If you have an affiliate program for your business, you’ll be working with the affiliate marketers who join. I’ve been affiliate marketing and managing affiliate programs for more than a couple of decades, so I know these tips will prevent a lot of headaches and ensure you gain maximum exposure from your partners. Treat them well and watch your sales jump!
22 Pro Tips for Working with Affiliate Marketers
1. Remember to place a link to your affiliate program details on your website. When marketers are looking for certain affiliates to promote, they usually search for their website first. It should lead to a page that tells affiliates all about your affiliate program, including how much you’re offering them. You can have the form on that page or a link to the sign-up form on your network’s site.
2. Approve applications in a timely manner, or use automatic approval. Otherwise, you may miss an opportunity to be promoted for a current project. For example, I often search for affiliate programs that are suitable for an article I’m writing. If it takes days to be approved for the program, chances are I won’t go back and add you unless you’re paying a very high commission.
3. Make it easy to link to you. I’ve gone through dozens of pages of links without being able to find a single one to the homepage, for example. It’s important to use software or an affiliate network that facilitates “deep linking” so affiliates can create their own link to a specific page/product on your website.
4. Your advertising graphics should be high quality and have a clear call to action that’s easy to read. Your partners don’t want to mess up their site with low quality images, and it could be enough for them to decide against promoting you. Optimize banners to the lowest file size possible WITHOUT sacrificing quality.
5. Do not include your website URL or phone number on banners intended for affiliates. Nobody wants to make it easy for visitors to bypass them and lose commissions.
6. Extend special offers of a higher commission to some affiliates. A mistake often made with this strategic move is basing the decision on traffic alone. Your competition will be greater on the most popular websites anyway. Instead, select affiliates who are specifically targeting your ideal market, such as Canadian niche bloggers. Lure them into your program with higher commission rates, exclusive deals and coupons, samples, merchandise, company swag, performance bonuses, contests and free affiliate training.
7. Arrange special promotions with individual affiliates, such as supplying products for blog contests or paying for a sponsored post. Don’t be afraid to work outside the standard program box and ask them about their PR options. For example, on several sites we have a “we use it” option, in which the advertiser supplies a high-end product like a laptop, and in return we promote it as our product of choice whenever the opportunity arises (supposing we do, in fact, like it).
8. Offer products for reviews. It’s much easier to sell something you’ve used yourself. Don’t be stingy. For example, nobody is going to be excited by free access to a program for a couple of months, just give them a membership and let them promote it over and over again.
9. Keep affiliates updated with emails, but don’t go overboard. The most successful affiliate marketers are very busy and you don’t want to annoy them with repeated “how can I help you” emails or the like. Instead, include a blurb in each of your update emails, encouraging your affiliates to contact you if they need anything and mention what what you can offer them.
10. Encourage affiliates to follow your company blog and make sure you keep it updated. If you have an in-house program, consider having a blog specifically for your affiliates.
11. Provide content for websites and email newsletters. Good content should be useful to the reader, with the promotion being so subtle it almost looks like an accident. Encourage publishers to customize articles to avoid duplicate content penalties from search engines.
12. Make it easy to promote your products by including the affiliate’s ID in the ad code when you send out newsletters. For example, if you’re promoting Boxing Day deals, include the personalized code for banners and text links so the affiliate can easily copy and paste. The easier it is to promote you, the more you’ll be promoted.
13. Give your affiliates a heads-up on promotions. They should know about them as soon as you do. Sending “today only” deals isn’t practical for most affiliates. If you’re having a one-day sale, give them some notice so they can plan a promotion.
14. Don’t hold affiliates responsible for “charge reversal” items unless it’s some kind of transaction fraud. The job of the marketer is to bring you the customers and it’s your job to keep those customers. Your partners are not responsible for merchandise returns or cancellations well after the sale.
15. Consider holding contests or offer bonuses as an incentive to make a first sale, increase sales, or even placing a certain type of link (such as a banner on the home page or a text link in a product review). Popular rewards or prizes are cash, gift cards, and electronics like iPads. You can get creative with this. For example, you could have a bonus offer that allows the affiliate to earn a free product if they make 10 sales of that product. Incentives are a much more effective tactic to increase sales than threats of program removal.
16. Avoid asking your partners to make changes in code. If you decide to stop carrying a product or switch networks, most affiliates will simply remove your links and not replace them with any of your links. They’re more likely to switch to a merchant who is more stable. If you must change banners frequently for legitimate reasons, such as holiday promotions, consider a dynamic solution that allows you to automatically update ad’s without bothering your affiliates. The same concerns apply to changing the page URL a product is on.
17. Think very carefully before reducing commission rates. The majority of affiliates will drop you or at least promote you less.
18. Don’t make ridiculous demands, like insisting your links be on the publisher’s homepage, only paying commissions for new customers, preapproving all posts that mention you, accusing people of copyright/keyword violation for common words (such as “Canadian”), or only allowing promotion of certain retail products and not paying commissions for the rest.
19. If you have an in-house program, place a log-in link on your website that’s easy for affiliates to find.
20. Include the affiliate manager’s contact information on your affiliate page and in every email. Listen to suggestions and answer questions in a timely manner.
21. Refrain from terminating (or threatening to terminate) affiliates that haven’t made sales. That same affiliate could be in your top 10 next year. Waiting to see if she will won’t cost you anything, but burning that bridge could very well cost you later. If you want to encourage them to start selling, make them a special offer for their first sale.
22. Remember that most Canadian affiliate marketers are extremely busy working with many merchants. Do everything you can to make their lives easier and keep in mind that they’re doing you a favour, not the other way around. You’re competing with other merchants who are vying for ad space. If you don’t value your affiliates, your competitors will happily do so.
If you haven’t launched an affiliate program yet, check out How to Start an Affiliate Program for a Canadian Business.
??? Do you have any tips or questions to add? Please share them in the comments below or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.