When Should You NOT Start an Affiliate Program?

Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C company, having an affiliate program is one of the most powerful and scalable marketing strategies you can implement to grow your business. It has numerous benefits, from creating and sustaining brand awareness to ultimately boosting your sales and generating more revenue.

However, an affiliate program is not a fix-all solution, and you most certainly shouldn’t use it if you haven’t had any sales or as a last-ditch attempt to save a failing business. For your program to succeed, you need to start it under the right circumstances.

Keep in mind that if you launch an affiliate marketing strategy with bad timing or when you’re having a hard time keeping your business afloat, it’s not likely to succeed in helping your brand — and may do more harm than good. To prevent this, be sure to start your program only when you’ve overcome potential obstacles. Below you’ll find some pointers on when not to start an affiliate program.

You Have a New Website With Limited Sales

If you’ve just started your business journey, congratulations! But if you’re already asking yourself, “Should I start an affiliate program?” slow down for a minute. You first need to ensure your site, and every step of your sales process is running like clockwork — from the moment the customer places an order until they’re satisfied with their purchase. 

Make sure to provide a smooth, enjoyable user experience to your customers so they don’t run into problems that could have been avoidable if you had spent a little extra time fine-tuning your site. Setting up pay-per-click ads on search engines and social media is a great way to drive some “test traffic” to your new site and see if it’s what your buyers would expect. 

Your potential customers can and will get discouraged if they have to deal with a confusing user journey or other technical problems. Avoid damaging your reputation — or your affiliates’ — with a less-than-optimal website. If you’re going to give your customers something to talk about, let it be something positive and not your site’s poor performance.

Your Margins Are Too Small to Incentivize Your Affiliates

Make sure you have run the numbers and are comfortable with the margins you offer affiliates. If you have small margins, you might want to consider taking steps to improve them to give you more to share with affiliates by:

  • Reducing operational expenses  
  • Increasing your average order value
  • Improving your pricing strategy
  • Making products with markdowns ineligible for affiliates
  • Optimizing your vendor relationships

Having higher margins will ultimately allow you to offer more significant incentives and rewards to your affiliates. An affiliate partner’s ultimate motivation is the financial benefit they earn by promoting your brand. If the numbers don’t add up, hold off until your situation changes and you can afford it.

You Can’t Dedicate Time to Support Affiliates

Communication is key in affiliate marketing. Affiliates will always have questions and nobody knows your brand more than you do. That’s why you must take some time to train your affiliates and give them the information they need to succeed. 

Setting up and maintaining a successful affiliate program requires you to put in some effort — you can’t expect your affiliates to do all the work. You’re fostering a partnership, so be prepared to invest some time in setting up your strategy and enforcing it.

A proactive approach is always necessary for success in launching and growing an affiliate program. You’ll have to invest your time, resources, and efforts towards nurturing and managing every aspect of your plan if you want to see the best results. Some of the tasks you’ll need to pay close attention to are:

Activation and Onboarding

This is where you review affiliate applications and welcome new partners to promote your brand. During this step, you’ll need to ensure all applicants to your program meet your expectations. The process of recruiting, activating, and onboarding will take some time investment — at least 50% of your time — so you’ll want to plan accordingly. Set up a schedule that allows you to review all applications consistently and promptly.

Make sure you have time to send your approved affiliates a welcome email that outlines everything they need to know about your brand and your program. This will help with smooth and efficient onboarding.

Once your affiliates have all the elements they need to succeed, you’ll still have to make time to stay vigilant of their activities regarding your brand. Some affiliates might not begin promoting your products right away or may not do so as frequently after a while. In this case, you’ll need to reach out to them and answer any questions they may have. 

Monitoring and Policing

When working with affiliates, you’ll need to ensure they’re following the rules and regulations. Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of to cross paths with affiliates that purposefully abuse affiliate programs. Or some of your partners could be incurring these behaviors without even knowing. Keeping tabs on your affiliates activities will help you identify any violations and take timely action. 

You can expect to spend at least 5% of your time monitoring your brand and enforcing your guidelines. Not doing so could damage your brand’s reputation and cause you to pay unnecessary commissions. Some areas to observe are:

  • Traffic surges
  • Sales increases
  • Increase in fraudulent transactions
  • Compliance with FTC requirements


Setting up an affiliate program should be relatively easy in the right conditions. However, starting one with bad timing or for the wrong products could make you waste valuable time and money. At the end of the day, you’ll be the one to determine when to start an affiliate program. Just make sure you don’t fall into any of the scenarios described above, and you should be on the right track. At LeadDyno, we take pride in having everything you possibly need to launch and grow your affiliate program. Contact us today to get your program started!

More Recent Stories