When it comes to affiliate marketing, it’s all about partnership. Providing the right support and resources can take your affiliates from good to great, significantly increasing your revenue, brand authority, and opportunities all at once.

But how exactly do you nurture these relationships to maximize results and make your affiliate program a flourishing success?

The answer is that you must pay attention, incentivize, and personalize. Getting to know your top members is one part of the puzzle; What excites them? What are their goals? Which of your products will improve their lives (and the lives of their customers) the most? All of this is essential, but there are some powerful “secret weapons” to consider.

From sales and performance incentives, direct communication, and quality support, to personalized tools and assets, we will discuss some of the most effective strategies that will empower your affiliates to go above and beyond – and boost your sales in turn!

The power of reward

Your affiliates are basically an extension of your team, and team morale, productivity, and ultimately sales success are directly correlated with reward and recognition. Think of it like this: The members who are already doing well in your affiliate program want to succeed as much as you want them to, because they understand that they benefit from promoting your products. That’s why they signed up in the first place! Now, you have the unique opportunity to deepen your relationship with them and supercharge their affiliate power.

Nothing influences people to act like the incentive of reward. It’s human nature – if we see something we truly want, we will do what it takes to get it. The question is, what will you offer?

Sales vs performance

This may seem like a no-brainer, but sales volume-based rewards aren’t always the most effective. To make a good affiliate great, think about who you’re focusing on; sales incentives may be compelling to your very top performing affiliates, but they can be out of reach for a whole group of people that may make up the bulk of your affiliate sales. Think about it – if you’re trying to turn your solid affiliates into superstars, what’s going to help them get there?

Consider performance-based rewards. The idea is to incentivize all of your affiliates, whether they are less active or top sellers, by making the reward attainable regardless of their current level. This doesn’t mean that sales don’t matter, but by measuring their success in growth, as opposed to total sales, you’re showing your affiliates that they are not only valued, but privileged with the opportunity to gain even more benefits if they put in the effort. Even to good affiliates, it can seem futile to make the extra investment in your program if only a few star performers are ever rewarded.

Performance-based rewards are all about momentum; if your affiliates can see the improvement in their sales conversion rates (for example) over shorter periods of time, they will consistently develop the expertise and confidence they need to thrive in the long-term. Nevertheless, sales volume-based incentives will always be effective for your top sellers!

Incentives for success

Remember, you’re building on relationships, so you want to create a win-win situation for everyone. To do this, you need to show your affiliates why they should remain loyal to, and invest further in your program. Regardless of whether you choose sales or performance-based rewards (or both), there are a variety of incentive types to promote affiliate growth and success:

Higher (or tiered) commission rates

This rewards affiliates with higher commission rates the more they sell or earn, and can be determined by sales count or commission earnings. The advantage to this type of incentive is that affiliates not only earn more by selling more – they also get an increase in their commission rate, amplifying the overall benefit.

Better, personalized assets

Giving your reliable affiliates better assets such as high-quality banners and social media graphics that are personalized to their brand is a great way to show that you value them, while cultivating their sense of ownership in your program at the same time. Co-branded landing pages can boost conversion rates, giving affiliates seamless integration between their brand and yours, as well as a smooth transaction process for their website visitors.

Exclusive deals and discount codes

What does every affiliate want for their own business? A competitive edge. Exclusive deals and special discount codes are effective because they extend the benefits of your program to your affiliate’s customers. These customers get something exclusive that no one else has access to, the affiliate gets more commissions, and you boost your reach and get more sales! Everyone’s happy.

Prizes and contests/competitions

This can be anything from a special prize draw to cash rewards for reaching sales or performance goals, such as a reward for making $2,000 in one month (for example). Because this is a common strategy and you want to give your program a competitive edge, one angle is to offer something unique, such as a trendy product or service, exclusive event tickets, or vacation packages, depending on your budget. Gift cards and cash rewards are always appealing, too!

As for contests, competition is a great motivator. You can inspire a lot of action by announcing a contest with a low barrier to entry so it’s accessible to all of your affiliates. When people know they have a reasonable chance to win, they are far more likely to participate.

Sales and performance milestones

Having set milestones with corresponding rewards is an established method that works across industries. Even better – you could offer your affiliates the ability to track their progress, allowing them to see how close they are to achieving the next sales count or commissions earnings goal, or program loyalty milestone. This method is great for both short-term and long-term goals, and promotes affiliate retention. You can also offer rewards for reaching sales volume goals within a specific time frame, which is a great way to incentivize your affiliates to act quickly.

You’d better recognize

In addition to rewards, everyone appreciates recognition for their work. One way to do this is to feature your star affiliates as guests on your podcast, or interview them in blog articles (for example). Putting a spotlight on their stories, goals, businesses, and affiliate success sets the bar high while providing a good example for other affiliates to follow. It also showcases the benefits your program has to offer, showing members that they’re not just a number – they’re an integral part of the group with opportunities for growth that can further their own individual success.

On that note…

You want to empower your affiliates, so make them a part of your community. People are naturally team-oriented, and feel more positive and motivated to promote your products when they feel included. Encourage healthy competition among your affiliates by giving them an integrated tracking platform with an online community where they can interact, observe, and access the latest materials, assets, and information.

Giving your affiliates the information, support, and feedback they need will help them optimize their own businesses – and generate sales for you. Be sure to include complete information about your products (features, prices, testimonials, etc.), your brand (style, mission, target audience, etc.), and any relevant marketing materials that will help them present your products to their audience in a meaningful way.

Be willing to think outside the box, brainstorm, and help your affiliates come up with creative ways to integrate your products into their businesses and you will see a positive change in camaraderie, belonging, and ultimately motivation.

Don’t forget communication

People are busy, lives change, and businesses change. That’s why it’s more important than ever to stay in constant contact with your affiliates. You want to stay informed about what’s working and what’s not, as well as create a personalized experience that they are happy to be a part of.

Reach out directly to connect with your affiliates one-on-one, or assign them a dedicated affiliate manager to keep them in the loop and supported at all times. Be aware of who they are, how they’re doing, and what they think by rewarding them for things like completing surveys, which help you understand them and provide you with much needed insights into your program’s strengths and weaknesses. With this information, you can adapt your content and communication strategies to achieve the best results, custom tailored to your network.

At the end of the day, people want do business with someone they know. So, ask questions, listen, share your own story, and be the person they trust not only as an authority, but also as a true partner who keeps their best interests in mind.

Motivation is the name of the game

If you want to enhance your affiliate program and keep your network fully engaged, you must focus on strengthening these mutually beneficial relationships. With so many different programs to choose from online, understanding your affiliates and what motivates them is absolutely essential to bring out the best in them – and keep them around!

Giving your affiliates great support, complete, personalized resources, and unique incentives promotes enthusiasm and long-lasting loyalty from people who are willing to go the extra mile.

How do you inspire your own affiliates? What are the incentives that you find most effective in your own business? What do you think makes an affiliate superstar? Let us know in the comments below!

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a product marketing specialist at Sandhills Development, a music maker, and digital product creator. 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 and doing other marketing stuff for Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP, she can often be found hanging out with other people’s pets.

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