Creating a thriving affiliate program ultimately starts and ends with people – so much so that nearly all of the previous affiliate marketing topics we’ve covered come back to relationships in some way.

Affiliate marketing is simply not a purely transactional arena; For real results over the long-term, strong affiliate relationships must be built and maintained.

Good rapport with your affiliates fosters loyalty, which means you get to spend more time empowering existing affiliates and less time recruiting new ones. Plus, affiliates who feel empowered and personally connected to you are more likely to become better spokespeople for your brand and promote your products in an optimal way.

In this post, we’ve put together some of our top tips for building strong affiliate relationships, so you can make sure your affiliate program is one that produces real results!

1. Focus on trust

If there’s one thing that makes up the foundation of any strong relationship, it’s trust. It can make or break a relationship, and it can either attract or dissuade high-quality affiliates.

If you want your affiliates to perform well and stay loyal, you cannot do without trust. So, how do you create it?

Be upfront and transparent

Look, there are a lot of companies vying for affiliates’ attention. Competition is everywhere; Everyone has something to sell and some incentive to offer, and it can be hard for affiliates to parse all of the information being thrown at them.

What sets you apart from your competitors and makes your affiliate program more attractive?

Sure, it’s important to have enticing affiliate commissions and other benefits, but one of the most effective things you can do to establish trust from the get-go is to be upfront and transparent.

This also removes the decision-making friction that affiliates experience as they go through the process of vetting programs for quality and legitimacy.

In short:

Transparency makes things a lot easier and a lot more comfortable for everyone!

Here are some things you should consider being as upfront and transparent as possible about: 

  • Terms and conditions
  • Commission rates
  • Rewards and incentives
  • Affiliate expectations
  • Brand guidelines
  • Products that you want promoted

Action: Consider creating an FAQ section or affiliate info page that gives affiliates easy access to all of the information and resources they need to understand what exactly you have to offer and what they can expect if they work with you.

2. Take the time to get to know them

We’ve talked about the importance of getting to know your affiliates and all of the benefits that it can provide to your affiliate program. Not only is this important for finding quality affiliates and choosing the right affiliates; It’s also in your best interest if you want to have a reliable affiliate base that can provide you with useful feedback and insights that you can use to improve your program over time.

What does “getting to know” your affiliates entail?

  • Researching their brand or persona
  • Finding out what they like
  • Seeing who they follow
  • Seeing who follows them
  • Observing their personality, presentation, and tone on social platforms

Remember: People like to do business with people that they know.

Get familiar. Be knowledgeable. Be helpful. Develop rapport. Show your affiliates that you’re the real deal and that you don’t expect your affiliate program to run on autopilot!

Try this: Take note of your affiliates’ names, brands, niches, backgrounds, and interests, and catalogue them into a spreadsheet. You can reference these things later in your communications, creatives, etc.

3. Personalize as much as you can

Building strong affiliate relationships isn’t only about your interaction with your affiliates; It’s also about the overall experience they have as a part of your program. This is where personalization can be incredibly impactful.

Personalizing the affiliate experience makes things more engaging and – well – personal for your affiliates. Even the simplest, most basic touches like using their actual names in your communications can make a difference.

Here are a few other ways you can use personalization:

  • Segment your affiliates into niche-specific email lists, so they only get the most relevant communications
  • Send personalized newsletters and emails to different affiliate segments
  • Create personalized creatives, such as co-branded graphics, personalized affiliate landing pages, or pre-written content for different affiliate niches

Ultimately, you want your affiliates to feel valued. So, the more ways you can give them individual attention, recognize them, and speak to their interests, the better!

Action: Batch create creatives for different affiliate segments to save yourself some time!

4. Reach out on a regular basis

In addition to trust, what’s another crucial component of relationships?

Communication.

There are a variety of reasons that staying in close contact with your affiliates is important. For one thing, people are simply busy. Sometimes, affiliates unintentionally start to drop off – and it might not have anything to do with you!

In fact, we wrote a whole post about how to get dormant affiliates promoting again. Check it out here.

Plus, as you develop your program over time, you will want to keep your affiliates updated and in-the-know, so that they are adequately prepared to promote your brand and products at all times.

In addition to making sure they are aware of your latest promotions, creatives, and other resources, this also helps to keep your program familiar and at the forefront of your affiliates’ minds.

Try this: Create an affiliate onboarding process for new affiliates to get them promoting quickly, and schedule emails for existing affiliates based on new promotions, incentives, performance milestones, etc.

5. Help them help you

If you want to develop good rapport with your affiliates, you should be doing everything you can to help them succeed. Because if they succeed, so do you!

This is one of the best parts about affiliate marketing – it’s based on creating win-win relationships.

Helping your affiliates help you means empowering them to be their best, supporting them, and actively contributing to their success.

This can include:

  • Arming them with all of the direct contact information they need if they have questions or need support
  • Giving them easy access to creatives, brand guidelines, and other marketing materials that help them get started promoting your products
  • Reaching out to them periodically to find out what’s working for them (and what’s not)
  • Rewarding them for performance and loyalty

Action: Ask your affiliates for their honest feedback about their experience with your program. This shows that you’re listening and that you care about optimizing for their benefit as well as yours.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Don’t expect fiercely loyal affiliates overnight – relationships take work and time. You have to play the long game.

Establishing trust, getting to know your affiliates, personalizing the experience, staying in close contact, and empowering your affiliates with everything they need to succeed are all strategies that converge to foster an environment that feels positive, productive, and mutually beneficial – and this is what makes affiliates want to stick around and perform well.

What have you found to be effective when it comes to your own affiliate relationships? We’d love to hear your experience! Leave us a comment below.

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a content creator at Sandhills Development, a music maker, and founder of Looplicious. A Minnesota native, she's a frequent traveler and animal lover with a passion for creative work and digital business. When she’s not writing blog posts for Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP, she can often be found hanging out with other people’s pets.

2 comments

  1. Another great article from Mandy @ AffiliateWP… The fact you led with TRUST as #1 here is spot on. The other points are strong too – I’ve been an affiliate for a long time and been running affiliate partnerships at Codeable for the past few years and can say any success we’ve had has been around these tips you’ve laid out here. Great read, I shared with the team. Thanks!

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