If you’ve found yourself in a position where your affiliate programme only has a handful of active players, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Every programme in the world has at least some dormant partners, although granted some suffer more than others. Perhaps there hasn’t been enough time or resource dedicated to your affiliate channel in recent months, or maybe affiliates have been slowly dropping off and you haven’t been able to pinpoint the reason why. Either way, it’s never too late to breathe life back into your affiliate programme.

What do you have to offer your affiliate base?

Before you start to ask what affiliates can do for you, you first need to ask yourself what you are doing for your affiliates.

  1. Can I provide the tools to help affiliates promote my brand easily and effectively? Successful affiliates need live or regularly updated product feeds, dynamic widgets that will automatically update and simple, easily accessible deep link generators. If you don’t have these assets, your brand is going to be too time-consuming for your affiliates to promote. 
  2. Is my brand commercially competitive? Whilst you may be paying out per sale, most affiliates will be judging your programme according to how much money they make on average per click. If your commission rates are low or your conversion rates aren’t good it will have a knock on effect on how much money affiliates can make, and they will have no choice but to send their traffic elsewhere.
  3. Do I have the resource to maintain my affiliate programme? In performance marketing, you reap what you sow. The affiliate channel is an excellent way to generate cost-effective sales on a risk-free basis; however it does need to be maintained. Ideally this should be by someone who understands the channel properly. Invest in personnel with the knowledge and experience to develop relationships with your affiliates and grow your programme.

Once you can answer “yes” to all of the above, you know that you’re in a great position to start reaching out to affiliates with the aim of reactivating your partnerships. So what do you do now?

Do some spring cleaning

I’m usually not an advocate of removing inactive affiliates, but some programmes have hundreds, even thousands of registered affiliates that are not only idle, but no longer exist.

Gather a list of affiliates that haven’t driven any clicks in the last 12 months, and run these through a free SEO ranking tool – there are plenty online. Those that come up with 404 errors need to be contacted using their registered emails to see if they are still active. If you have the time you could even look through and identify sites that still exist but have been abandoned or are no longer relevant to your brand.

Those that don’t respond can be removed, but don’t forget to keep lines of communication open to them, and make it clear that you would love to welcome them back if they become active again.

Prioritise the top influencers

You should now have a lean, relevant affiliate base to focus your attention on. The next step is to pinpoint those that have influence in your sector and the potential to drive traffic and sales.

There are many ways you can rank affiliates, but one of my favourite “cheats” is to run the affiliate list through a free ALEXA ranking tool. These rankings are by no means fool proof, but will give you a rough idea of the relative influence each site has, and will do so very quickly. Pick out a few key sites that you feel could have real potential for a strong partnership with your brand and vow to give them the VIP treatment. Don’t just send them emails that will inevitably get lost – make an effort to call and schedule meetings with them. Find out what their business goals are and how they align with your own. Aim to build long term relationships, as these few key players can have a huge influence on the success of your programme. 

Kick start your longtail activity

You can’t maintain 1-2-1 relationships with every affiliate on your programme – it’s just not possible. You’ll need to use other tactics to spur these partners into motion that go beyond a boring weekly newsletter!

  • Make sure you have a clear, easy-to-use affiliate interface so affiliates can log on and access your latest offers, vouchers, and promotions, along with any tools that are available to them.
  • Run screenshot competitions: ask all affiliates to send in a screenshot of their promotional activity, with the best and most creative examples of exposure winning a prize – something simple like £100 of Amazon vouchers should make a nice incentive to ensure that your brand is live on their sites.
  • Offer an extra cash incentive on the first sale each affiliate makes, open to all affiliates that have been dormant for 6 months or longer.

Don’t forget the basics

Don’t forget to arrange a good strategy with your top cashback, voucher, basket abandonment and retargeting partners. It sounds obvious, but still worth mentioning!

Keep up the good work

Affiliate is a relationship-based industry, and relationships need to be maintained. Don’t spend all this time reviving your dormant programme just to ignore it again. Grow your programme by recruiting new players, either with fancy affiliate discovery tools or simple search engines: there will always be new players popping up in your industry that you should contact. Affiliate days are a great way to keep your affiliates engaged with your brand, as are industry events, themed competitions and engaging incentives.

Above all, never forget that your affiliates are the ones driving your business forward. As long as you can prioritise their needs and goals, they can help you achieve yours.