Growth | April 20, 2022

How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Program and 10x Revenues

Vikas Kalwani

It’s obvious why you need to build an affiliate marketing program — to make more money, of course. 

Just look at HP. 

The IT company managed to net 43% more revenue thanks to its content partners.

However, if you don’t know how to build an effective affiliate marketing program, you’ll struggle to entice high-caliber affiliates and you won’t turn high profits.

Luckily, this five-step guide makes it super easy to get started.

Read on to learn how to start a killer affiliate marketing program using the right affiliate marketing tools to multiply your profits and grow your business.

Why Build an Affiliate Marketing Program?

Whether you white label your service or put your product on an affiliate platform, affiliates act as third-party sales-people for your products.

When you gather an army of affiliates to promote your products, you boost brand awareness. 

Just look at Medical Alert Buyers Guide.

A screenshot from the Medical Alert Buyers Guide websiteA screenshot from the Medical Alert Buyers Guide website

(Image Source)

With over 25K monthly visitors, alerts featured on this Medical Alert Buyers Guide get a lot of exposure to show how their products fare.

Beyond this, you’ll also find affiliate marketers open doors to previously untapped audiences. While you may believe your products fall into one niche, a savvy affiliate marketer may open the doors to a whole new subsector of the market.

On top of that, affiliate partners save you money on marketing. 

Gunning for a cut of the sale, affiliate marketers will try a plethora of promotional tricks to market your products for you. This cuts back your marketing spend, so you can focus those funds on other areas of growth.

How to Build an Affiliate Marketing Program to Maximize Profits

1. Create your deal

Remember that successful affiliate marketers have a lot of brands to choose from. You need to make sure that your offer stands out from the competition so marketers promote your products over your competitors.

Your deal will likely include a percentage of the sale as a commission and can sometimes include a discount code for the affiliate marketer’s customers.

Preply's affiliate program payment informationPreply's affiliate program payment information

Some affiliate programs also offer bonuses, like a first sale bonus. Preply.com’s online tutoring platform offers performance-based bonuses to incentivize higher sales.

You could also try offering a performance-based tier structure to encourage affiliates to sell more for higher rewards. 

Look at how PicsArt does it.

How the Picsart affiliate program worksHow the Picsart affiliate program works

(Image Source)

The photo editor offers first-tier rewards when someone signs up for their Gold membership from referrals, and a much bigger reward when someone upgrades their account to the annual plan.

Interestingly, only 13% of referral programs currently use a tiered structure, making it a smart way to leapfrog your competition.

Some companies, like NordVPN, pay their affiliates for new sign ups and renewals. While this isn’t conventional, it’s a highly enticing offer that brings in lots of affiliates, like this NordVPN review, which offers an affiliate link.

Check out the offer Joy Organics puts on the table for affiliates.

A page showing why you should join the Joy Organics affiliate programA page showing why you should join the Joy Organics affiliate program

(Image Source)

The Joy Organics Affiliate Program offers a hefty 25% commission, plus there’s an unlimited referral period so they won’t expire. The company also offers regular bonuses to keep affiliates actively on track.

2. Nail down strategies

Most of your affiliates will drive organic traffic with search-based marketing. Depending on whether you’re focusing on B2B marketing or directly to consumers, your strategy might differ slightly. 

If they’re choosing to focus on the same keywords and target audience as you, they’re competing against your in-house marketing campaigns. You need to select your keywords carefully, based on intent. This is why your keyword mapping strategy should be well thought out. 

In this sense, it’s wise to pull together a strategy for your affiliates that denotes the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ when marketing your products.

Make sure you give a list of search terms to steer clear of, as well as any sales avenues you don’t want them to approach. 

For example, if you’re marketing in particular Facebook groups, you might ask your affiliates to side-step these. If you’re set on a certain keyword strategy, you may offer alternatives so that your promotions don’t collide.

The more information and guidance you can give your affiliates the better. It’s a great idea to make a packet for them featuring all the dos and don’ts of your program. This not only ensures that you’re not double-dipping and competing with your affiliates, but also that they won’t be marketing your products in a way that’s spammy or not in line with your company values. 

Remember, it’s just as important to let them know what not to do as it is to tell them what they should be doing. What they do reflects on you and your business. They may not be affiliated with you, but if they’re pushing your products in a way that seems sketchy to people, that’s going to rub off on your business.  

3. Create promotional materials

If you want your affiliates to market your brand in the correct light, you need to show them how to do that.

The best affiliate programs offer branded promotional materials and assistance with wording to help affiliates best showcase the products.

Firstly, you’ll need to create visual content to help supplement your affiliates’ content. 

The majority of US affiliate sales come from bloggers. Seeing as nobody wants to read an ‘all-text’ article and Google favors visually-appealing content, it’s smart to offer your affiliates professionally shot photos of your products (both in-use and modeled), logos, conversion-focused branded images, and video content, such as product animation videos, to add to their blogs. 

For instance, look at Better Addiction Care’s website.

A list of insurance companies Better Addiction Care works withA list of insurance companies Better Addiction Care works with

(Image Source)

Notice how the website uses the official logos to help promote these insurance companies. 

