11 Strategies for Building Long-Term Affiliate Relationships
When building a solid and successful affiliate program for your business, you want to make sure you not only find quality affiliates but that you keep them.
This is where relationship building and nurturing comes in. By having clear communication and a strong relationship with your affiliates, they’ll feel better about promoting your business and likely have more success.
But how do you get started? We’ve put together this guide on building long-term affiliate relationships that will keep affiliates sending you new customers again and again.
Why You Should Build Affiliate Relationships
Let’s look at it this way. You’ve put all this effort into finding great affiliates to work with and promote your business. What’s next?
After you’ve found that perfect affiliate – one whose audience aligns nearly perfectly with your own – you don’t want to stop the relationship there. You want to ensure your affiliates continue to be happy with your brand and promote your products.
That’s why it’s important to put in that same level of work to maintain these relationships and help them get the most out of your affiliate program.
Not only does this help your brand seem more trustworthy and credible to their audience, but it’s also more time and cost effective on your end.
An affiliate program should be a win-win situation for both your business (you reach a new audience and get sent new customers) and your affiliates (they get a percentage of the new business they send your way).
However, if you’re not providing clear-cut tips and communication on how your affiliates can maximize their profit potential, you’re setting them up for failure and ruining any chance you had to reach their audience.
To help combat this, we’ve put together 11 strategies for relationship building with your affiliates.
How to Build Affiliate Relationships
You’ve created an affiliate program, you’ve set your commission rates, you’ve brought in affiliates and now you’re all finished, right? Just smooth sailing from here on out.
Now you need to nurture those relationships and ensure the affiliates you’ve worked so hard to bring in actually see success.
Here are 11 tips for helping you get started.
1. Be Transparent
First and foremost, you always want to be open and transparent with your affiliates about your expectations as well as what they should expect from you.
A great way to do this is by putting together a document or packet that clearly lays out everything your affiliates need to know from the start so there’s no missing or hidden information.
This document can include information like commissions, fees, terms & conditions, etc.
We see one example of what this document could look like from HubSpot.
While theirs includes much more legal jargon than you might want, it showcases the kinds of information and fine print you’d want to have readily available for your affiliates.
2. Communicate Regularly
Don’t just bring in affiliates and then immediately leave them to their own devices. You want to set them up for success right off the bat and maintain that success throughout your relationship.
There are several ways that you can do this, but all of them require regular communication. It might even be worth it to hire an affiliate manager to help ensure none of your affiliates feel neglected or left out.
Keep in touch by creating a blog filled with resources and helpful information on how to succeed as affiliates. Use a content calendar to make sure you update it regularly with new information, including any sales, product launches and promotions your affiliates might want to know about.
You can also create an email newsletter specifically for your affiliates and use this to let them know about any updates/changes or put together a weekly status report to keep each affiliate on the same page.
These regular communications are also great ways to give your affiliates even more ideas of how to best promote your product(s) so they make more money and you generate more customers.
Take a look at this newsletter from Printful to get an idea of what you could include in your own. Personalize the email by including their affiliate earnings for the month, share helpful resources, include affiliate program news/updates and end with tips for improving their sales.
3. Ask for Feedback
In order to truly succeed at anything, you have to be receptive to feedback and willing to make improvements. Just like any strategy, you likely won’t get it right the first time, and asking for feedback directly from your affiliates can be a great way to make appropriate changes.
Create an open area for your affiliates to give you feedback – good or bad – or even for them to request changes or make suggestions. Regularly put together affiliate surveys to ask what everyone thinks of your affiliate program.
Letting your affiliates have some of the power when it comes to decision-making helps them feel valued and like you care about them.
Here’s an example of an email Amazon sent to its affiliates back in 2018 prompting them to take a survey of their experience.
4. Showcase Top Affiliates
One great way to help your affiliates feel valued is by recognizing when they do great work. When affiliates over-perform, always make sure to acknowledge them.
Performance might be based on a number of different things, depending on how your business model runs. An e-commerce site might want to focus on overall volume while SaaS products might focus more on the plan tier the affiliates brought it.
You can choose to spotlight the top-performing affiliate or include a list of the top 3-5 affiliates in your affiliate newsletter or blog. Other ideas include offering a reward/bonus when they meet certain benchmarks or even sharing an affiliate spotlight in your brand’s social media platforms.
This is also a great way to promote your affiliate program to new potential partners. For example, Campus Protein features their partners as a way to showcase the benefits of becoming an affiliate — this highlights unique perks such as partner discounts, ability to gain marketing and sales experience, and even the opportunity to land a fulltime job with the team.
