Are you one of the countless companies that started an affiliate program but saw no real visible impact or benefit? 

This popular performance-based, revenue-sharing advertising channel is all the rage, but few companies are able to launch successful affiliate programs that produce revenue without draining a lot of resources. 

Let us reassure you.

This ultimate guide gives you all the tools you need to build a truly successful and sustainable affiliate program. You’ll discover everything you need to know to make this lucrative marketing channel work for you and produce instant results:

-Boost sales by tapping into new channels that you might otherwise not be getting into. 

-Minimize costs since you’re only paying for results. 

-Increase Brand Awareness by reaching larger audiences, increasing traffic, and exposure.

-Capture Customer Data and increase the likelihood of direct monetization. Customer data remains one of the most valuable currencies in any business.

-Increase SEO value through links and traffic to your website. 

This guide will take a deep dive into what an affiliate program actually is and how to get started.

You’ll discover the five core principles to build a successful affiliate marketing business, and we’ll have you walk away with more valuable tips than you can imagine.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based advertising channel in which a merchant (think seller, product creator, or brand) pays a commission for a conversion of a product or service to a third party, the affiliate.

 The affiliate, also known as the publisher, can be a person or another business. Through a trackable link, the affiliate promotes your product or service, incentivizing the consumer to shop directly at your online store. 

As a business you can both simultaneously grow your own affiliate program and join an established affiliate program from companies such as Shopify or Amazon that act as a marketplace for your business.

If you’re ready to set up this explosive channel and create passive income for your company and the affiliate, let’s take a closer look at four proven affiliate marketing strategies that produce results, and nothing less. 

Partner Marketing

Partnership marketing is a collaborative relationship that is established between two or more firms, allowing each firm to reach their respective business objectives.

Some partnerships may be set up over certain marketing campaigns to achieve a specific set of goals. Others may stretch over a longer time accomplishing a series of goals. It all depends on the type of partnership and the unique marketing objectives of each firm.

Affiliate marketing initiative, for example, is also part of partner marketing. While building an affiliate program can be seen as partner marketing, there are other sorts of partner marketing worth mentioning.

Distribution Partnership

Distribution partnership involves bundling up another brand’s market offerings with your own products or services. In some cases, a brand may also cross-market both products or services to their own customer base. The main advantage of this technique is that it builds customer trust. A customer who uses a certain brand’s products will be more open to trying your products if they see them advertised together.

Cross Promotion

Cross-promotion is a type of partnership marketing strategy where businesses promote each other to their particular audiences. They may also engage in joint-marketing tasks.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing involves collaborating with a publisher, such as a brand, blogger or website. The publisher advertises your product or services to their respective audience in return for a commission. This commission may be through the acquired revenue or leads made or the clicks performed.

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Affiliate Marketing Strategies that Produce Results

Building a successful program for your brand requires comprehensive and effective affiliate marketing strategies. Without this first principle, affiliate programs can be a huge waste of time and money.

So, where do you start? And what do you prioritize? 

We’ve put together four key affiliate marketing strategies to grow your ecommerce business.

-Consider affiliate networks and influencers – While affiliate networks offer a safe landing, especially to those that are venturing into affiliate programs for the first time, influencers can be a bold and cost-effective strategy with more autonomy.   

-Use seasonal events to your advantage – Significant occasions, the Festive season create a sense of urgency and are highly effective events to promote your product or service. 

-Focus on your high-value products – Differentiate by offering a niche and high profit margin product or service. You will draw the attention of affiliates and safeguard a high return on investment regardless of the amount you sell.  

-Create content to support your affiliates – Creative content is essential to win over your customer through the affiliate channel. It will guide them through your sales funnel and boost conversion rates.

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How to Find Affiliates

Finding affiliates, the second principle in building a successful affiliate program for your brand, is not that difficult per se. There are multiple platforms and networks to pick from. 

The crux is to locate affiliates that have access to an audience with an interest in your product or service that enable you to grow your customer base and increase revenues.

To make sure you recruit the best affiliates for your business, you’ll need to consider:

Fiverr marketplace – Spot great gigs quickly and easily in no time. 

