10 Affiliate Program Best Practices You Need to Follow (2022)
Looking for affiliate program best practices to guide your affiliate marketing efforts?
You’re in luck, we’ve got expert tips to help take your affiliate program to the next level.
It’s easy to create an affiliate program, what’s more challenging is creating one that appeals to the right affiliates and motivates them to make sales.
With these ten simple affiliate program best practices, you can take your affiliate program to the next level, and you might find it makes a big difference to your business as a whole.
What Is an Affiliate Marketing Program?
An affiliate marketing program allows third parties to receive a commission for helping you sell your products or services.
When you create an affiliate program, you allow affiliates to help market your products and services, sending you referrals in return for a commission. With modern affiliate marketing software, you’re able to track where your customers originated from, so the affiliates who send you customers can get paid accordingly.
It’s a simple process:
- Affiliates sign up to your affiliate marketing program
- They download personalized links that allow you to identify when your website visitors have been referred by one of your affiliates
- When an affiliate sends someone to your website and they make a purchase, the affiliate receives an agreed-upon commission.
Essentially, you’re putting together a worldwide network of marketers to help promote your business.
Why Create an Affiliate Marketing Program?
There’s very little to lose from creating an affiliate marketing program if you have the right software to help you run it. On the flip side, there are some powerful reasons to use affiliate marketing.
- Only pay affiliates when they make a sale
- Immediately expand your brand reach
- Benefit from the expertise of innovative marketers
- Focus on the things you excel at (SEO, landing pages, quality content, development of new products, whatever it might be) while affiliates nail their affiliate digital marketing campaigns
Once your affiliate marketing program is up and running, anyone in the world can apply to market and share your affiliate products. This can be a massive boost for your marketing strategy and result in sales you have to do very little work for, in fact, you can make money as you sleep.
Of course, nothing is that simple though!
There are good affiliate marketing programs, and there are ones that sit there and do nothing. So what affiliate program best practices can you follow to ensure you bring in a steady stream of sales?
How to Set Up an Affiliate Marketing Program in 3 Steps
Let’s start with the easy part: creating an affiliate marketing program.
On the surface, this might seem like the tricky part, but really, the true value is in what you do with your program once it’s set up.
- Set up your online store
- Choose your affiliate marketing software
- Sync your store to the software (check the integrations on your affiliate marketing software)
You’ll find affiliate software options that sync with all the major e-commerce platforms and payment gateways, and in general, they take just a few minutes to set up. Your products, descriptions, and pricing will automatically sync with the software, and you’ll be ready to attract new affiliates and grow your partnerships.
If your website runs on WordPress, then you’re already in the right place.
AffiliateWP is the best affiliate management software for WordPress and it’s going to help you get the most out of your affiliate program.
10 Affiliate Program Best Practices to Grow Your Business
Now that we’ve worked out how to make your own affiliate program (and found out that the first part is super easy), let’s talk about affiliate program best practices.
In internet marketing, the classic line from Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come,” just doesn’t ring true. You can write an amazing blog post and nobody’s guaranteed to find it, and the same goes for your newly created affiliate program.
You know firsthand what it takes to make sales; it’s not easy, so how can you find people who have what it takes and give them the tools to sell your product?
Here are the affiliate program best practices we’re going to look at:
- Carefully consider your commission rates
- Create terms and conditions that work for you
- Choose the right affiliates
- Invest time in onboarding
- Maintain open communication
- Give affiliates access to your creatives
- Share detailed analytics
- Streamline your user experience
- Incentivize beyond commission
- Automate where possible
If you’re following these affiliate program best practices and nailing every step, then it’s going to put your affiliate marketing strategy in a great position!
1. Carefully Consider Your Commission Rates
Commission is the basic incentive you use to get people to sell your products.
Higher commissions are going to be more attractive to high-performing affiliates, but at the same time, you need to balance it with your need to make a profit.
This is an area where you need flexibility, so make sure your affiliate marketing software gives you this.
You need the ability to:
- Choose between a flat rate on each sale or a percentage of each sale
- Create different commission tiers (this is a good way to incentivize affiliates to work hard and sell more products)
- Offer recurring commissions on products with monthly payments (membership programs, SaaS)
Not every piece of affiliate marketing software is flexible in this area, so make sure you choose one that gives you what you need.
2. Create Terms and Conditions that Work for You
Make sure your affiliate terms and conditions are clearly defined. Again, the affiliate marketing software you use will offer a lot of help in this area, but there will be some elements you need to decide on.
One of the important questions you will have to answer is how many days your cookie tracking should be valid for. Essentially, how soon after the referral does a customer have to make a purchase for your affiliate to still be eligible for a commission?
The thinking behind this is that if a referral lands on your website and buys right away, then it’s obviously due in large part to the work of the affiliate. However, if the person doesn’t make a purchase until three months after they were last referred by the affiliate, to what extent is the affiliate responsible?
By this time, you’ve likely engaged the customer in content marketing, email marketing, social media, and more, so is the affiliate still entitled to the commission?
3. Choose the Right Affiliates
You know that a lot of effort goes into making a sale. You’ve worked hard to build your exposure, streamline your sales process, and provide expert support, and this has enabled you to grow your business.
Making affiliate sales isn’t any easier. Sure, your affiliates benefit from the systems you’ve put in place, but they’ve still got to be well placed to reach new audiences, and have enough authority to encourage people to take action.
If you’re going to create an affiliate program that attracts bloggers, influencers, and other types of affiliates with the ability to influence your target audience, then you’ve got to be proactive.
