With the rapidly changing digital, affiliate and partner marketing environment, the things brands have done to create successful affiliate marketing to date, is not what will grow their programmes now and in the future. Organisations need to be smarter to create better affiliate programmes today and in the future. 

“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games” Babe Ruth

When I first speak with a brand, they generally fall into one of two categories: 1) those that know their affiliate programme could be better but don’t know where to start; and  2) those who believe their programme is good enough as they’ve never been shown anything better. 

But what does a better affiliate marketing programme mean? It can be defined by the following three factors;

  1. Higher growth
  2. Improved efficiency
  3. Increased diversity 

You can achieve these three variables in a number of ways.


Make quicker, better-informed decisions by having access to the right data, in real-time. Most brands know which affiliates they can use to get sales. But the challenge today is these are often the same affiliates who also drive sales for your competitors. This means that the cost of getting more sales is increasing and brands experience diminishing returns as these affiliates hit their growth ceiling.

A better affiliate programme would spread their sales leverage across a wider range of affiliates, whilst consistently growing the baseline. A better affiliate programme would know which affiliates to approach, and in which order, to improve KPIs such as basket value, specific product sales, return on AdSpend and lifetime value. 

New partners

The affiliate model can be used across any partnership (hence the recent emergence of “Partner Marketing”).  This affiliate model, of paying on performance, is getting exposure across distribution channels where it once was not, such as social media, influencer marketing, podcasts and large media publishers. 

A better affiliate programme would be constantly looking to use the model to leverage new opportunities and work with a range of partners.  

A mistake many affiliate managers make is spending time and resources trying to recruit affiliates that won’t add value or drive significant sales volume. A better programme focuses on the five that will deliver significant volume, rather than the 100 that won’t. These deals may take months to be realized, but they generate significantly more value and greater return on investment. 

Processes and automation

Better affiliate programmes are lean. They ensure the resource is focused on the areas that will drive growth, efficiency or diversity.  Better programmes don’t waste time and effort on things that won’t deliver a return. They use their people wisely, assessing which skills are required to manage each aspect of the programme. Project management, data analysis, strategy, recruitment, and negotiation often need specialists, not a generalist doing their best. Better programmes communicate with partners in a smart way. They use a CRM strategy which helps understand partner’s needs, and which levers can be pulled to achieve specific objectives. 

Finally, better affiliate programmes don’t follow, they lead. If you are using the same technology, speaking to the same partners and offering the same commission and management structure then you are doing exactly the same as your competition. 

Better affiliate programmes offer something unique, they have integrity and fairness. Better affiliate programmes do things differently and breakthrough where your competition can’t