5. Provide Discounts to New Affiliates
When you start your affiliate program, most of your new affiliates will likely be familiar with your product or service. However, as you grow, you’ll reach more and more interested parties, and you want to make sure they’re well-versed in what you offer so they can properly promote them.
That’s why you should consider offering free or discounted products to brand new affiliates so they can get the full scope of what they’ll be promoting to their audience.
Even if you do vet affiliates to ensure they’re already users of your product, providing a discount is still a great way to let them try out new offerings that you launch over the years.
6. Offer Incentives
We touched on this briefly when talking about ways to showcase top affiliates, but it’s important so I want to do a bit of a deeper dive.
Yes, you’re already giving affiliates a percentage of the sales they bring in. But one way to keep affiliates excited about your program and continuously promoting your products or services is by offering additional incentives.
You can do this by creating a tiered commission structure that pays out a higher percentage based on how many new customers are brought in. Or you might simply give out rewards and freebies when affiliates hit certain milestones.
Whatever makes sense for your affiliate program works, but keep in mind that offering incentives is a great way to keep your affiliates excited about your program and loyal to your brand.
To get an idea of what has worked for other businesses, here’s how Leadpages sets up their commission structure.
7. Personalize Communication
Helping your partners and affiliates feel valued is key to keeping them around for the long run, and one way you can do that is by personalizing your communication so you’re sending as helpful information as possible.
Try segmenting out your affiliates based on their niche or their level of influence. This can help you send information as specific and personalized as possible to the types of marketing they’d be doing for you.
You should also try to get to know your affiliates and show that you really care about each of them individually as well. Try creating a Facebook group or other online community that gives you a more one-on-one communication method.
Or you can pull a page out of Constant Contact’s book and offer personalized, dedicated support for all of your affiliates.
8. Choose Affiliates Wisely
When you first create an affiliate program, it can be tempting to approve anyone and everyone who applies. But you want to be sure you’re always purposeful about approving affiliates so you have the best, most closely aligned people working with you.
Some companies auto-approve anyone, but others like Kajabi require you to be a user of their software if you’re going to promote it.
Regardless of how you want to choose your affiliates, it’s important to at least set up an application process.
You’ll want to include things in your affiliate application like:
- Email Address
- PayPal Email Address (so they can get paid)
- Method of Promotion
- Social Media Platforms
- Audience Demographics
- Number of Followers
- Number of Email List Subscribers
You can take a look at Teachable’s quick and painless application to get an idea.
9. Provide Branded Assets
If your affiliates are going to properly promote your brand and see success, you want to make sure their graphics and promotional materials look good and are on brand.
The best way to do this is to put together brand guidelines that help your affiliates know the exact colors, fonts and messaging to you. Include download files as well as high-resolution versions of your logo.
To make things even easier, consider providing a variety of premade promotional assets like copy, social media graphics, story graphics, website banners and more. This makes things easy on your affiliates and helps you ensure you approve of all promotions surrounding your brand.
10. Be Responsive
While we can probably all agree that responsiveness helps with nearly any working relationship, it also rings true with keeping affiliates happy and engaged.
If you’re able to have a full support team, that’s perfect. Ensure your affiliates have clear content information to that team or anyone else who can most directly assist them.
But just as important, ensure those in charge are responsive and consistent in providing help in a timely manner so your affiliate program keeps a good reputation. You don’t want to lose valued affiliates because you or your support team weren’t able to help them out quick enough.
It’s a good idea to put a process in place – or even consider using project management software or an agile marketing strategy – to make sure no communication gets left behind.
11. Stay on Top of Payments
Last but not least, one of the best ways to keep affiliates for the long run is to ensure your payment process is quick, easy and always on time.
Be clear and upfront about how you transmit payments as soon as your affiliates apply. Like we mentioned earlier in Teachable’s application, they ask for a PayPal email address right from the start so there’s no miscommunication in where commissions need to be sent.
Include pay periods, commission structure and any other essential information about sending payments in your affiliate guidelines so that everyone knows how to expect their earnings.
And even more importantly, don’t ever be late with your payments. This is the fastest way to cause top affiliates to lose faith in your program.
Start Building Affiliate Relationships Today
Excited to start nurturing and solidifying those relationships with your affiliates? Keep each of these 11 tips in mind and always be sure to stay on top of affiliate marketing trends each year. If you do, you’re sure to have a top-notch affiliate program that influencers are excited to join.