5 Reasons Why Your Affiliate Program Doesn’t Bring Results

Affiliate program result-01

With more than 16% of all online orders coming from affiliate marketing programs, there is no doubt that the influence of affiliate programs on businesses’ growth in the future will increase.

Companies like Amazon, Ebook, and Home Depot have already built successful affiliate programs that other e-commerce businesses are looking to copy.

While it is always easier for more prominent e-commerce brands to attract affiliate marketers, smaller e-commerce businesses struggle to make their affiliate programs bring the expected results.

By attracting high-performing affiliates to work for your brand, you significantly increase your program’s chances to succeed. Just take a look at the Making Sense of Cents blog and its founder Michelle who makes 70% of her blog income ($100,000 monthly) through referral marketing and affiliate sales.

Making sense of cents example
Source: Making Sense of Cents

Every business that aims to grow its affiliate program wants to work with the affiliates who sell affiliate products as crazy.

There is just so much low-hanging fruit to generate revenue with affiliate marketing for your business! However, sometimes you can’t reach these opportunities due to the blockers causing your affiliate program to underperform.

In this article, I will walk you through the main mistakes that founders usually make when working with affiliate marketers. You will also understand how you can fix these mistakes and generate more revenue with affiliate programs. So let’s dive into the guide to affiliate marketing for 2020 and beyond!

1. Not tracking results

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. By neglecting analytics, you can’t tell if your affiliate program is booming, and, as a result, you cannot prepare a strategy to improve it.

How can you be more data-driven with your program to make more money with your affiliate program?

Let’s start by defining the key affiliate marketing KPIs that you will need to measure your program’s success.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for affiliation programs:

  • Click traffic meaning how many clicks your program gets from your affiliates
  • Conversion rate standing for the proportion of clicks to purchases
  • Effective earning per click (eEPC) representing the proportion of revenue to click
  • Total revenue per Affiliate
  • Average Order Value (AOV)

After choosing the metrics to track performance, you have to define what will make your affiliate program succeed – measurable success criteria.

For example, one of your success criteria can be a 7% conversion rate from clicks and $200 monthly revenue for one affiliate.

Your program may underperform, and you see that you don’t generate the revenue you have expected. Just don’t give up yet! It is the moment you need your analytical mind the most. Get back to numbers – click traffic, conversion rate, total revenue per affiliate, etc. – and try to understand what causes your affiliate program to underperform.

Another example, you see that your conversion rate has reached your target, but you simply don’t get enough clicks to reach monthly revenue targets. In this case, you might think of a new strategy to fix it. Try to work on the metrics that don’t satisfy you.

If this is click traffic, think of how you can support your affiliates at driving more clicks to your program — like sharing some of nurturing email sequences that they could use or some marketing tactics that worked for other affiliates in the past.

2. Recruiting the wrong affiliates

One of the reasons for a failing affiliate program are affiliates themselves. When your affiliates bring no revenue to your business, you start looking for faults in their marketing strategy and tactics.

Often, the problem doesn’t relate to affiliate marketing strategies but affiliates themselves.

Suppose you have very loose qualification criteria for your affiliates. In that case, you might happen to reach the wrong audience that will never buy your product.

Just imagine promoting a coding school on a website for a senior audience or nutritional products on a gardening website. Such affiliation doesn’t make sense, right?

It’s no wonder that some brands choose their affiliates randomly, as finding the right affiliate partner is not a piece of cake these days.

Almost half of the affiliates – 42.2% – limit their affiliate promotion campaigns to at highest ten brands. This limited cooperation volume causes brands to struggle with finding partners.

Affiliate promotions
Source: Affiliate Summit

Instead of compromising the quality of cooperation by recruiting random affiliates, dedicate more time to vetting affiliates. Choose quality over the number of affiliates.

How can you recruit more effective affiliates?

Define what audience you want to reach with your product. Create your ideal customer profile and then search for blogs and portals that your customer persona would typically visit.

Make sure you include the requirement for becoming an affiliate on your page and vet candidates. For example, Shopify is clear about working with websites attracting e-commerce founders looking to move to another store platform.

Shopify affiliate marketing
Source: Shopify

Create your affiliate partner persona by defining the key characteristics. You have to determine what aspects are crucial for you.

For example, here are some of the ideas for your qualification criteria:

  • Previous experience in promoting products from your industry
  • Affiliate programs the chosen affiliate is currently promoting
  • Previous experience catering content to your customer persona
  • Websites where your product will be promoted

Your goal should be finding a partner that has worked with similar companies to yours in the past. A great affiliate partner understands your customer demographics and has the right content in place on their website to help promote your products.

Their websites are correctly aligned with your niche and have perfect health – high page speed, plenty of traffic, and a good reputation online.

You might choose to go with an extended list of criteria or simply select a different set of standards than those suggested above.

The bottom line – you always have to approach your affiliates’ recruitment in a strategic and well-thought-out way. Your affiliates should check the majority of the checkboxes to qualify

3. Not providing onboarding to affiliates

You can’t expect your affiliates to sign up and generate revenue just right away. They also need your input to get started!

