The perfect recipe for a healthy affiliate programme

May 21st, 2018

Throughout my career within the affiliate marketing world, agency, network and client side, across various advertiser verticals, I have come to realise that even though most programmes are different in many ways, there are key ingredients that healthy programmes always have in common. Whether you are about to launch an affiliate programme or already have a mature programme, I am going to share with you the perfect recipe for a healthy affiliate programme from start to finish.

Objective setting for the programme

Before you set up your programme, it is essential to establish the objectives of your affiliate programme and ensure these are in line with the core values of your brand. The most common objectives for a programme can be to drive revenue and positive ROI, increase brand awareness or generate new customers. No matter what your objectives are, this is going to determine the following aspects of your programme.

Select a network or SaaS platform

Now you have set your objectives you need to select the network or SaaS platform that suits your needs best. If you need additional account management, you may have to hire an agency for account management in addition to the SaaS platform or use a network that will provide you with both account management services and the technology. Another element you need to consider, is what are the key features you need for your affiliate programme? Do you want to set up an attribution model? Do you need advanced reporting capabilities? Do you need to run tiered commission levels? Etc. Based on your criteria, you will have to choose the platform that best suits your needs in the long run.

Programme commercials

In order to establish your commercials, which is mainly your commission and cookie window, you first need to run a competitor benchmark to help define your own commercials. You can run a flat commission structure or offer more dynamic commissioning, which takes into consideration multiple variables. Your commissioning need to be aligned with your goals, for example, if your goal is to push specific product categories or drive new customers, you can offer a higher commission for these tiers. Your programme commercials will need to be attractive to your affiliate base whilst providing the most effective ROI.

Creatives and promotional materials

Providing your affiliates with all the assets and information they need to facilitate the promotion of your brand is essential; a range of generic and specific creatives, offers, and a product feed (if applicable). Specific banners can be based on promotions, products or categories that perform well in your business or that you want to push via the channel. In addition, keep your affiliates updated about any news, offers or promotion via an affiliate newsletter featuring text links, banners or content that they can easily repurpose on their website. This will ensure your affiliates stay engaged and keep their content up-to-date.

Recruitment and affiliate activation

One of the key factors to the success of any affiliate programme is to recruit the right affiliates that can help achieve your programme objectives. To source your leads, you can run manual searches, leverage the tools provided by your affiliate platform or use external tools for affiliate research such as Similar Web or Publisher Discovery. The best way to contact your leads, is to follow a personalised outreach approach which is proven to deliver higher join and open rates than mass outreach. To build your recruitment pipeline, I recommend using a CRM platform to keep track of and manage your leads. For inbound leads, ensure that you have an optimised affiliate sign-up page on your website; you can also invest in Facebook ads to target potential affiliates.

Once you have recruited your desired affiliates, the next step is to activate them. The first step here is to send an on boarding email with documentation to help affiliates go live easily after they join. It is also important to undertake personal outreach to understand anything additional you can add to the partnership and resolve any issues that may be preventing them to become active. For both recruitment and activation, you can run incentives offering increased commissions or a bonus to your new and inactive affiliates; some networks or SaaS platform may also be able to promote your campaign to their affiliate base!

Account management and affiliate support

Best in class account management and support is key to any programme’s success and growth. You need to actively manage your top affiliates by making regular optimisation recommendations, book placements and touch base on performance regularly. Additionally, you need to ensure that you provide strong programme support to all affiliates, along with all the tools and resources they need. You can also introduce an affiliate day at your office, these are a great way to engage with your affiliates and make them feel part of your business.

Placement scheduling

When it comes to booking placements, make sure that you plan ahead by scheduling them in advance with your key affiliates, on a quarterly or even 6-month basis. As a golden rule, never commit with paid placements until you have already seen good performance from your affiliates, unless you are willing to risk a negative ROI. Commission increases as well as exclusive vouchers can be a good way to get additional exposure with no tenancy costs. Be sure to keep track of your placements performance on a regular basis, adjusting the scheduling of placements accordingly, or even book additional placements at the last minute if you see good performance.

To summarise, even though running an affiliate programme comes with many challenges, if you master all the elements detailed above, you will be able to maintain a healthy and effective programme that drives continuous growth both for your brand and your affiliates.

Zeina Rizk, Account Manager, Acceleration Partners

As Account Manager at Acceleration Partners, Zeina is responsible for the strategic management of one of the agencies largest global brands. Zeina has over 4 years’ experience in the affiliate industry and prior to Acceleration Partners, she worked client side at TripAdvisor, network side for Rakuten Marketing managing a range of fashion and beauty clients as well as agency side for R.O.EYE where she managed the eBay Partner Network for France.