The Best Way To Build a Successful Affiliate Marketing Platform

Brittany Currieby Brittany Currie

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If you run an eCommerce business, you know that affiliate marketing is an important part of success. Having a well-formed program is vital to your growth as a company. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to build a successful affiliate marketing program from scratch. 


What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing has existed in many forms throughout history—from the endorsements of fictional characters to using celebrities for promotion. An affiliate speaks on behalf of a product, service, or company, and receives compensation relative to their service.

However, an affiliate is more than just a paid spokesperson. They’re a sales rep for your company, and as such, needs careful vetting. The poor conduct of any employee can reflect badly on your store. An affiliate is even more representative of your company and will become the face of your brand. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your affiliates align with your company’s vision and goals. 


What is an Affiliate vs. Influencer?

At a basic level, an affiliate is a professional marketer. Their job is to bring attention to your company’s goods and services, in exchange for some sort of payout or benefit. Affiliates could also reap special membership bonuses, referral points or discounts, commissions for sale, or some combination of these payment structures. While it is vital that an affiliate accurately represents the voice of your company, it is not always necessary that they personally love your product. 

An influencer is typically a lover of discovery first, and a marketer second. Influencers have a substantial social media presence and interact heavily with their followers on a daily basis. Influencers are driven by a love of social interaction and being the one to bring new finds to their inner circle. Influencers derive part of their identity from the products they use, the aesthetics of which contribute to their personal identity.


Building a Proper Foundation: Keys to Success 

To successfully build and manage a profitable affiliate marketing program, it’s important to start with the fundamentals. First, define your company mission, voice, and identity. This will help you attract the sort of influencers and affiliates that will mesh well with your brand. What is the essential problem that your company seeks to solve? What is your target demographic, and what are their prevailing attributes? Asking yourself these questions now will save you time and trouble further down the road.


Creating a Plan

There are some affiliate marketing best practices that should be factored into your program from the very beginning. One of the most important things you can do is make sure that you lay the groundwork for efficient tracking of your key performance indicators.

Another important aspect of your affiliate marketing plan is deciding from where you’ll draw your affiliates. If you’re drawing from your previous customer pool, you’ll have to decide what constitutes a benchmark for eligibility. If you are advertising your affiliate program online, think carefully about where your ideal affiliate would live on social media.


Creating a Compelling Offer

Think about what drives your ideal affiliate. What excites them about their everyday life? What drives them to create content? By answering these questions you will have a head start on meeting your ideal candidate where they already live. 

Understanding the motivations of your affiliates is key to offering them what they want. Do your research on consumer behavior in your industry. What would motivate an affiliate who is excited about your product? Why do people love your brand? How do customers display ownership of your items? 

If your brand adds to a sense of status or identity, then being a rep for your company can be a bonus all by itself. For some influencers, merely being associated with their favorite brand and the prestige that comes with it will be a significant reward. For others, the best motivator will be exclusive membership rewards. And for still others, only a significant financial incentive will make it worth their while to promote you. 

Focusing your recruitment efforts on micro-influencers with smaller, more engaged audiences will help keep your initial costs low. Super influencers tend to cost more money—while they do have more eyes to put on your content, they generally have lower engagement rates than micro-influencers. Super influencers have the ability to negotiate per-post prices, which isn’t very cost-effective if you’re just starting out.



Deciding how to reward your affiliates will depend on several factors. First, consider the norm or average for your industry. Next, consider how to make the standard offer more enticing, or make you stand out from your competitors.

Before deciding on a payment structure, crunch the numbers and find out what your profit margin is, and how much you can afford to pay affiliates per sale. If your margin is tight, and you can’t afford to match or beat the industry standard, consider creating a valuable structure of perks that may not consist of monetary compensation. Special access to affiliate-only forums, Facebook groups, chat rooms, and exclusive branded merch are all good options to consider.



When considering where to find your affiliates, look first at your pool of best customers. Satisfied customers will already be familiar with your items, excited about sharing their discovery, and primed to tell everyone they know how much they like your products. Scour your customer records for your highest average order value (AOV) customers, as well as frequent repeat customers, to start building a potential list of affiliates. Once you have your A-list, reach out to them with your partnership proposal. 

A good way to test the waters and attract qualified candidates is through a VIP loyalty program. This makes it much easier to identify your most committed customers, because merely by signing up, they’ve taken the customer-business relationship to the next level. This gives you an excellent framework to introduce affiliate marketing to your customer base, since you can award points, discounts, and store credit to your VIPs in return for referrals. 


Nurture your Affiliates

Keeping your affiliates happy is an important part of keeping them productive. A satisfied affiliate will generate more sales than an uninspired one. Inspiration can take many forms, from feeling like an important part of the team to receiving exclusive affiliate-only merchandise and getting help with content generation. If you provide your affiliates and influencer partners with content templates, ideas, videos, and suggestions, they’ll feel less burdened and become more productive. 



Create and maintain an affiliate-only information newsletter. Provide your affiliates with tips, tricks, and suggestions for successful marketing. Allow them to feel like they’re part of an exclusive community that revolves around your brand. This sense of community can help compensate for a commission structure that is less ideal than you would like. Everyone wants to be part of something unique, and your affiliate perks can provide that.



Tiered commission structures that reward your marketing partners for reaching the next level are a great way to motivate your affiliates and influencers. Hitting benchmarks to receive bonuses or rank perks are another great way to keep your affiliates charged up and ready for action.  


Terms & Conditions

Make your terms clear from the beginning in order to avoid confusion. Setting clear guidelines about what practices affiliates can and can’t utilize will avoid conflicts later on. If there are things you don’t want affiliates to do, having them clearly stated in the T&C of your agreement will give you recourse to correct any wayward members of the program. 


Scale with Super Influencers

As mentioned above, micro-influencers are a great place to start your affiliate marketing program. They’ll be relatively easy to bring on board and won’t require large commissions or special requests. Once you’ve ironed out the kinks in the system, you can change what doesn’t work and get ready for the next step: finding super influencers.

Super influencers are how you bring your brand to the next level. With a bigger social media presence and a greater number of followers, super influencers are an important method when scaling your affiliate marketing program. Do your research before reaching out to super influencers to ensure that their followers match your target demographics. And, once your program is running smoothly, don’t be surprised if super influencers start approaching you to offer their services. This is where it’s helpful to know the value of x when it comes to engagement. 

Sure, a super influencer may have 100,000 followers, but what is their engagement rate per post? How many of those interactions lead all the way through the purchase point? Knowing the industry average, as well as your current average per affiliate, will give you a benchmark against which to measure future affiliates. If you don’t meet your minimum ROI to remain profitable, everyone is simply wasting their time. 



Once set up and running smoothly, a good affiliate marketing program won’t need to be micromanaged on a daily basis. It will, however, need frequent oversight to make sure nothing creeps too far outside the normal parameters. The key to success is laying a firm foundation, having clear goals, and keeping tabs on your key performance indicators. Once everybody knows how to play their part, you’ve minimized the risk and maximized your rewards. If you’re looking for a reputable first-in-class affiliate marketing platform then Refersion has the tools to help you manage, track, and grow your network, apps, and partners you need to get started. What are you waiting for? Try Refersion today. 

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