A Step-by-Step Guide to Affiliate Relationships
Building a relationship with affiliates is one of the most important factors for a successful affiliate program. After all, these affiliates are literally your link to potential customers. How well you work together is pretty significant to your overall affiliate marketing efforts.
And, at the foundation of this relationship is communication.
While the affiliate-advertiser relationship is crucial, we don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. To help, we’ve broken down how to communicate, what to communicate and when to communicate with your affiliates.
Here’s our step-by-step guide for successful affiliate relationships:
How to communicate:
As you begin your affiliate program, it’s important to be accessible and reliable when it comes to communication. Always provide affiliates with a way to contact you via email, messenger or phone; and reply as soon as you can to any inquires.
Aside from these general exchanges, there are a few more ways to reach your affiliates.
Engage your affiliates from the start. How you communicate during the onboarding process will set the tone for your program. This is the time to cover the important, need-to-know information of your program including login details, terms & conditions and commission specifics.
You can learn more about creating a successful affiliate onboarding here.
Announcements and notifications
Communicate pertinent, timely program information with announcements and notifications.
To directly reach affiliates, distribute any important information via email. Aim to be clear and to the point, so affiliates can quickly understand the message. This type of communication is more straightforward, and doesn’t require ‘fluffy’ language or detailed graphics.
With Tapfiliate, you’ll be able to set up email notification triggers. This automates announcements such as letting affiliates know when a commission or a payout is generated. Read more about how you can use email notifications for your program here.
Newsletters are a good way to touch base with affiliates with any relevant happenings. With a newsletter you can cover several topics and condense everything you want to say in one email. This way you don’t bombard an affiliate’s inbox with multiple emails.
Topics to cover include:
- Timely information related to your affiliate program
- New software updates & features
- Calendar of any upcoming sales or product launches
- Company & industry news
- Links to useful blogs or resources
- Contact information
Example from Amazon Associates
As we said, this is a good way to periodically keep in touch, but there are some limitations when it comes to sending a newsletter. A newsletter shouldn’t be used to distribute important information because it could be overlooked when placed among other content.
Also, be sure to evaluate how often you are sending a newsletter. Generally, a newsletter is sent monthly. But if you see low open rates, it probably means that affiliates are losing interest - so it would be more beneficial to send quarterly.
We recommend mailing services like MailChimp or Constant Contact. These applications allow you to easily design and distribute newsletters to your affiliate mailing list. You’ll also be able to see open rates, clicks and bounced emails.
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Affiliate forums provide a more convenient and casual space for affiliates to come together, fostering a digital community.
Not only does this give you the opportunity to connect with affiliates, but it also allows affiliates to connect with one another. Affiliates can share tips, discuss any successes or challenges, and offer overall encouragement to one another.
Popular group forum sites include Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, Slack or Reddit threads. Find the right forum for your affiliates by asking how they use the internet, what social media they use most and if they prefer mobile or desktop.
Communication doesn’t need to be limited to email. Some affiliates might value a face-to-face interaction, giving a more personal experience to get to know one another.
Host monthly “office hours” to allow affiliates to come to you with anything they would want to discuss. With this approach, affiliates that aren’t seeking constant communication won’t feel forced into a meeting; and then for affiliates who want more, there is time available to have direct conversations with you.
Set aside 2-5 hours a month, depending on the size and complexity of your affiliate program. Share your office hour times during onboarding and through newsletters, and provide a sign up link for meeting times.
Skype, Google Hangout and Zoom are popular for these types of face-to-face meeting.
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What to communicate with affiliates
Wondering what you should be sharing with affiliates? Each program will have different needs, but overall the idea is to keep your affiliates in the loop and supported in their marketing efforts.
Here are some content ideas for your program:
“How To” info
As soon as an affiliate joins a program, it’s important to communicate all the “how to” information. This is typically shared during onboarding, but should be readily available for anytime an affiliate needs help.
Important program “how to” information includes:
- How to Login
- Dashboard navigation, including where to retrieve affiliate links
- When and how affiliate commissions will be paid out
Additional “how to” information that can be helpful:
- A glossary of relevant terms
- A “wiki” of your products/services with descriptions & examples
- Marketing materials and/or marketing ideas
- An updated list of social media image & banner sizes
- A list of blogs about affiliate marketing (like the Tapfiliate blog ;))
Affiliates are a great way to promote new product updates.
Keep your affiliates in the know for any product updates, especially if they offer a new selling angle. Affiliates can provide review of the update or a tutorial to show differences in functionality.
