Affiliate Program Management: How to Manage Affiliate Network

Learn the ins and outs of managing an affiliate network with our comprehensive guide. Discover essential tips for successful program management.
Image of author Nick Cotter

By Nick Cotter
Updated Jan 10, 2024

Affiliate Program Management: How to Manage Affiliate Network
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Ah, so you've stepped into the world of managing your company's affiliate program.

The excitement of a new role, the anticipation of making your mark.

But wait a moment, what does this role entail, exactly?

Running an affiliate program is a different beast than running Google Ads or managing other paid media channels. It's not just about setting up campaigns and watching the numbers roll in.

No, this game has a different set of rules.

You see, effectively managing an affiliate program is about building relationships – and not just any relationships. We're talking about nurturing long-lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships with your affiliates. It's about understanding that each affiliate is unique and needs a personalized approach.

Sounds challenging? Sure, it is. But fear not because you're not alone on this journey.

In this guide, I'll walk you through the ins and outs of managing an affiliate marketing program.

Drawing from my own experiences, we'll tackle everything from building effective affiliate partnerships and defining the right metrics to dodging common pitfalls. 

No matter where you're starting from, you'll be well-equipped to steer your affiliate program toward success by the end of this guide. So, ready to roll up your sleeves and dive into the deep end of affiliate marketing management? Let's do it!

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7+ Steps to Managing a Profitable Affiliate Program:

1. Leverage the “right” affiliate tracking software or network.

Alright, let's picture this: You're throwing a huge, epic party.

But here's the catch: you've got no way to keep track of who's coming in, who's leaving, and who's making the party a blast by playing the best tunes.

Sounds chaotic, right?

That's exactly what it's like running an affiliate program without the right tracking software or network.

It's like trying to control a party without a guest list. You're left guessing who's bringing in the sales and who's just not pulling their weight.

So, what's the fix? Enter affiliate tracking software and networks.

Think of these like your trusty bouncers or party planners.

They keep an eye on everything, so you don't have to.

  • Who's generating the most traffic?
  • Who's bringing in the highest quality leads?
  • And yes, who might be trying to sneak in through the back door with fraudulent clicks?

The right software or network won't just track this; it'll give you detailed reports, help you manage your affiliates, process payments, and even assist in recruiting new partners

It's an all-in-one toolkit designed to make your life simpler, and your affiliate program more successful.

There's a multitude of options out there, from standalone software like Trackdesk, Post Affiliate Pro, or HasOffers, to comprehensive networks like Impact, ShareASale, or PartnerStack.

Each comes with its own strengths, and the trick is to find the one that fits your specific needs like a glove.

Don't just go for the shiniest one or the one your competitors are using. Your business is unique, and your affiliate software should reflect that.

Do you need advanced reporting features? Prioritize that. Looking for stellar customer support? Make sure it's part of the package.

Remember, picking the right software or network is like choosing the right team for your party. Get it right, and you'll have a smashing success on your hands. Get it wrong, and well... let's just say you might end up with a few too many metaphorical broken vases.

This decision sets the stage for your affiliate marketing program, so take your time, do your research, and choose wisely. Because with the right tool, managing your affiliate program becomes less of a chore and more of a celebration of your growing success.

2. Working with the right affiliates for your program.

Managing an affiliate marketing program isn't a walk in the park.

The success of your program heavily depends on finding and recruiting the right affiliates. It's a critical step in affiliate program management that can make or break your strategy.

Affiliates who truly believe in my product.

Image of affiliate partner with lots of product info

First off, I'll look for affiliate partners who have a solid understanding of my brand and products.

They should be able to promote them effectively and align with my brand's image and values. I'll use various methods such as direct outreach, attending industry events, or leveraging affiliate networks to find potential partners.

Affiliates who have a reach and influence in the space.

Image of Similarweb affiliate results

Next up is evaluating their reach and influence.

Remember, it isn't always about having millions of followers, but about how relevant their audience is to our product offering. You can use tools like Similarweb to assess their traffic quality and topics.

Affiliates who want to grow a partnership.

Image of affiliate

When it comes to working with the “right” affiliates, I’ll always to try work with those who are invested in growing our partnership together.

3. Measure the affiliate metrics that matter most.

Imagine you're on a road trip.

You've got a destination in mind, but no map or GPS.

You're just driving, hoping you're headed in the right direction. Doesn't make much sense, does it? Well, that's what running an affiliate program without tracking the right metrics is like.

