The affiliate marketing space is huge. The range and diversity of all the products and services that offer affiliate programs would probably amaze you. If you are considering starting an affiliate marketing program yourself, you typically have two major steps: Securing an affiliate marketing platform that works for you and finding your affiliates.
The platform for your affiliate marketing program will likely take a bit of research as there are many of them out there, such as ShareASale and CJ Affiliate. Or if you’re using WordPress for your site, you might instead choose to manage your own with a plugin like AffiliateWP.
When it comes to finding those affiliates for your program, in my experience that’s where the real challenge comes in. As an affiliate marketer myself, I have seen it all — there are right and wrong ways to go about this.
You might have listened to other affiliate managers talk about strategies for getting people to join your affiliate marketing program. They might have shared the challenges they have with program abuse and spammers.
What I would like to share today is my take on the best approach when working with affiliate marketers so you can avoid some of the common beginner mistakes as you develop and grow your own program.
Your approach with potential affiliate marketers
Obviously, once you start your program, you might have loyal customers who are eager to sign up. But you don’t want to take the attitude of “build it and they will come.” Being both selective and proactive in the solicitation of people to join your affiliate marketing program will pay off over the long-term.
Avoid cold-emailing potential affiliates you hardly know, just because of their site traffic or influence in a certain industry.
There are always affiliate marketers who will put up links for the sake of a few bucks. But most take their jobs seriously and want to promote and write about products or services that they know and trust.
The chances of a blogger who already knows you and your products and sees an alignment with their content coming on board with your program are far higher than someone who knows nothing about you becoming an affiliate. So start with the former prospect first. If you email an affiliate request to someone out of the blue, they might view it as spam.
The term “partner” can be confusing
Many emails I get from potential affiliate managers throw out the term “partner.” I get it that their hope is that you will have a long-term relationship with them and, thus, become a partner in the true sense of the word.
But “partner” has become such a clichéd word and means something different to everybody, it seems.
The term “partnership” might give us a warm and fuzzy feeling, but most affiliate marketers see right through this and know exactly what you are asking.
I suggest calling it what it is: an “affiliate.” A partnership might develop down the road — if it’s the right fit. But, in reality, we are a salesperson for you, although without the obligations or quotas. We are out there pounding the pavement (or you might say, the digital space) and selling your product.
In turn, you pay us a commission. It’s that simple.
Keep your affiliates updated
You will hear this from all successful affiliate managers: Stay in touch. Let us know ahead of time when you are going to have a sale or special deal so we can plan our social and editorial calendar around it.
Tell us about upcoming changes in your products or services so our content can reflect this.
For example, if an affiliate marketer has a high-ranking post about your product and the conversions are consistent, they might want to update that post to reflect any new changes or additions.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to just reach out to your more successful affiliates and take the time to touch base with them on a regular basis. Find out what is working and what isn’t. See if you can help them create some new and innovative ways to help both your sales and theirs.
Offer deep links through your affiliate marketing program
Most programs and WordPress plugins offer what’s called a deep link. That means they are able to take any page from your site and add their affiliate tracking to it.
If you don’t have a place on their affiliate dashboard to create them, but you think they will work for you, explain to your affiliates how to create a deep link within the dashboard.
This will encourage your affiliates to share other content on your page. Not only can they send people to a landing page on a specific product, but also on a blog post that might talk about that specific product.
Give incentives and rewards
Experienced affiliate managers do this all the time — and I know that we appreciate it on the other end.
Consider giving your affiliates a higher commission during certain times. This could be with a new product or service or in another situation, which gives you a good reason to give them an incentive so they’ll push just a bit harder.
Let’s go back to the idea that your affiliates are basically your salespeople, but without the commitment. Besides paying them a commission on sales, consider raising their percentage on each sale as a thank-you to those who are bringing in consistent conversions.
I am actually surprised how few programs I deal with don’t do this. It’s just good business sense.
Be ready to wheel and deal
If you are new to the affiliate game, be ready for the experienced affiliate marketer. They don’t always pay attention to that commission you promise in your terms. Sometimes they are going to want to negotiate. It’s best to be prepared for this by giving it a little thought ahead of time.
To give you an example: If you were to go to the country’s largest affiliate conference, Affiliate Summit, they have an event there called “Meet Market.” This is where an affiliate can sit down face to face with the affiliate manager and not only ask the hard questions, but seal a deal. It’s pretty amazing to watch.
There is a lot to starting up your affiliate marketing program, and so many other variables that need to be considered. I hope this gave you some insights into what the other side sees and thinks when it comes to making the decision to join your affiliate program and build a relationship.