How to Boost Your Affiliate Program Growth. Your Do's and Don’ts.
Updated: Jun 10, 2021
Affiliate Marketing is a marketing channel that helps brands to increase brand awareness and get traffic and sales through promotions on affiliate sites. A merchant pays commission to a publisher per sale, lead, or other action chosen by a merchant. Everything seems straightforward, however sometimes brands see little or even no return and start doubting whether they should continue with affiliate marketing.
You have launched an affiliate program, but are not seeing enough interaction with affiliates.
It’s time to create a checklist of your opportunities and boost your program sales numbers by:
improving your recruitment strategy
publisher and competition research
In this blog post we'll review the common mistakes merchants make in affiliate marketing and how to boost the growth of a program.
Opportunity 1: Do not ignore the recruitment process
Every brand is proud of its product. You put so much effort into creating your business whether it is a product or service and now you’re ready to join the affiliate space. Offering a quality product is indeed the core and one of the main factors predicting success when launching an affiliate program. You launched the program, added banners and other creative material and sat tight waiting for publishers to join. However, months after you see that your program doesn’t have much traction. There could be multiple factors for the poor performance. One of them is that the affiliate space became competitive.
Every brand is looking for rev share traffic and thus the competition for affiliates has increased.
The common mistake merchants make is ignoring recruitment and waiting to be discovered by affiliates. We all wish it worked this way! But…
Some brands may see more engagement than others, however, if that’s not your case, review your affiliate initiatives and see if you put enough effort into recruiting publishers. Create a dedicated plan (recruitment strategy) to find your best prospects.
For example, you may search for affiliates on:
Google. By searching your relevant keywords
Affiliate Networks. Using its recruitment tools
Utilize SEO tools to look for your competitors’’backlinks and identify affiliate relations
Among Your Customers. Offer customers the opportunity to promote your product/service. They know your product best which makes them perfect affiliates or influencers who can share a review on their social media accounts.
Keep in mind that successful affiliates have many options to pick from. They are contacted by tons of brands asking to participate in their affiliate programs. It is no longer enough to just pay commissions as brands go further than that to get new quality publishers on board.
How do you attract affiliates?
First of all, ensure you’re sending prospects a message that describes your product or service benefits well, and highlights the advantages your product or service has over your competitors. Show them why it is beneficial for them to promote YOUR Product and not OTHERS.
Consider including the following in your first recruitment email:
What is your product?
What are the customer benefits or what makes you different from competitors?
Ask for potential ways to collaborate.
Mention the affiliate program.
The very first email should not be too long. In fact, the shorter it is, the better. Do not over highlight words to avoid your email looking like spam. No one likes nor reads generic emails. Tell your prospect why you picked their website for promotion and be genuine!
Always follow up! If you don’t get a reply within three or four days, send another email, where you can be more descriptive about the potential collaboration.
Opportunity 2: Do not ignore competition
When launching an affiliate program, it is highly recommended to analyze what your competitors do. Do they have an affiliate program? If yes, what are the terms, how much commission do they offer? This will help you understand your options. See if you can offer a better collaboration opportunity to publishers and be sure to include this part in your program description or when reaching out to prospects.
If none of your competitors have a program, it is also a good idea to think why this might be the case. Does affiliate marketing work in your niche? Maybe there are other channels that work better for your type of business. Take whether affiliate marketing is actually useful in your market into consideration before stepping in.
Opportunity 3: Do not rely on your affiliate program only
Affiliate marketing overlaps with all other marketing channels. Ideally, you want to use all marketing channels and methods that can help raise brand awareness: PR, sponsored posts, google ads, etc. Anything that gets eyeballs on your brand! You will quickly notice the direct effect on your affiliate channel performance.
Affiliates will more likely jump into collaboration with you if your products and services are featured on a couple of big publishing sites or sites with tons of content in your niche. To achieve this, you may want to use not only google ads, but sponsored post opportunities as well. When recruiting affiliates, you’ll get a fair amount of responses about sponsored reviews for your brand. Evaluate these offers. It could be a good opportunity to boost brand awareness.
Opportunity 4: Engage with your publishers
A publisher has joined the program and you’re ready to see sales coming in. To help a publisher generate conversions you need to constantly engage with them via newsletters or direct emails. We recommend creating a schedule for communication with publishers. When to reach out? When to follow up? Sending news, updates, and your product promotions will help the affiliate to stay on top of introducing and promoting your product to the audience.
