When I first started out in the world of affiliate marketing there were only handful of networks and affiliates. The space was dominated by paid search affiliates, driving traffic through keywords and the emergence of voucher and cashback affiliates were only just starting to gain momentum.  

The early adopters of the channel were trying to really understand how affiliates could drive sales and today this is still the case as the channel adapts and new trends emerge; a continuous cycle, whereby affiliates and networks evolve…

In this article, I am going to highlight my top six tips to ensure the set-up of your affiliate programme is a success.

1. The golden rule – what is your company objective?

If you are starting to think about using affiliate marketing to achieve additional revenue for your business there are a few things to consider from the outset. Firstly, ask yourself what does your business want to achieve from the channel?  For some small businesses, it’ attracting new customers to the site that may not have heard of the brand. For a mature brand, it may be driving revenue in new markets. Whatever the objective for your business this should be clear and outlined from the beginning.  

2. Choosing the right network or platform to support your immediate and future plans

Once you’ve set your objectives, shop around to find a network or a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform to help you meet your objectives.

There are a few differences between SaaS platforms and traditional networks. SaaS platforms allow you to house all your partnerships under the one campaign. This will allow you to manage and report on all your partners in one place. SaaS platforms simply offer technology, whereas traditional affiliate networks offer technology and account management services levels.  

Consider whether the network will be able to support my technical requirements such as product-level reporting? This could be great for a retail business who has products that they want to discount. If it’s a global business, can the platform support multi-currency payments and reporting? Always think ahead and ensure that you are set up to meet your future goals.

3. Commercials

Generally, when it comes to any type of marketing there is set amount of budget for each marketing channel. Unlike other marketing channels, affiliate marketing is a pay-for-performance model meaning you only pay the affiliate when the desired sale or action has been achieved. In terms of commission paid to the affiliate, this should be competitive so that affiliates want to promote your brand. Other factors to consider are cookie period, attribution and paying all or only new customers.  

The other costs that you will incur are network fees and setup fees. Do shop around and ensure you choose the right platform that meets your business requirements.

4. Conversions

A good converting site makes your proposition more attractive for affiliates to promote and more likely to generate a higher number of sales. It’s important to continually test your own commerce site to ensure that it’s easy for customers to convert once they land on your page. For example, use A/B testing to see if a change in colour of ‘buy now’ buttons makes a difference, or test the checkout process on your site to make sure it is straightforward. If you are using a product feed make sure this is always up to date, you don’t want customers clicking through from a review site or price comparison site that’s showing the product listing as “in stock” only to then land on your site to find the product is showing as “out of stock”.

5. Creatives

To get the best conversions affiliates need a range of on-brand resources to promote your brand. If you are launching a new marketing campaign be sure to include the affiliate channel in your brief for getting the right creative produced. For clients that have a global campaign, in-language creatives are a must. Keep in mind that affiliates use sales material that is provided within the affiliate platform – so always keep this up to date. Be sure to provide information on the best performing categories and work with affiliates who have niche sites to push products that you are struggling to sell on your own site.

6. Commitment to the channel

The channel requires continuous investment to make it a success. Really think about whether you have in the in-house expertise to run the programme or consider outsourcing this to a specialist agency if using a SaaS platform, or work with a traditional network and utilise their in-house account management services.

A well-balanced programme is made up of a variety of business models. Be open to testing new emerging technologies; you may be pleasantly surprised with the results. Have an open dialogue with these types of affiliates to make sure the results are in line with your expectations. This is where having a business objective set from the beginning is important.

To summarise, here are my six top tips for a great affiliate programme:

  1. Set your business objective from the outset
  2. Choose a platform that suits your requirements
  3. Resource, resource, resource
  4. Be open to new emerging business models
  5. Create partnerships and work together to drive great results
  6. Incorporate the channel in your marketing mix