It’s important to remember that when you’re doing any performance marketing you’re really investing in partnerships and in people. The success and failure of your program may at times depend on circumstances beyond your control. But one area you can really make an impact and influence your potential is through the investment in maintaining well-placed and well-managed relationships with your vendors, referrers, associates, and more.

It’s something we all know, yet may not have the time to craft and build, especially in the name of securing more strategic partnerships and creating more opportunities at the onset. But once you reach Phase 2 of your plan, and have a sense of who is more valuable among your partners, you’ll want to double down your efforts to keep them happy, and rewarded. There’s an element of business development in the relationships that affiliate marketers must set up to achieve success. Here are some tricks on figuring out where — and on whom — to focus you efforts:

1. 80/20 Rule

With any sales-driven job, you’ll want to stick to the 80/20 rule — commit 80 percent of your time to the 20 percent who matter most. This is not purely a financial enterprise; you should identify early on the partners who will pay off for you in the long-term, for both sales and for prestige and exposure, too. Not all partners are created equal. Be smart about who’s driving first clicks and follow up with them accordingly. That doesn’t mean necessarily that the others should be left aside. Look at what may be working for them and evaluate how they may be helping you in other ways, and adjust your partnership and plan accordingly. You have the power to turn a so-so partner into a valued one by opening your eyes and ears to them.

2. Prioritise Your Partners

When designing new offers, be sure to put your partner’s needs, interests, and earnings at the top of the list. Then, once that’s agreed upon, scale your program. Too often, marketers will assess the opportunity based on the growth and projections for the company they work for, and who pays their check. That’s the wrong view to take. Instead, put yourself in the other guy’s shoes and think about what it would take to get you to sign on with your company. Is there a shared audience? Where’s the overlap? What’s the best way to attract them? You will only have one chance to make a first impression so make sure that you go in with all of the information and make the right proposal. Target them by doing your homework. Don’t just send them a general inquiry. Make them feel special.

3. Seek Opinion

Don’t be afraid to ask top partners what you could do better and then act on it. This is a common error in judgment made by many salespeople who let their pride get in the way. Affiliate marketers work with others. The landscape could be changing for them and they might be inclined to make some changes to their site and the structure of your partnership. Let them know every so often that you’re flexible to adapt to their needs, if they wish to discuss. Keeping your top guys happy is at the core of your business. Take note of what they’re telling you and read between the lines for ways to improve their earnings and to solve their problems. If you’re not asking and improving, someone else is. Don’t lose them because you go lazy. Keep them by out-thinking the competition.