Affiliate Marketing: 7 Steps to Success

Regina Wheeler March 27, 2021

The concept of affiliate marketing is a popular strategy for many businesses when considering advertising and promotion techniques; as it spreads the workload of advertising over a larger group of people, who usually work for relatively less compensation than an actual marketing team would. The process is simple. Your company looks for ‘partners’ known as affiliates, who advertise its products or services using personalised links to your website. Whenever a purchase is made from following their personalised link, that affiliate receives ‘commission’. Although on the outside, this is a straightforward concept; the successful construction and completion of an affiliate programme takes a considerable amount of time and effort. In this article, we will nail down the 7 key steps to constructing a successful affiliate programme.

Affiliate Marketing: 7 Steps to Success

1. Set Specific & Measurable Goals

Like any business venture, you must set goals, measures, and targets to be hit, in order to determine whether your programme is being successful or not. I would suggest starting off with a target segment of the market or ‘audience’ you want your affiliates to help you reach. This will help you pick the right affiliates (more on that later) and help target your affiliates’ strategies once you have them. The next step is to set both affiliate level goals and overall programme goals, which will help you understand the revenue each affiliate is bringing you, and how well your programme is going overall. Jessa Teresa, a business writer at Writemyx.com and 1day2write.com, commented that, “Goals can be sales targets, link clink targets, impressions on social media targets, or anything like that. There are many ways to track the success of your programme through online and social media tools.”

2. Check Out the Competition

Any business worth its salt will have done basic research into its competitors, but if your competitors also run affiliate programmes (which is highly likely in this day and age), I would strongly advise analysing their programmes. You and your competitors will be competing for affiliates just as much as you compete for custom; so it is important to know what they are offering to their potential affiliates.

3. Affiliate Commission Decisions

This is one of the most important decisions when designing an affiliate programme as it will make and break both the popularity of and profitability of your structure. Commission is the amount of compensation an affiliate receives from a sale that they help your company make. The first decision is to choose whether to pay commission in cash or in store credit, discounts, and products. The most popular affiliate programmes are often ones that pay in cash; but the most profitable are usually ones that pay in credit. Whether you decide on cash or credit, you need to nail down how much you will pay your affiliates per sale they help you complete.

Personally, I would suggest offering a base level, middle of the range commission structure; and then offering ‘bonuses’ or rewards for your most successful affiliates when they reach certain goals.

4. Processes

Though commission is an important decision to make when constructing you affiliate programme, you need to make process decisions as well. How will your affiliates conduct their marketing and promote the personal links you assign to them? You also need to decide how long ‘cookies’ will be active; or how long a purchase can be linked to the affiliate’s website link after it is clicked on. Terms and conditions, and the legal side of things must also be nailed down before you start looking for affiliates.

5. The Affiliate Search

As George Taylor, a marketing blogger at Originwritings.com and Britstudent.com, said, “The first decision you should make before even starting to look for affiliates is whether you will create an original and organic affiliate network or utilise an already build affiliate network.” Personally, I would suggest building you own network for a few reasons. Although pre-existing networks take the effort out of building and allow you to ease into your programme; this comes at a cost. Almost all networks like this cost a ‘finders fee’ which will put a large dent in your profits. There is also a lack of control that must be accepted with this kind of affiliate network, that can end up backfiring at a later date.

Forming your own network of affiliates gives you back this control and allows you to keep all potential profits from the programme, sans ‘finder’s fee’. However, this extra profit and control means extra work. Think about influencers, websites with connections to your business or product, and online presences that could act as potential affiliates. Approach them! Even if it is a long shot, take it. There is also the option to put out an ‘open’ affiliate application and pick from the people that apply.

6. Training your Affiliate Team

After you recruit your first affiliates and have screened them to ensure they are the best fit for your business; you need to give them all the information they need to operate successfully. Start with briefing them on your company culture and brand, as well as the legal side of your programme and the commission that they could make. Once you have done this, supply them with their promotional links and the tools that they need to succeed.

7. Track the Programme’s Success

Once you have launched your programme, put trackers in place to monitor its progress and success (both overall and for each individual affiliate). Check in on your individual affiliates and reward them if their success rates are high; and monitor the original goals you set in place at the beginning of the process.

Track the Programme’s Success

Now, all affiliate programmes are different, and all businesses that use them are unique. However, the successful ones all follow a similar structure. Start off with setting goals and checking out the competition. Once the preliminary work is done, commission and reward structures must be built. Then simply find your affiliates and go! Hopefully, these 7 top tips have helped you understand a little bit more about affiliate marketing, and given you the tools you need to make your affiliate programme a successful venture.