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$8.2 billion.

That’s how much affiliate marketing spend is expected to reach in 2022.

With affiliate marketing on the rise, it just makes sense that you invest time and resources into starting an affiliate program.

However, an affiliate program alone won’t cut it. You need to recruit, engage, and activate the right affiliate partners who can actually drive sales. 

But for your army of affiliate partners to be effective, you need to know what they actually want — and give it to them consistently. That’s why I want to share five lessons I learned about what affiliate partners really want from brands they’re promoting.

My name’s Adam Enfroy and I’m an affiliate manager turned affiliate.

In my previous life back in 2018, I was the Affiliate Partnerships Manager at BigCommerce and responsible for over 4,000 affiliate partners. 

I built relationships with our affiliates and learned a lot about SEO and other affiliate marketing best practices. Many of the affiliates I was managing were making serious money, so I decided to try it for myself. 

So in 2019, I started my own blog and soon turned it into a full-time business and one of the fastest growing blogs ever created. Today, I write to 500,000 monthly readers and make over $100k per month, primarily from affiliate income. 

In short, I’ve seen both sides of the affiliate partnership world, and that has greatly helped me run a profitable blog.

Here are the five lessons I learned along the way to help build successful affiliate partnerships.

1. Content and affiliate teams need to work together

One of the biggest lessons I learned about affiliate marketing is the importance of content and affiliate teams working together.

Content plays a huge role for both brands and their affiliate partners. Besides helping with rankings and engaging your target audience, content is crucial to helping convert and retain customers. As a result, both you and your affiliate partners generate revenue.

That’s precisely why you need to be involved in the content creation process. 

Remember, your affiliates help amplify and scale your brand’s message by appearing where your brand can’t. So their content is just as important to you as it is to them. Besides, there’s only one top spot on search engine results pages (SERPs). Even if you own it, you can increase your chances of generating more revenue by helping your affiliate partners dominate the other nine slots on Google’s SERPs.

To help your affiliates do this, you must partner with them in creating, and even providing, content. This can be content in the form of list posts, review content, infographics, and any other kind of content that helps boost their marketing.

Another way you can help your affiliate partners is by allowing your top affiliate partners to contribute guest posts on your blog. Doing so helps them obtain some backlinks that help their websites increase their domain authority. You can also help them work on content partnerships with other publications in your network.

Because content plays a huge role in you and your affiliate partners’ success, you must encourage meaningful partnerships between your content team and your affiliate team. 

2. Brands need competitive commission rates

One mistake many brands make when running affiliate programs is to think that affiliates and content sites are desperate for affiliate programs. Because of this, they offer affiliate partners low commission rates.

You need to realize that affiliates and content sites are brands too. Some of them are even large companies — like the Wirecutter, an affiliate website run by the New York Times.

With that in mind, you must realize that just like your brand, affiliates are businesses. Because of that, they want to be compensated competitively for the effort they put in promoting your products. If you don’t provide your affiliate partners with competitive commission rates, they’ll prioritize other affiliate programs that do. 

Their activities revolve primarily around affiliate programs that make them more money. If you want that to be you — you guessed it — you must make it worth their while by offering better commission rates.

3. Brands need strong conversion rates

Another thing that your affiliate partners need from your affiliate program is strong conversion rates.

There’s nothing as frustrating as investing time and other resources in creating content and a funnel that sends tons of visitors to an affiliate product, only for that traffic to be wasted. 

Affiliates that are promoting your product need you to work on optimizing your website, product pages, landing pages, or the trial experience if you’re a SaaS brand.  

Your affiliates depend on you to improve your conversion rates, as this helps improve their earnings per click (EPC). A better EPC translates to more revenue for your affiliates, thereby encouraging them to drive more traffic to your website.

4. Affiliates want affiliate commission incentives

Every affiliate program has unicorn affiliate partners. These affiliate partners drive a lot of traffic to your product and thus help generate a lot of revenue for your brand. You must reward this type of affiliates with higher commission rates than the brand’s base insertion order (IO) or contract. 

Sure, affiliate marketing is a form of performance marketing, and all affiliates are rewarded (on a commission basis) according to the amount of traffic they drive to your affiliate program. 

However, the commission you stipulate in your contract mustn’t be set in stone. Leave a bit of wiggle room to allow you to give top performers better commission incentives. This will instill confidence in them that they can work with your brand on a long-term basis. 

Another reason you should consider giving top-performing affiliates better commission incentives is that it will also encourage other affiliates to work hard. You can either have a section on your website where you display top affiliates or simply include them in your monthly newsletter. 

The bottom line is that everyone wants to be rewarded for their hard work. Make your top-performing affiliates feel appreciated by rewarding them with commission incentives.

5. Top partners want deeper partnerships

During my days as an affiliate manager, I realized that many affiliates, especially the top performers, wanted to develop deeper relationships with our brand. 

It’s the same everywhere — your affiliates want to develop deeper relationships with you.

The success of every business relies on developing strong partnerships with your key stakeholders. And your affiliates are some of your most important stakeholders as they’re an integral part of your salesforce. 

And to get the most out of your symbiotic relationship with your affiliates, you must invest time and resources into developing deep partnerships with your top affiliates. A few ways you can do just that include:

You can also segment your affiliates and reach out to them regularly with personalized offers. The point of developing relationships with your affiliates is to help them succeed. When your affiliates succeed, you succeed.

Things affiliates don’t care about

While it’s important to know what your affiliates need from you, it’s also essential that you know and avoid what they don’t care about. Sometimes, these are things many affiliate managers do without realizing they’re stepping on their affiliates’ toes.

Much like there are plenty of things that partners are looking for, there are also common things offered that affiliates are not interested in. 

  • Social sharing posts for partners

One offer that I get a lot is that if I start promoting a company, that company will promote a post of mine on social media. That offer simply isn’t good enough. You need to offer something better in the form of a deeper content partnership or commission incentive.

  • Asking for free mentions

Another pet peeve that affiliate marketers face is being asked to mention a brand in a list post — without offering them anything in return. I’ve gotten a ton of these emails, and they don’t provide enough value for me to fulfill their request.

  • Testing out your product

Testing out your software or product is something else affiliates don’t really care for. I know this goes against conventional wisdom, but affiliates want to make money. They don’t necessarily care about a free trial or free product unless it is highly relevant to them and boosts revenue.

Ultimately, no affiliate wants to work for free. Writing a ton of content, spending time testing out a product, and even posting on social media is a lot of work. And expecting your affiliates to do that for free is unfair. 

Any testing you require your affiliates to do must come with a CPA deal. Not only will this encourage participation, but it also helps your affiliates reach their business goals.

The success of your affiliate program depends on the happiness of your affiliate partners

Designing an affiliate program is a lot of work. There are a lot of moving parts that determine whether it succeeds or not.

And one critical element that impacts the performance of your affiliate program is how you manage your affiliates.

The success of every affiliate program depends on making your affiliate partners happy. After all, if they are happy to promote your products or services, they’ll help you generate more revenue. To make them happy, you must understand that they, like you, have business motivations that drive them. Help them achieve those by:

  • Helping them with their content marketing
  • Incentivize them with better commission rates
  • Improve the conversion rates on your website
  • Develop deep relationships with them

So go ahead and supercharge your affiliate program with the tips above. With a team of happy affiliates doing the groundwork for you, you’ll be able to reach audiences you would have otherwise been unable to reach. 

Guest author biography

With over 500,000 monthly readers, Adam Enfroy’s mission is to teach the next generation of online entrepreneurs how to scale their influence at startup speed. 

Impact can help you get what you want. Contact a growth technologist at grow@impact.com

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