Understand the most important details about your audience and find the people who are most likely to reach them:
- What does your target audience look like? (Demographics, pain points, questions they need answering)
- What marketing channels does your audience find their information on? (Search engines, social media platforms)
- What content does your audience interact with? (Blogs, video, webinars podcasts, infographics)
When you have a clear picture of who your ideal customer is, and how they’re likely to find your product, then you have a better idea of who is likely to make a good affiliate.
You can get a good feel for this simply by checking out their website and social media posts.
Now, it’s just a question of building bridges and showcasing the value of your affiliate program.
4. Invest Time in Onboarding
When your affiliates succeed, you succeed. This means it’s in your interest to make sure your affiliates have everything they need to make sales right from the beginning.
You’ve spent years learning how to sell your product, so why not share your pearls of wisdom?
Create an onboarding process that explains the affiliate’s responsibilities and the terms of your program. Just as importantly, give them helpful information on how to make sales.
If your affiliate software is just a link generator and sales tracker, then this is difficult to achieve.
Ideally, you want a dedicated affiliate dashboard you can fill with things like target audience information, creatives, product information, frequently asked questions, and more helpful tips to help optimize performance.
Whether your affiliates are beginners or seasoned pros, this will help them hit the ground running.
5. Maintain Open Communication
There are few incentives like money!
However, with so many affiliate programs out there, it’s easy for affiliates to get distracted by the next shiny new offer.
You want to keep your affiliates engaged, motivated, and bringing in the sales, so you’ve got to communicate. You have a wealth of knowledge to share about your products, your customers, and your business, and not only can this keep your affiliates entertained, but it can also help them make more money.
When you create your affiliate program, look for software that facilitates clear communication between you and your affiliates.
Customizable email templates will help you start the conversation, but don’t be afraid to take this a step further and actively market to your affiliates.
Bring them into your email marketing platform and build out an engaging series. Use this to entertain, inform, and update your affiliates with everything they need to know, so you can continue to build your relationships.
6. Give Affiliates Access to Your Creatives
Some successful affiliates have so much authority with their audience that they can simply put a link out to their email list and their followers will buy the product.
As you might expect, these affiliates are few and far between.
Affiliates have to work hard to engage their audience, and it takes good marketing to get someone to follow a link to a third-party website and buy a product. This takes more than pretty words; it also requires creatives, and your affiliates will rely on you for this.
The better your images, videos, podcasts, and infographics are, the more tools your affiliates have at their disposal to try and sell your products.
The chances are, you probably wouldn’t make many sales without your images and videos, so it’s unrealistic to expect your affiliates to do so. Invest in your creatives and share them on your affiliate platform.
This is one affiliate program best practice that can make an instant impact on your results.
7. Share Detailed Analytics
If you look at some affiliate programs, the only data they give the affiliate is the number of clicks, number of sales, total revenue, and commission earned. Data is key to improving performance, so you want your affiliates to have access to more detailed metrics than this.
When you create your affiliate program, make sure you look at the affiliate area and ask yourself if there are enough insights to help affiliates drive sales. If you would want more data as a seller, then the chances are your affiliates will too.
For instance, rather than simply following the number of referrals an affiliate makes, it’s important to know what products they were for. Rather than showing the total number of sales, affiliates will want to know which products are selling well and which aren’t.
The more information you give your top affiliates the more sales they are likely to make for you.
8. Streamline Your User Experience
There’s only so much your affiliates can do. They can send you potential new customers, but ultimately, it’s up to you to make the sale.
If your store’s user experience is poor, or your checkout process is clunky, then it’s going to significantly impact your conversion rate and make your affiliate program seem like it’s not working. People often ask if affiliate programs are profitable, and a big part of the answer lies in your own website.
When your e-commerce store’s user experience is streamlined (here are some helpful tips), then it’s going to give your affiliate marketing program a good chance of success.
Affiliates can drive traffic to your website, but it’s up to you to do the a/b testing and make sure you’re converting as much traffic as possible.
9. Incentivize Beyond Commission
You’re already giving people a nice cut of the sale, so what more can you offer?
A great way to encourage your affiliates is to create community and friendly competition. You can do this through leaderboards, and awards that keep people motivated to succeed.
It’s a lot like being a salesperson: everyone wants to be the top earner, and by sharing leaderboards, you enable your affiliates to aspire to be the top dog.
You’ll often see awards and different tiers in huge affiliate networks like ClickBank, and there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate them into your own program.
10. Automate Where Possible
You can’t afford to be managing all aspects of your affiliate marketing program manually.
This is somewhat manageable if you have a handful of affiliate partners but if you’re following these affiliate marketing best practices, then your program is going to be a lot bigger than just a few people.
This is where you need to do your research and plan exactly what you need from your affiliate marketing software.
- Integrated payouts (pay into affiliates’ bank accounts or credit cards in 1 click)
- Innovative integrations with apps like Zapier
- Automated tracking for affiliate links, coupons, and more
- Smart affiliate commission rules
If you’re creating an affiliate program on WordPress, then the best option is AffiliateWP because it’s specifically built for the WordPress platform. This means you can effortlessly automate processes and quickly integrate your favorite WP plugins.
An effective affiliate program should run like clockwork, and you need the right software to ensure this happens.
Affiliate Program Best Practices Can Take You to Your Goals
These affiliate program best practices are easy to put into action and can make all the difference to your affiliate program.
There are always more steps you can take to help take things to the next level though, and we’ve got even more resources to help you out. Here are some related articles you might want to look at:
- The Essential Affiliate Marketing Business Plan for Program Managers
- How to Set Up Affiliate Fraud Protection for WordPress
- 10 Best WooCommerce Affiliate Plugins for a Thriving Affiliate Program
If your affiliate program is already set up, then you’ve got some fresh ideas to help you improve it. If you’re thinking about setting up your affiliate program, then now’s the time.