Consider including the following items in your email to affiliates:
New banners and other creative material
Ensure you ask them if they need anything
How to create an affiliate sales report
When you recruit new affiliates, ensure you provide the reports on how the traffic converts. It will help them understand where to improve their affiliate marketing strategies and engage better with the audience. As a result it will increase the commissions they earn from the program.
Include in the report any data that you can generate on the back end. This can be clicks generated in a given period, sales numbers, number of transactions, the conversion rate, sales locations, new customers vs returning customer rates, best performance affiliate links, your website’s bestselling pages to drive the traffic to, and your brand’s best converting products or services.
Create a template that you will use every month. Make sure you're consistent with reports. Send it on the first day of the month or any other day that makes sense for your affiliates. If you're hosting your program on a third-party affiliate network, such as Share-a-sale, CJ, or Rakuten, they offer all necessary macros for you to use in your report template.
Furthermore, sending a report is another chance to remind affiliate marketers about your company and products. It gives them an overview and food for thought on how to grow their revenue, promote the right products at the right time, and thus bring sales to your business.
How to create affiliate marketing emails to grow program engagement
One of the best ways to engage with affiliates about products is to send affiliate newsletters. Send any relevant info about your niche or industry. Besides letting them know how great your product or service is, you could include tips about how to become a successful affiliate. Add tips on how to make money with affiliate marketing, how to create a successful affiliate marketing strategy, how to leverage content marketing, and about digital marketing overall.
Include new banners and creative material in your affiliate newsletter strategy. Everyone likes slick banner design! Sometimes creative design is the top priority when an affiliate chooses which brand to promote, especially, if a blogger combines affiliate and influencer marketing.
Influencers highly depend on creative content. Share banners with your marketers in different sizes for their website. Add a call-to-action button to increase the click-through rate. Mobile sized banners are highly recommended! These are 320x100 and 320x50.
To be sure you're providing what affiliates need, simply ask! What do they need to grow sales? Are they looking for new creative material on a specific product or service? Do they want more affiliate links or deals? By the way, deal and coupon offers are another great way to boost affiliate sales. While coupon sites rarely drive traffic to a merchant's website, coupon offers indeed work by increasing the conversion rate on a brand's site. Without a discount a user is likely to abandon their cart and not complete the purchase. With a coupon code a customer is more likely to get a product from you and as a result you gain not lose.
Start thinking as if you're an affiliate. What would you want to grow sales? And go from there.
Provide content ideas for your publishers' websites and email marketing.
This one probably comes as a surprise to you: isn't it an affiliate’s job to create content? While this is partially true, these days offering affiliate commissions and great products and services is not enough to get publishers excited. If you think like an affiliate, you will discover that one of the struggles they experience is creating content. This is relevant especially for new companies on the market. There is simply not enough information about your business. As a result, it takes longer than usual for publishers to start producing content if they don’t forget about it at all.
As a new brand on the market you may not be able to work with big publishers right away, but you can build good relationships with small affiliates. These new affiliates will highly appreciate your help with content marketing. You could, for example, provide a new affiliate with a content template that outlines info about your brand, bestselling products, and some general info about the niche! Wouldn't that be great? The affiliate will just need to use this content structure to add their own opinion about the value of products or services.
The content template will speed up the "get started" process. Sometimes publishers just need a little push to start driving traffic!
Opportunity 5: Allowing coupon sites to join the program
As we mentioned above, coupon and loyalty websites play a huge role in the affiliate marketing space.
Many merchants think of coupon sites as a method of reducing the order value. Another thought is that coupon sites don't bring traffic since users only search for coupons after they discover the brand’s site. While this is partially true, coupon sites have a story to tell. Without a coupon, a customer may not convert. More and more online customers won’t buy online if they are not able to find a coupon. This user behavior is quite common. A customer simply drops the cart without making a purchase. A solution here is to offer coupons to a few sites that you’d like to be present on.
For example, some loyalty sites offer not only your coupon but other perks to users when they buy through their site. Collaborating with a coupon site and creating the right strategy is definitely worth considering.