Next, you’ll need to make sure you’re providing the right product information so your affiliates can promote your products correctly. There’s nothing worse than an affiliate promising features you can’t deliver. To that end, make sure you’re regularly communicating changes to your affiliates through a regular email blast. This should include any updated graphics or images along with any changes in brand messaging. Provide them with templates for blog posts, social media posts, and email blasts as well.

Finally, you’ll need to advertise your affiliate program and promotions. Depending on where the majority of your customers consume their information (email marketing, social media, etc.), you will position your promotional content accordingly. 

Check out Better Nurse, for example.

 A page on nursing programs A page on nursing programs

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Notice how the nursing BSN programs provide their own in-depth descriptions of the courses so that the affiliate promotes the course right.

You’re also going to need promotional materials to attract affiliates to your program. That means running an entire marketing campaign geared toward potential affiliates. This includes images, videos, and infographics detailing the benefits of your program. 

Remember, visual content sells, so create engaging and informative imagery while still remaining on brand. Video can be a great way to entice affiliates to sign on. Make sure that the affiliate program page on your website has an informational video for them to watch.

Another piece of content you’ll need to create to attract affiliates is copy. Create a standard direct message template when reaching out to a potential affiliate directly. You should also provide them with a copy template that they can use and tweak as needed. This will ensure they’re accurately showcasing your brand in a manner you feel comfortable with. 

However, you shouldn’t provide generic copy that sounds like something you’ve copied and pasted. Leave room for personalization. Mention their posts, their audience, and other things that are specific to them. That way it never seems spammy. 

This message copy should contain a link to your affiliate program page on your website.

4. Choose the technology for your affiliate marketing program

You’ll need a way to track affiliate sales, handle payments, and honor bonus schemes. You might also use technology to help you source affiliates.

If you’re using an affiliate platform like Clickbank or Shareasale, affiliate sales tracking is included. You’ll be able to see your monthly sales and create reports on the platforms.

Not only that, but these platforms put you directly in touch with affiliates. 

You’ll be listed in a directory and promoters can find your brand and add it to their website. This makes it far easier to find affiliates rather than having to make private deals.

Look at Creditfirm, for instance.

Creditfirm listed on a websiteCreditfirm listed on a website

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The credit repair company is using Shareasale to attract affiliates.

This makes it easy for affiliates to add Creditfirm’s affiliate links to its blogs on the best credit repair companies.

Alternatively, if you’re creating your own in-house affiliate program, you’ll need affiliate tracking software such as Tapfiliate and AnyTrack.io.

These software are useful for more than simply tracking affiliates. 

You can also create personal links for affiliates, create and share promotional materials, and create shareable social media posts.

5. Source high-quality affiliates

Keep in mind that you need 352 impressions to get a sale. 

This means you want high-quality affiliates with high volumes of monthly traffic.

While you’ll get lots of affiliates signing up through affiliate platforms, you can’t always count on them being strong customer magnets. 

You may have to build private affiliate deals as well to get those high numbers of impressions.

Imagine you’re a company that specializes in kid’s debit cards for example. 

You’re competing with all the big banking institutions like Chase, Fidelity, Wells Fargo and more. It makes it super difficult to rank at the top of Google since these legacy brands already hold the top spots.

However, with high-quality affiliates, you’ll get tons of impressions as they already have high traffic.

Take Greenlight, for instance. 

An instagram post showing a child with a credit cardAn instagram post showing a child with a credit card

(Image Source)

Mom influencers are highly trusted and popular on social media and are an excellent target for affiliate marketing for the Greenlight kid’s debit card. This influencer in particular has over 100,000 followers and this sponsored post received over 6,000 likes. This is a top-notch affiliate who’s going to rake in lots of impressions and clicks for the company. 

You’ll also have to determine the criteria for affiliates. For example, if they’re podcasts, you should ask to see their download numbers prior to approval and have a minimum number for acceptance. They also might need to have a minimum review score on iTunes. Something like a four-star minimum rating would work in your favor because it ensures that the majority of this show’s listeners approve of it. 

If it’s a social media influencer or blog, examine their page views or followers. You also need to ensure that the audience this influencer serves matches up with yours. 

Of course, you also have to ensure that you’re the right fit for these influencers. Be upfront about your cookie duration policy and payouts. If what you’re offering isn’t attractive enough for an influencer, it’s better they know up front before getting a nasty surprise and badmouthing you. 

Once you’ve determined who your ideal influencers are, it’s time to market to them directly. This can include broad stroke marketing like Google Ads, emails blasts, and targeted social media posts. But if you see certain potential affiliates with the right audience at the right volume, reach out to them directly on their social media platform of choice and directly ask them to come on board. 

Use the copy you wrote in step three to preach the praises of your program. You should have an affiliates page on your website. If you generate high traffic to your homepage, consider advertising your affiliate program somewhere on that central page. 

Conclusion

It’s not difficult to set up an affiliate marketing program, but you’ll be sorry if you don’t. Affiliates can help you reach new markets for a fraction of the cost.

But remember, while affiliate platforms will help you reach lots of affiliates, you can’t always guarantee these affiliates have big audiences. Make sure you’re looking out for high-quality affiliates with large followings.

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