Affiliate networks and directories – Start off on the right foot with reputable affiliate networks like ClickBank, ShareASale or CommissionJunction. 

Influencers – Grow genuine recommendations through platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube by reaching a wide audience quickly.

Niche blogs – Connect to popular niche blogs to get potential customers interested in your offerings. 

Coupon sites – Powerful high conversion affiliates to grow your brand reach and boost sales. 

Online communities – Offer your affiliate program to Facebook groups and nice forums that match your product or service offering. 

Turn customers in affiliates – The most underrated yet powerful affiliates are happy customers. 

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Check out our helpful article on how to find affiliates.

How to Determine Affiliate Commission Rates

A step-by-step plan of action to determine affiliate commission rate is the third principle in building a successful program for your ecommerce business. 

Before crunching the numbers, you’ll need to pick the commission structure that fits your brand the most. Common structures are pay per sale/action (PPA), pay per lead (PPL), and pay per click (PPC). 

To ensure you put an attractive offer on the table for your affiliates that you can afford, incorporate the following steps:

Evaluate your production costs – Take into account all costs from raw materials, to delivery, and taxes.

Analyze your competitors’ commission rates – Join your competitors affiliate program to find out what you are up against.

Consider what wholesale offers – Give your affiliates enough reasons to promote your product or service over others. 

Determine the customer lifetime value – Track and analyze customer data to determine profit margins on first purchases.

Calculate the commission rate – Determine the best commission rate for your brand and tie it to unique incentives to stand-out. 

Pro-Tip: It’s important to use a helicopter view when calculating commission rates and incorporate factors such as performance tiers, bonuses, onboarding, and recruitment incentives, apart from the standard commission rate.

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Still curious? Grab your full guide on how to Calculate Your Affiliate Commission Rate.

How to Choose the Right Affiliate Management Software

Choosing affiliate management software can be overwhelming.

The fourth principle in growing a successful affiliate program involves choosing the right affiliate management software for your brand.

To get you started, we’ve compiled this 6-point checklist to ensure your platform offers:

Legitimacy, familiarity, and trust – Pick a well-known platform. 

Assistance to similar businesses to yours – Follow the lead of successful businesses similar to you.

The right integrations and partnerships – Think payment integration & ideal business partners.

Integration with your other marketing methods – While not a feature of all platforms per se, the more you can integrate and coordinate marketing and advertising efforts the better.

User-friendly and learning on-the-go – Don’t rely on needing additional professional help.

Free-trial feature – Test, test, test to get a feel for what your options are.

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We’ve covered the top affiliate management software tools. This includes a full review of all features, pros, cons, and pricing. 

How to Build Your Affiliate Program in Shopify

The last principle in building a strong, resilient and long-term affiliate program, rests fully on a success story. One that is up for grabs, without much effort. If you’re using Shopify, you’re in luck because this ecommerce platform will tip the scale in favor of a profitable and sustainable affiliate program for your brand. 

Shopify contains a directory full of shopify affiliate marketing apps that makes tracking and measuring your campaign a breeze – because it’s all updated in real time and purposely built to integrate with your store.

Pro-Tip: For small businesses just starting out the GoaffPro app is a real recommendation for their generous free plan. For enterprise-level businesses, looking for a robust end-to-end solution, turn to Refersion for their established, fully end-to-end Shopify affiliate marketing offering.

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Take a peek at the full list and review of the top 5 shopify affiliate marketing apps+ Shopify Affiliate Tips

Final Words

Finding your feet in the midst of a global pandemic is not easy. If you haven’t taken a stab at affiliate programs yet, rest assured that in doing so, you can tip the scale in favor of success, whether you want to start your own or participate in one.

Building a strong, resilient and long-term affiliate program can be achieved by adopting five core principles.

Choose proven marketing strategies that will produce results. Recruit the best affiliates to market your offerings to those that are most likely to buy them. Offer fair and competitive commission rates that you can afford. Choose the right software platform for your brand. And, finally, incorporate Shopify’s success story into your affiliate marketing strategy.