You’ll find coupon and loyalty publishers in almost every affiliate network. Coupon sites often offer paid placement during the holiday season to drive sales when it is the busiest time for online shopping.
Opportunity 6: Choose the right affiliate network
No one likes to pay more when there are cheaper options. However, the rule says Buy Nice or Buy Twice. All affiliate networks work in a similar way but at the same time each of them has its strong verticals in one or another niche, plus other differences in terms and customer support. Inquire about types of publishers your preferred network works with. Publishers like to keep all their affiliate stuff in one or two affiliate networks. It is no fun to create multiple accounts and monitor programs on tons of different platforms.
Also, when looking for a network be sure it not only provides the tracking solution but also offers decent support to publishers.
Threshold is another sensitive topic. If the threshold is $500, a new publisher may hesitate to join the network solely for your brand. A threshold means a publisher can only withdraw money when a certain balance is reached.
To summarize, below is what to pay attention to when choosing the affiliate network platform:
What are the top publisher verticals?
What is the fee to launch the program?
What is the network commission?
Do they provide affiliate support?
What is the affiliate threshold?
Do they make an announcement to publishers when a merchant joins?
What are the recruitment options within the network?
Best affiliate networks to join for brands
There are quite a few networks to pick from. Some of the most reliable and trustworthy networks are ShareASale or Rakuten to name a few.
Here are the quick facts about ShareASale that you can use as a base when comparing with others.
ShareASale is an inexpensive and effective solution that help brands to drive traffic and sales. SAS (short for ShareASale) provides your company access to an extensive network of affiliate partners and enable you to boost your sales without any additional overhead costs. Publishers using this network can drive solid traffic resulting in sales, all on a performance basis. You can review the transactions generated by publishers and validate them prior to paying commission. SAS offers a trusted tracking system and that’s why many affiliates choose this platform for affiliate marketing.
ShareASale offers great customer support for both merchants and publishers. If you have any questions you can use 24/7 access to the online Help Center, customer support that is available via phone Monday–Friday 9am–6pm CST, or email support. They are pretty fast at responding. You can also get answers to your questions from a support forum available on the ShareASAle affiliate message board.
You can generate all necessary reports and create affiliate newsletters in the merchant dashboard.
When launching the program, you get:
New Program Announcement. Upon activation, your program details are sent out to publishers via an RSS feed.
New Programs Category. For the first 20 days upon activation, you’re placed in the New Programs category.
Welcome Kit. The document includes tips and best practices on boosting your sales with affiliate marketing.
Complimentary Webinars. Merchant-focused webinars provide you with tons of helpful information on program management basics and some advanced topics.
Affiliate Aquarium. This is a private social network for ShareASale merchants and affiliates. By joining the Aquarium, you can search for and connect with affiliates, create a group or blog and make friends.
Featured Programs. If you’d like to get more visibility on the network, ShareASale offers Featured Program spots inside the interface. More publishers will see your business in the network.
Holiday Center. You can run ads by advertising your program in the Holiday Center. This will help recruit publishers who are running holiday-specific promos on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, etc.
Fees and Pricing:
$550 network access fee (launch).
$100 minimum deposit (this balance will be used to pay commissions to affiliates. If fact, you’ll need to maintain a $100 balance for your account to be active).
20% transaction fee (the commission is based on a payout to affiliates. Let’s say, an affiliate sold a product worth $50 and you offer 20% commission on sales. That means you’ll pay $10 affiliate commission + $2 transaction fee that goes to ShareASale, so your total commission is $12 for that sale).
$25 monthly minimum (You need to reach this amount in transactions fees paid to ShareASale). The first 60 days after activation you won’t pay any fee. Between 60 and 120 days there is a $10 monthly minimum, and 120 days after activation there is a $25 monthly minimum.
If you have your checklist marked done but still feel stuck, you may want to explore the option to hire the affiliate manager. In the post we described what to pay attention to when working with an agency or an affiliate manager.
We have reviewed the common mistakes brands make when using affiliate marketing. Review your program, identify your weak spots where you can improve, and create a solid affiliate strategy. As an option, get a consultation or program audit to get a second opinion. A dedicated specialist can point out your pitfalls and create a roadmap with suggestions on how to revise your program. It may take time to get results from affiliate marketing, but if you try the above steps, you’re on the right path to succeed.