Even though your affiliates have probably been doing affiliate marketing for some time and know what to expect from new cooperation, they still need some guidance and materials to start selling right away.

How can you onboard your affiliates better?

Provide your affiliates with a “Get started” guide to make it easier for them to kickstart cooperation once they have declared their participation in your program and were approved.

Put yourself in the boots of your affiliate when creating this guide. What would they need to get started?

Consider including the following elements in your onboarding guide:

  • Guidance on setting affiliate links
  • Your branding materials and graphics
  • Choosing the right product to promote
  • Tips on starting the promotion

Take a look at the onboarding guide of Thrive Themes – this is an extensive educational resource for affiliates that get things clear from the very beginning:

Affiliate resources example
Source: Thrive Themes Affiliate Resources Database

A good start comes down to an understanding of your products by your affiliates.

The sooner they understand your products and how to promote them, the faster the first sales come.

Ensure your affiliates understand the following aspects before they get down to promotion of your products:

  • What products your company offers
  • The value proposition of your products
  • Your brand voice
  • Your ideal customer and its demographics

For example, Tidio offers an affiliate program for entrepreneurs who would like to promote chatbots to their audience. As chatbots are quite complicated technology, it’s important that their affiliates have a deep understanding of this tool.

Tidio example
Source: Tidio

Apart from that, you also have to share some of your business’s know-how to help your affiliates perform better:

  • Any useful data about your customer demographics
  • Best performing traffic sources and channels

Sometimes, it is worth having an affiliate manager from your company to manage relations with your affiliates. By making sure your affiliates understand your business’s nitty-gritty, you help your affiliate program bring higher results.

4. Poor marketing of your affiliate program

It can happen that you don’t push your affiliate program’s promotion – even though you have plenty of traffic on the page, your program’s information is not easy to find.

How can you promote your affiliate program better?

Make information about your program easy to find
Consider featuring the link to the page with the affiliate program in the main menu or footer navigation.

This way, you follow a good SEO practice of making it easier for Google robots to discover your affiliate program page and, as a result, rank it better. You also make it easier for website visitors and current clients to find out about your program.

Build trust with potential affiliates
Use testimonials and case studies of your affiliate partners who are happy working with your brand. Just take a look at how LeadPages uses their affiliates to build trust with the partners currently considering to apply for the program.

Leadpages example
Source: Leadpages

Outreach your potential affiliates
You can try a more direct and highly targeted approach to outreaching the influencers you want to become your affiliates.

After you have done your research on potential partners, create an outreach message, and a couple of follow up messages to send out.

Remember to always show value first before mentioning how great your program is! Focus on the potential benefits for your future partners in your outreach.

Show a call to action throughout the buying process
Treat your current clients as potential affiliate partners. Provide a clear call to action leading to a landing page with your affiliate program on order and checkout pages.

You can also use a Tapfiliate’s Affiliate Recruitment feature to automatically send an affiliate link to customers in an email and add them to your affiliation program.

5. No time to learn from mistakes

Online business is volatile – competitive background changes, Google modifies its algorithms, new page performance standards form, and customers become more pragmatic.

The inability to adjust your online business to a new reality can cause your affiliate program to underperform.

Here are a few things you can continuously improve depending on whether your affiliates drive traffic to your landing pages or build their landing pages to promote and sell your products. Let’s look into both cases.

Here are some of the common issues your program can encounter in no matter who controls sales pages – you or your affiliates:

  • Landing page speed
  • Quality of copywriting
  • Page user experience (UX) and design or user interaction (UI)

Learning cycle if you own your landing pages
Do A/B tests on your landing pages where affiliates drive traffic. By tweaking just a few things, you can significantly increase the conversion rate.

It might happen that affiliates don’t generate the expected results because your product landing pages load too slow, have awful design and user experience, or don’t communicate a value proposition effectively.

Learning cycle for your affiliates
By gathering the information about the page conversion rate from all of your affiliates and analyzing their marketing strategies, you can learn about the practices that perform better among your best affiliates and provide page optimization suggestions for your low-performing affiliates.

Make sure you analyze as much data as possible to come up with better recommendations for your and your affiliates’ pages.

What is an average conversion rate? There are no apparent answers – you have to benchmark against your best-performing affiliates or rely on industry standards.

Here are how the standards for the selected industries look now.

Lead generation by industry

Wrap up

Even though it is harder for smaller brands to attract high-performing affiliate partners, you can improve the performance of your affiliate program by introducing a few fixes to the most common issues of affiliate programs. Let’s recap them fast:

1) Track your affiliate program performance.
2) Create criteria for vetting affiliate partners.
3) Provide better onboarding for your affiliates.
4) Promote your marketing program better.
5) Learn from your mistakes and optimize.

Sometimes, the path to a better performing affiliate program lies in a set of small improvements and fixes you can make just now!

Margo Ovsiienko

Margo Ovsiienko is a Growth Marketing Strategist. She creates content that converts website visitors into paying customers for SaaS companies and tech agencies. She is writing on her hands on experience in marketing on her personal blog, Margo Leads.

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