5 Key Ways To Improve Your Affiliate Marketing Program And Drive More Sales

CEO of AffiliateINSIDER, an award-winning Affiliate Marketing Agency helping brands launch and grow successful affiliate marketing programs.

According to a study conducted by Forrester, more than 80% of the advertisers surveyed use affiliate programs to expand their sales and customer reach. Here are five key ways to improve your affiliate marketing program for increased affiliate engagement, sales, leads and overall ROI.

1. Use a specialist agency vs. a generalist agency.

If you want to be successful in affiliate marketing, it’s important to find the right partners at the start. One way is by working with an affiliate marketing agency that specializes in performance and partner marketing. You wouldn’t go to a primary care physician if you needed a neurologist. Both have medical degrees, but one is a specialist and knows exactly how to handle issues related to the complexities of the brain. 

The same can be said of generalist digital marketing agencies — while they may understand affiliate program management and affiliate recruitment strategies, they are probably not fully immersed in them the way affiliate agencies are. So you could be missing out on expertise that can benefit your program early on or perhaps fast-track your results. 

2. Create an onboarding lifecycle for your partners.

It’s important to help affiliates grow their online presence and increase the likelihood of converting traffic into leads and sales. One way to achieve this is by creating an automated affiliate onboarding program. When affiliate partners sign up, they should have a clear idea of what they need to do next to become a successful earner.

While affiliate marketers are usually experts at driving traffic online, it is possible for them to simply forget about you if you don’t provide them with easy instructions on how to start earning revenue in your program. Think about your affiliate lifecycle as you do your customer lifecycle. What do affiliates need as they come into your program and start to learn about your products and services? What can you provide to help them start generating income and building loyalty and trust with your program?

Allow affiliates to sign up quickly and easily, and provide them with all of the affiliate program details and affiliate tools that they need, such as affiliate links, banners and creative. Embedding the links into the affiliate welcome emails makes it super easy for affiliates to take the next step to go live once approved.

It’s common for affiliates to sign up with affiliate programs through an affiliate network or SaaS platform, so make sure the platforms you’re using have all the affiliate program information and affiliate tools your affiliates need to get started with your program. 

By having affiliate partners engaged at the start of their user journey in your program, you can build better rapport and provide added value, which can help you reduce costs. 

3. Choose affiliates carefully and perform due diligence on their intent upfront.

Signing new affiliate partners is always a bit of a gamble. Not necessarily because you can’t be sure that they will drive enough traffic to your program or sales, but because some of these affiliates may have already formed relationships with several brands in their niche, and it’s possible they’re signing up with you to get insights on your conversion and audience metrics. This is something I’ve seen happen firsthand.

Any affiliate who has previously made affiliate income online is likely to be hungry for more, but if they are partnered with other programs already, your due diligence and active cooperation at the start can be the key to building a rewarding partnership that delivers results. Make sure you are doing regular due diligence checks on partners signing up with your affiliate program. This should include checking site ownership — typically asking a partner to paste a string of code on the site to validate ownership, or checking website registration — as well as getting in touch via telephone or live chat to ask questions about how they drive traffic, how they engage customers and where they will be promoting your brand. Make contact to ensure that the person behind the email is in fact the partner you want to work with and allow to promote your brand.

4. Collaborate — but don’t overmanage or curtail affiliate creativity.

One of the most important affiliate program tasks is keeping affiliate partners engaged in your program by sending them promotions that are relevant for their own brand, niche or both. It’s important to communicate with affiliate partners to build trust, loyalty and rapport by not only providing affiliate product news but also real-life examples of customers who have benefited from using your products and services. Your affiliates are already good at doing what they do — they need to get better at doing that for your business, and that’s where motivational management needs to come into view.

It’s important to realize that you’re there to support your affiliates — not to overmanage them or to try to control the narrative they are building around your brand to engage niche audiences. If there is one thing that affiliate managers should never do, it’s restrict the creative freedoms that your content creators and digital experts (i.e., your affiliate partners) have to engage new audience segments that you’re not reaching through your own direct advertising channels.

5. Provide personalized support and incentives that drive their success (and yours too).

Personalized support can encourage your affiliate partners to activate their promotions faster, thus driving sales soon after sign-up. Consider offering a personal account manager to answer questions at the start of your relationship, and inviting them into pop-up groups or communities to talk about issues or concerns. Also, be sure to give them the documentation they need to create interesting and competitive reviews. Provide them with the data and facts they need to succeed.

Not all affiliates are driven by commission, so provide a host of different types of rewards within your program. Within your lifecycle emails, provide incentives to go active faster. Offer bonuses to go live in the same week.

In Summary

Getting affiliates active and driving consistent sales needn’t be hard work. All you have to do is follow these five tips and give affiliates a bit of room to grow, and your sales will follow suit.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?