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Aug 26, 2011 · 7 min read

Growing Your Affiliate Program

Starting your affiliate program for the first time can be a large learning curve with lots of lingo to be learned.


Starting your affiliate program for the first time can be a large learning curve with lots of lingo to be learnt. But the learning does not stop there as affiliate program management is a job in itself and with a little advice and learning from some of the industry professionals you yourself will be running a successful program. It is important to note that affiliate networks are not program managers, simply put they are platforms that provide merchants/advertisers with such services as tracking, reporting, hosting of creatives and datafeeds, payments to affiliates, new technologies and support.

Quality and super affiliates take notice of a well run affiliate program and are more likely to promote you if they can see you are investing the time and money into establishing your affiliate marketing channel.

Effective Program Management

1. Be Proactive:

  • Respond to messages quickly
  • Ask affiliates for feedback, offer assistance
  • Approve pending affiliates fast
  • Explain void transactions
  • Keep your feeds updated
  • Add new banners and creatives on a regular basis

2. Offer a wide range of creatives:

No two affiliates are alike and have their own methods of promotion and modus operandi for creating revenue. Some use banners as their primary source of advertisement, some use data feeds to deep link to products and create white label stores, others use coupons and text links. Ensure you supply a wide range of creative’s to ensure no affiliate is left without the tool they need to promote you. Try to cover as many banner sizes and bases as possible to enable you to widen your funnel of promotion avenues.

3. Creatives for different promotions:

Like any other retailer it is often you need to do stocktake and you’ll offer sales to help deplete this stock so banners or promotions for sales and clearance items are a great way to attract the bargain shoppers. Throughout the year we have a number of gift giving occasions or some products are suited to certain seasons, promotions based around these will help convert higher and better target your traffic.

4. Keep affiliates motivated:

  • Run competitions
  • Setup sales incentive tiers
  • Offer advice regarding their websites
  • Send them product samples to review
  • Congratulate performance
  • Offer cash or gift bonuses for meeting targets
  • Offer a higher commission rate for a period of time to help motivate affiliates

5. Strict Compliance and Monitoring

Your brand needs to maintain it’s integrity at all times so ensure you keep a close eye on who’s promoting you and how. Most networks should have compliance and security monitoring in place but like any automated systems they won’t get them all so it is important you watch the dubious ones so that your legitimate affiliates aren’t having their commissions swiped.

6. Treat every affiliate like gold:

Just because an affiliate is not promoting you now doesn’t mean they won’t be your biggest affiliate in the future. Even a publisher that is only sending a few sales a month maybe just testing your program and looking for motivation to push your program harder. Getting Affiliates is a competitive business, once you have them, treat them like gold. Never impose upon your affiliates to start selling or you’ll remove them from your program, this is not a motivator and in will only harm your image and possibly cause you to send them to your competitors in which you may never be able to get them back.

Why Might Your Program Not Succeed

Did you keep an eye on your competitors?

When running an online store you surely keep a close eye on your competitors for product development, conversion strategies, promotions etc, so why not also do the same with your affiliate program? You will always need to watch what they’re offering and meet or beat it to stay competitive and give affiliates a reason to join you.

You expected the network to do it all for you.

An affiliate network is and always will be the platform in which you operate your program, they do this and have had success because affiliates feel they have greater security and guarantees as opposed to working with a merchant directly. An affiliate network should at all times do at least 2 things well — track sales and pay affiliates, everything else and your success lies with you. Networks and their representatives should at all times provide great customer service and help you when needed, but you’ll find the moment you start to blame them for your lack of success is the moment they will turn around and remind you ultimately who’s responsibility it was.

Did you regularly test the tracking?

Here we’ll state Ockham’s Razor (or a simplified version of it), “The simplest answer is usually the right one”. Things go wrong in the world of programming or you have updated your website and “forgotten” that there was tracking code implemented on one of those pages. Sometimes the reason your program is not converting might lie in that the tracking pixel is not firing as it’s meant to. Do a test transaction every once in awhile and ensure the sale has been recorded with your affiliate network. You should easily be able to void this transaction as a “Test Transaction”.

Do you have unrealistic expectations?

If your site conversions and traffic were poor to start with then don’t expect affiliates to be the answer to all your problems and the fix. Affiliates are in the business of making money too so they’ll send you the traffic, it’s your job to ensure it converts. Your program is not a flat out sprint, it’s a marathon so you need to be in it for the long haul and do what needs to be done to ensure your site loads at a good pace and you have calls to action to encourage your visitors to buy.

Did you hire or dedicate someone to manage the program?

Adding affiliate program management to an existing staff members already large list of duties can be a recipe for disaster and may not be the wisest decision. Instead of them doing one or two things great they now have to do a variety of tasks with their limited hours per day and do all of them at a lesser capacity.

Did you communicate regularly?

One of the simplest and yet most underused methods of promoting your program or motivating affiliates is communication. If your network has provided the tools to communicate with your affiliates then use it, most affiliates only ever want to hear from you maybe once a month with some updates or features you’re rolling out or a simple “Hello” to see if they need anything. This type of communication can be done en masse and yet still be personalised if you have taken the time to group or profile your affiliates.

You Gave Up.

If your program is not generating you millions then you might have set your expectations too high — we can’t all be Amazon or eBay. Don’t throw in the towel after only a few months, every program has ways in which they could be improved and optimised and you need to ensure you are willing to take constructive criticisms from your network and affiliates, they are the ones in the know. You have to do the work initially, complete your research and connect with your affiliates.

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