It’s important to communicate with affiliates prior to any updates becoming available. Give time for affiliates to ask questions, fully understand the update (especially for software) and create content around it. Then, when it comes time to launch, affiliates will be fully prepared and can begin promoting immediately.
Plus, this will make your affiliates be part of the process and engaged with your program.
Much like product updates, you’ll want to inform affiliates about any upcoming sales or promotions you’ll be having. Affiliates can create specific content, such as a blog of their favorite discounted items or a social media image that says “Sale” in full view.
Provide clear information about the promotion. This includes:
- The date of the sale & how long it will run
- The discounts that are offered
- Any terms & conditions of the sale, such as discounts don’t apply to certain items
- Sale specific phrases, titles or taglines, like “Hello Spring Sale” or “Spend more – Save more”
- Any photos or graphics specific to the sale
Be clear for when affiliates can begin promoting the sale, so they do not promote too early and tip off competitors.
Media and press mentions
Media or press coverage makes for great affiliate promotional materials.
This is particularly true for any positive reviews or ratings. Affiliates can use testimonials or endorsements as part of their promotional materials - for example using “As featured in Forbes” or “Voted Top Product of the Year”.
Consider how different company initiatives can be used for affiliate marketing.
For example, retailer REI places an emphasis on stewardship, even making news by closing all stores in the US for Black Friday and urging shoppers to go outdoors using the slogan “Opt Outside”. This has made great promotional material for affiliates. One blogger wrote “be a part of a company that gives back and supports causes you care about” and finished the article with an affiliate link. Without even mentioning any products, this blogger was able to market REI and drive traffic to their site.
Image from localadventurer.com
Sustain a strong relationship with affiliates by being transparent in your affiliate program. Communicate any changes, big or small, that will impact affiliates. This includes updated terms & conditions, modifications to the commission structure, any tracking software updates, etc.
Example from Apple Affiliate Program
Communicating with affiliates is not only a way to keep in touch, but also a way to help them be successful.
If an affiliate is performing well, be sure to congratulate them with a personal note. It’s important to recognize their efforts and show your appreciation.
For affiliates that aren’t performing so well, there may need to be a more in-depth conversation. Check in with affiliates who have low conversions to see if there is anything hindering their efforts and how you can better help them promote. You can start by reaching out with a friendly email; and then consider a more in-depth conversation like an individual meeting we mentioned before.
At the end of the year, create an annual overview for affiliates. Use this overview to wrap up the year, highlight your affiliate’s work and arrange plans for the upcoming year.
This can be through email or your monthly newsletter, depending on how personalized you’d like to make it.
Things you may want to cover include:
- Affiliate stats for the year (how many conversions, commission earned, etc.)
- Plans for the upcoming year such as sale dates or commission bonuses
- Any notable achievements or updates from the company overall
- Changes to any terms & conditions, updated contact information
- Set goals and expectations for the next year
Survey your program
Understand how you are doing. Survey affiliates to get feedback on what they like about your program and what could be improved.
Survey with ratings work great to get quick feedback. But, also include some open-ended questions where you can receive direct responses in greater detail.
Here are some useful questions to ask:
- Do you feel like you have everything you need to be successful?
- What has been challenging?
- What has been most helpful?
- How well do you understand the business/products?
- What can we do to make the program better?
- Which type of communication do you prefer? How often?
When to reach out to affiliates
As you can see, there’s a lot of ways you can reach out to your affiliates and develop a strong relationship. And while there’s a lot to share, try your best to avoid bombarding affiliates with hundreds of messages that flood their inbox.
Consider making a calendar of when you’ll send out your communications. This establishes contact with affiliates throughout the year, in a manageable and effective way.
Daily: Communicate with your affiliates daily via email for any questions or concerns they have. Always be accessible and prompt for these inquiries.
Routinely: Check in monthly or quarterly with newsletters, product updates, upcoming sales, media mentions and individual meetings.
Once a year: Overviews recapping the year and surveys can be sent annually.
As needed: Outside of this schedule, reach out to affiliates as needed for things such as performance discussions or changes to your program. This also includes the “how to” information shared during onboarding, as it may also be useful resources to send for further helping affiliates or answering their questions.
We’ve covered a lot of different ways to communicate with affiliates, but as we said don’t feel overwhelmed. Start with an email to introduce yourself to your affiliates and then you can begin implementing the rest of your communication plan at your own pace.
For more on affiliate management, be sure to regularly check our blog for more updates.