So you’re starting an affiliate program.
Or maybe you already have one, but most of your affiliate partners are sh*t and you’re trying to figure out what went wrong so you aren’t left arm wrestling another batch of them.
My hope and prayer is that this blog answers those questions so you aren’t pulling your hair out when yet another affiliate postpones their campaign.
Let’s start with some warning signs, shall we?
The following never make for good affiliates:
Take a few weeks to respond to your emails.
No autoresponder, no message from their assistant. Maybe a half-assed apology about why they were delayed. While business people do tend to be busy, we also prioritize what’s important to us. If they really want to build a solid partnership, they’ll be more responsive to your emails - even if it’s just a, “Hey, we’re in the middle of our biggest launch of the year, so I’ll reach out again in 6 weeks.”
Which brings me to warning sign #2, which is:
They value the payout more than the product/service.
It’s no surprise that the best promotional partners are people who have been consumers of your product or service, at the very least because they can speak from personal experience. But affiliate partners who are in it solely because there’s some kind of overlap in your respective industries, but mostly want to monetize their list, are terrible to work with. You’d think they’d be highly motivated, but, trust me, they’re not.
Jump in to campaign at the last minute.
The people who message you out of the blue saying, “Are there any promotions you’re offering right now? I’d like to plug you guys in my email newsletter that goes out tomorrow at 6am.” are NOT ideal candidates. People who fly by the seat of their pants are frustrating, time-consuming, and usually have, you guessed it, half-assed campaigns.
You see any one of those three things, and you don’t make a polite apology. You run the heck out of there like the roof is about to collapse.
Now that we’re clear about people who make awful affiliates, let’s take a look at the people who make GOOD affiliates, eh? (YAY, good affiliates! We love you!)
Things to look for in a dream affiliate:
As we’ve clarified, an unresponsive affiliate is a nightmare to work with. Someone who is more responsive is more likely to become an active affiliate - someone who puts some effort into campaigns, rather than asking you to do it for them or copy and pasting your swipe files right into their email marketing software. A responsive affiliate will also be easier to get a hold of if you need to discuss any adjustments to campaigns to increase effectiveness.
Attitude / Ease to Work With
Is the person you’re communicating with (whether they reached out to you or vice versa) a self-absorbed person?
Self-absorbed people only care about what’s in it for them. Even if there’s an overlap in your market, there’s also potential for them to tarnish your brand with slick and sleazy marketing tactics. Be cautious when choosing to enter into relationships with these people.
Are they asking a lot of questions about what’s in it for them?
Now, let’s be clear that, yes, this is a business relationship, so there are bound to be questions about obligations or expectations, campaigns, and compensation. That’s normal. But if it’s like, “I’ll only do this is you by 10,000 copies of my next book and send them to your customers,” well, that’s abnormal and a red flag for sure. If that person has a HUGE list that you’re trying to get access to, you might consider that affiliate partnership, but be prepared to have a staff member dedicated to hounding them for campaign information and all the other time sucks that come from working with divas.
Do they have a team that can handle the logistics of executing a campaign?
Someone is going to need to revise copy, set up emails, schedule social media posts, and do the nuts and bolts of promotion. Do they have someone on their team who can help with this, or are they doing it themselves? If they’re doing it themselves, do they know what they’re doing? The last thing you want is someone who pushes off a campaign because they can’t figure out how to get all the things done.
Ideal affiliates serve a similar audience, but not in the exact same way. For example, if you sell coach training, you might partner with people in the personal development space, as there’s a lot of overlap between the two industries, but what you’re selling doesn’t directly compete with one another.
Another thought to consider with regards to compatibility is do you use the same marketing channels? An Instagram influencer may be able to promote a product, but it might be harder for them to sell a higher-priced service to their followers. What channel do you primarily use to convert your leads? You’ll want to focus on affiliates who have strong conversions on the channels you traditionally use for marketing, so if your sales usually come from emails, you’ll want someone with a strong email list.
Affiliate Size & Metrics
Affiliates can have large followings or they can be more like micro-influencers - maybe not hundreds of thousands but tens of thousands on social media.
When you’re looking at audience size, you want to look at the channels that are actually going to generate sales (as discussed in Compatibility). If your product/program usually sells best through email, you want to get an idea of how many people are on their list, open rates, and click-through rates - and not just in general, but specifically for promotions or affiliate promotions. 50k followers on Instagram doesn’t necessarily translate to tens of thousands of subscribers on an email list.
(If you’re wondering if it’s OK to ask about numbers, the answer is “yes”. I mean, don’t ask a random person on the street their numbers, but ask your prospective affiliates numbers. That’s called doing your due diligence.)
I want to highlight here that it’s not just about number of people on social media or on an email list. Lots of people (somehow) have many followers or subscribers. That doesn’t always translate into $$$. Make sure you ask your prospective affiliates about the numbers that matter (aka click-through rates and actual sales). Not only will this help you discern the right affiliates for your business, it will also help you set realistic campaign goals based on historical data.
So those are some things to look for in affiliates to determine whether they’re a good fit for working together or not.
Have additional affiliate questions? Shoot me a message through the contact page!