Running an affiliate program can certainly grow one’s business by cost-effectively increasing sales. After all, who wouldn’t want a sales force that you only pay when they get results? That’s what an affiliate program is, but it isn’t a “set it and forget it” thing. Creating and maintaining an affiliate program takes work, but it’s certainly worth it.
One of the easiest ways to put your best foot forward is to avoid many of the common affiliate management mistakes covered in this guide. We’ll show you some of the deadliest mistakes to avoid and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Passive Recruitment
Many affiliate program owners think that they can simply set up their affiliate program and people will flock to them, wanting to promote their products. It simply doesn’t work that way. You need to seek out potential affiliates and entice them to promote you.
You can find affiliates by:
- Finding website owners who rank well for keyword phrases that are related to your products.
- Invite your customers to join your affiliate program. After all, if they already love your products, they’ll be a great spokesperson for them.
- Get to know others in your niche through Facebook, Twitter and other social channels.
The more you work to find the right affiliates for your program, the more successful it will be. Always set aside time and resources for recruitment.
Mistake #2: Lack of Training for Newbies
Many affiliate program owners make the assumption that potential super affiliates already know what they’re doing. Well, the truth is, there are many people with very popular websites and large mailing lists that don’t really know about selling or affiliate marketing. Always provide training and how-to guides to help your readers get started on the right foot.
You can conduct webinars, create tutorials and be available for questions. Anything you can do to make it easy for new affiliates to promote your product, the better.
Some affiliates will need to know how to set up their links and track their campaigns. Others will need some ideas on how to incorporate your products into what they already do. Many will need both, so make sure you provide it.
Mistake #3: Sparse Promotional Tools
An affiliate program that includes a few links and banners isn’t going to go far. Affiliates need a variety of tools they can use in their marketing. They also need new tools on a regular basis, so they have a reason to promote your products over and over again.
A good affiliate program might include things like:
- Text links to specific products, landing pages and content
- Landing pages for different target audience groups
- Banners and graphics in a wide variety of sizes
- Short and long text ads
- Free samples and trials
- Valuable coupons or “two-for-one” offers
- Ready-made pay-per-click ad text
- Seasonal and promotion-specific tools
- Twitter tweets and social media updates
- Blog posts
- Special reports
- Product reviews
- Videos and audio recordings
It’s a simple equation. The more tools you provide your affiliates, the more they will promote you, so provide as much as you can.
Mistake #4: Not Staying in Touch
Most affiliate marketers sign up to numerous affiliate programs. This is obviously no secret. So even though they might be really excited about your product today, if they don’t hear from you after that, they may never do anything to promote you.
Keep in touch with your affiliates regularly via email and where you can, by telephone. Let them know what new promotions and products you have available. Offer to provide them with suggestions on how to best promote your products. Run affiliate contests where they can win bonus commissions and/or prizes.
Don’t let your affiliate forget about you. Be their partner and help them become successful, so you can both enjoy the benefits.
Mistake #5: No Link or Campaign Tracking
While the majority of your affiliates will probably never track their links or campaigns, you can bet many of your top affiliates will insist on this feature. Just throwing links out there and hoping they’ll get some clicks can work, but it’s not the way to get the best results.
Provide the ability for your affiliates to track their various campaigns, so they can improve their results and even more commissions. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Mistake #6: No Customized Promotions for Affiliates
Your affiliates have unique audiences and unique needs when it comes to promoting your products, so help them come up with the customized solutions they need.
You can offer them:
- Special coupon codes
- A report tailored to their target audience
- Being a guest on a webinar or podcast
- Creating an audio interview
- Writing a guest blog post
Anything you can do to target an affiliate’s audience better, the better the conversions are going to be for the affiliate and for you.
Start by taking a look at some of your better performing affiliates. Pick up the phone and ask them how you can help them and come up with a strategy together.
Mistake #7: Lackluster Affiliate Sign Up Page
Affiliate programs are a dime a dozen these days, and it seems like just about any product website has one. That means there is a lot of competition.
It isn’t enough to put up a sign up page that says you pay 50% commissions and leave it at that. You have to show how your affiliate programs shines amongst the others.
Some things you can include in your sign up page include:
- Typical conversion rates for your affiliates
- Average earnings per click
- Information about the training you offer to affiliates
- Testimonials from your affiliates and your customers
- Performance-based incentives you offer. For example, higher commissions depending on sales volume
- Letting your potential affiliate know that you’re available for questions and can create customized promotions
Put as much effort into your sign up page as you do to your sales pages. After all, your affiliate sign up page is SELLING your affiliate program, so make sure you show the benefits.
Mistake #8: Too Much Faith in an Affiliate Network
As an affiliate program owner (or hopeful owner), you probably know that you can run an independent affiliate program or you can join an affiliate network that includes extra help and services to make your program a success.
Some affiliate networks offer the basic services of making it easy to set up your promotional tools and paying your affiliates for you. Others include more hands-on service and allow you to tap into a large existing affiliate force to promote your products.
The more service they provide, the more expensive the affiliate network is likely to be. Many business owners justify the expense because they will earn the money back through the success of their affiliate program.
But here’s the thing. No matter where you set up your affiliate program, there is work to be done. Nothing happens on its own or overnight. So even if you choose a huge full-service affiliate network like Commission Junction (http://cj.com), your success is not guaranteed. Always put in the work you need to be a success.
Mistake #9: Not Testing Offers First
When it comes to running an affiliate program, it’s your and your affiliates’ reputations on the line. You are accountable to your affiliates and they are accountable to their audience. By running untested offers, you not only risk your reputation, but you also risk killing your profits. And when you kill the profits of your affiliates, they just aren’t going to promote you again.
You can test offers before you give them to your affiliates to ensure the best conversion rates. Test through pay-per-click, your own mailing list and other venues. The added benefit is that you can provide some conversion data to your affiliates, so they can make an educated decision on whether or not to promote a specific offer.
Mistake #10: Not Paying Affiliates on Time
When affiliates work hard to promote your products, they expect to get paid. They expect to get paid on time, every time. Unfortunately, a lot of affiliate programs don’t operate this way, so by ensuring you do…you set yourself apart.
Set a regular payout day, so there are no questions and affiliates know what to expect. You can pay by check, but offering instant payment options like PayPal are always attractive.
Running an affiliate program can be pretty competitive, but if you avoid some of these common mistakes, you can put yourself light years ahead of all that competition. Create a flexible affiliate program that produces results and seek out affiliates that are a perfect fit. It will be well worth it.