the emails are being delivered but not opened, you might need to explore updating your subject lines and consider some new communication strategies with your affiliates.

Monitoring Tips

Affiliate monitoring tips

While monitoring/policing your program doesn’t necessarily help grow your affiliate program, it helps protect your brand’s reputation. It can save you money from loss of funds due to misrepresentation or fraud. 

20. Review affiliate applications closely

If you are struggling with low-quality affiliates, make sure that you manually review and approve affiliate applications. Consider declining the applications of higher risk affiliates. These affiliates might have an undeveloped or low-quality website, inappropriate content, or unclear description of their proposed promotional methods. While it’s tempting to watch your number of affiliates grow, sometimes it is easier with fewer affiliates. 

21. Fraud review

There are various levels of potential fraud within affiliate programs. Examples of red flags include spikes in conversions, traffic surges, or increased fraudulent transactions in your storefront. If you find inconsistencies in data for specific affiliates, review the referral URLs from your affiliate management account to view the traffic source. It will provide an opportunity to go and look at the affiliate offers and language to make sure it adheres to your affiliate program terms and make sure no one is sharing incorrect discounts or information. Monitoring your affiliate program is an essential part of affiliate management. 

22. Monitor your brand online

A few common ways that affiliates violate affiliate terms and conditions might include brand bidding, impersonating your brand or website, or sharing incorrect discounts or information to get customers to click on their affiliate link. Monitoring your brand might be as simple as periodically checking Google to see what appears on the first page of Google for “Your Brand,” “Your Brand Coupon,” or “Your Brand Review.” 

Recruitment Tips

Affiliate recruitment tips

Launching an affiliate program and setting up your website isn’t enough to bring in high performing affiliates. It takes a dedicated effort to bring in affiliates that generate sales. Affiliate recruitment is an often neglected but essential part of growing your affiliate program. Below are some tips to improve your affiliate recruitment.

23. Always be recruiting

Recruiting is an ongoing process that is required to grow your program. Set aside a set amount of time each month to dedicate towards affiliate recruitment. Before deciding on which affiliates to recruit, make sure you understand all the different affiliate types

24. Recruit the best affiliates

Don’t worry about the numbers of affiliates as much as the quality. One good affiliate is better than 50+ low-quality affiliates. To get started, make sure you understand what makes the best type of affiliate, and then you can start trying different methods of affiliate recruitment

25. Consider multi-level marketing

Incentivize affiliates to recruit more affiliates by enabling multi-level marketing, known as MLM. With an MLM program, an affiliate will get additional credit for any purchases that their sub-affiliates generate. It can be an effective way to grow your program and get access to an alternative source of affiliates. 

26. Invite your customers to join your program – Your customers make the best affiliates. Many customers already know and love your brand. Provide your customers with ways to earn extra money for sharing your product or service with their friends and family. Automatically invite new customers to join your affiliate program.

Optimization Tips

Affiliate optimization tips

The optimization of your affiliate program should happen on both the affiliate side and on your website. There is no shortage of things to work on to improve your affiliate program. Below are a few key things to focus on. 

27. Content review 

Review statistics for each of your affiliate creatives, including visuals and links. Consider factors such as the conversion rates and Earnings Per Click (EPC). Review the best and worst-performing creatives and figure out what creatives or wording seems to be the most effective. 

28. Understand your affiliate types

Get to know your affiliates and their promotion methods. See what links, creatives work for their promotion method. While it’s good to track your creatives’ overall conversion rates and statistics, you might find that specific creatives or links work best for certain affiliate types. The more you understand your affiliate types and what works for different types, the more chances you have to help them succeed by creating new creatives specific to various affiliate types. 

29. Focus on your website

Review your website, landing pages for usability. Refine your product/service descriptions and make sure you have a clear call to action and a strong product/service guarantee. The overall goal of the website optimizations should be increasing the conversion rate of your checkout process. Higher conversions mean more sales for your affiliates. More affiliate sales mean that affiliates will likely spend more time, money, and effort pushing your business over your competitors. 

30. Identify what is working

Figure out what is working for your program and do more of it. It sounds simple, but this strategy is effective. Launching an affiliate program isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work and trial and error. If you find something that seems to be working, go with it and keep optimizing

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