Advanced Strategies for Affiliate Marketing
Recently, we laid out our foolproof way of launching your first successful affiliate marketing campaign for merchants just starting out. With this win firmly under your belt, it’s time to wade into deeper waters as you dive into this channel of generating sales. Having worked with hundreds of businesses who have taken that next step, we’ve learned quite a bit about how programs can and should grow. Here are the advanced ways to take your affiliate program to the next level and build on your success.
Nurture Your Reps (especially the best ones)
In many ways, your affiliate program is only as good as your reps. But there are definitely ways to get more from each of your partners if you’re willing to put in the work. Just like with customers, it’s usually easier to get more from a rep you already work with than to find a new one, so investing time into these relationships can pay off in spades.
A good affiliate partner relationship can last years, and that’s what you want to aim for since really good affiliate reps are more rare than you’d expect. Once you find one that returns great conversions, you will want to make sure you keep that rep on board. Here’s how to do just that:
Identify your top reps — you can’t cater to your best partners if you don’t know who they are. Check your metrics and figure out which rep is pulling in the best numbers. Remember, it may not be just about volume. Average Order Value (AOV) is a great metric to show you affiliate efficiency and a good stat to keep on your dashboard.
Maintain open communication — Don’t wait for your top reps to check in with you. Take initiative and check in on them, at least once a month, to see how they’re doing. Do they need content support? Do they know about your latest products & services? How satisfied are they with your partnership? Communication is everything in an affiliate relationship, so keep that channel available and friendly.
Reward them frequently — Again, your top reps are worth their weight in gold, so try your best to keep them happy. Frustrated or even slightly unhappy reps won’t hesitate to find a new merchant to work with. Keep affiliate churn down by compensating them well in both commissions and bonuses. For example:
- Bump up commission rates for your top reps.
- Gift them your latest products.
- Award seasonal bonuses.
And kind, encouraging words are used far too infrequently in business. Tell them how much you appreciate their work when you can. A little goes a long way.
Provide them with content — Being a productive rep isn’t an easy job. Coming up with content for social media, blog posts, and videos can take up time and calories. One of the best ways to ingratiate your reps is to create the content for them. The more they can cut & paste for their own use, the more they will enjoy working with you.
To this end, you can use a file share app (ie. Dropbox, Google Drive) and upload content as you create them. Provide your reps with exclusive access to these folders. With this online “resource desk” in place, you can easily propagate materials to your partners.
Provide them with new opportunities — It’s often hard for affiliate reps to market the same product or service day in and day out, especially if your business only does one thing. To hold their interest (and to keep commissions coming in), consider looking for cross-promotional opportunities with other companies.
For example, if you sell car insurance, can you link up with another business that sells renters insurance? If you sell t-shirts, can you work with someone who sells baseball caps? Allowing your affiliate reps to branch out and try something new can help hold their attention and enthusiasm.
Monitor Your KPI’s (and have clear goals)
We already touched on this, but taking an analytic approach to affiliate marketing is incredibly important for growth. Working with our merchants, we see over and over again that the one who take metrics serious are the one who find the most success.
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There are some real psychological hurdles here for merchants. For one, many business owners just don’t want to spend time playing with numbers. And because you’re technically outsourcing work to these reps who work off commission, there’s an idea that as long as sales are being made, it’s impossible to fail.
But that’s not how you grow. Like any other marketing or sales campaign, establishing clear goals and milestones is key to maximizing results.
For example, according to CoSpot, the average affiliate conversion rate is between 0.5% and 1%. Are your reps keeping pace with the average? What would happen to your revenue if you could increase that rate by just half a percent? And how would you get there?
Set goals for conversion rate, total sales, and AOV and plan how you can hit those goals on a quarterly or seasonal basis. Being methodical is crucial in taking your affiliate marketing wider.
Be THE Affiliate Program in Your Niche.
“I think I want to be a rep for a health supplement.”
“Oh, then you obviously have to sign up with [your brand here].”
What if your brand was THE go-to place for people who already love your niche and want to become an affiliate rep? Then you wouldn’t have to go fishing for new reps; they’d come to you. And you’d also get the best of the best partners. And all that means big revenue.
Call it a lofty goal, but that should be the end game for any merchant looking to get into affiliate marketing: you want your program to be the hottest one in town. You want your program to end up on a list like this:
So how can you make your program the talk of the ‘net?
- Offer the best commission rates. Easier said than done, but money talks. If you can pay more than your competition (and it still leave you a profit margin), you should consider it. And even if your margins are slimmer than you’d like, offering high rates can be a strategic move to position your brand’s affiliate campaigns as the top choice among your niche.
- Offer the best perks. Maybe your commission rate is par for the course, but no other brand can match the perks you offer. How can you treat your reps like superstars? Can you host meetups? Send them gifts and freebies? Discounts on partner brands? Fostering a sense of being part of a VIP club can propel your program in the affiliate circles in your niche.
- Be fun to work with. No rep wants to work with a dull company. Keep things light and fun as much as possible. For example, don’t dictate what sort of content your reps can and cannot create. As we said in our YouTube guide, give them the leeway to market your brand the way they want to (for the most part). Allowing for creativity is a great way to keep things fun.
- Be cool on your own. Finally, focus on the image and voice of your own brand. If you can cultivate a sense of cool regardless of the reps you work with, they’ll come to you. Our client Rice Love has an amazing story behind their brand, and it’s a great hook to bring in reps that legitimately want to work with them so they too can make a difference.
Taking these tips to heart can propel your affiliate marketing program to new heights. It’s not easy, but the rewards are well worth your effort!