Image of affiliate metrics

In affiliate marketing, data is your compass. It helps you understand where you are, where you're headed, and what turns to take to get there faster. But remember, it's not about tracking all the data, but the right data. Let's break it down:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): This tells you how many people are actually clicking on your affiliate links. A low CTR might indicate that your content or placement needs a tweak.
  • Conversion Rate: This is the percentage of clicks that result in a sale. If this number is low, it might mean that your product page needs improvement, or the traffic isn't qualified.
  • Average Order Value (AOV): This metric helps you understand how much, on average, customers are spending per transaction. Low AOV? Try adding upsells or bundles to increase that cart value.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Ultimately, you want to know if your affiliate program is profitable. ROI helps you understand if the money you're investing in the program is leading to a positive return.
  • Affiliate Earnings per Click (EPC): This measures how much an affiliate earns on average for each click generated. It's a great way to identify your top-performing affiliates.

Remember, these metrics aren't just numbers; they're stories. They tell you what's working, what's not, and how you can improve. So, embrace the data, let it guide you, and watch your affiliate program flourish.

Want to get even more granular with your data? Check out our article 'Top Affiliate Metrics'. Let the data lead the way!

4. Build a remarkable onboarding experience.

Imagine you've been invited to a swanky new club.

You're excited, you're eager, but as you walk through the doors, you're met with a maze of corridors and no signs to guide you.

Suddenly, that excitement fades into frustration, and before you know it, you're heading back out the door.

Now, let's take that scenario and apply it to your affiliate program.

You've recruited top-tier affiliates, they're keen to promote your brand, but the moment they step into your program, they're lost. There's no guidance, no support, no clear path to follow. And just like that, their enthusiasm wanes, and their performance suffers.

That's where an exceptional affiliate onboarding experience steps in.

Image of affiliate onboarding email

Just as you wouldn't send someone into a maze without a map, you shouldn't expect your affiliates to navigate your program without guidance. You need a comprehensive, easy-to-follow, and engaging onboarding process that shows them the ropes and makes them feel welcomed and valued.

  • Start with the basics - provide them with an overview of your affiliate program, products or services, and expectations. Make sure they understand the commission structure and how and when they'll be paid.
  • Then, equip them with the necessary tools for success. This includes marketing materials, promotional strategies, and information about your target audience. Remember, their success is your success, so give them everything they need to hit the ground running.

But don't stop there! Make your onboarding process interactive and engaging.

How about a welcome video message from your CEO? Or perhaps a webinar to walk them through your product line? Show them you're invested in their success, and they'll be more motivated to deliver.

And finally, keep the lines of communication open.

Encourage them to ask questions, provide feedback, and share their successes and challenges. Build a sense of community among your affiliates, and you'll foster a team of passionate brand ambassadors ready to take your business to new heights.

In the end, creating a remarkable affiliate onboarding experience isn't just about retaining your affiliates—it's about setting them up for success right from the get-go. And when they succeed, so do you. It's a win-win! So, roll out the red carpet and let's give your affiliates a welcome they'll never forget. Happy onboarding!

5. Nurture your partnership relationships.

Think of your affiliate program as a budding friendship.

To make it grow, you can't just sit back and expect everything to fall into place — you've got to put in the effort, right?

You need to communicate, understand each other's needs, and sometimes, compromise. And that's exactly how you should approach your affiliate partnerships.

Below is a great example as to how to communicate and motivate your affiliate partners to write more content, and continue to feature your brand over your competition.

image of affiliate manager communicating with affiliate
Partnership communication

Now, let's break it down:

  • Communication is key: Nobody likes to be left in the dark, and your affiliates are no different. Keep them in the loop about product updates, promotional strategies, and any changes in your program. Regular newsletters or emails should do the trick.
  • Empower them: Arm your affiliates with the tools they need to succeed. Provide them with high-quality marketing materials, product samples, or even training sessions. When they win, you win. It's as simple as that.
  • Recognize their efforts: We all love a little appreciation, don't we? Show your affiliates that you value their hard work. A bonus for exceptional performance, a feature in your newsletter, or even a personal thank you email can make a world of difference.
  • Adapt to their needs: All affiliates are not created equal. They have different audiences, different strategies, and different challenges. Be flexible with your program guidelines and willing to tailor your approach to suit their needs.
  • Be honest, always: Lastly, remember to be transparent with your affiliates. They're your partners, not your adversaries. Clear communication about your expectations, commission structure, and terms of service goes a long way in building trust.

In a nutshell, a successful affiliate program is all about relationships. Treat your affiliates as partners, invest in their success, and you'll have a team of brand ambassadors ready to take your business to the next level.

6. Continuously analyze your competitors.

Now, who doesn't enjoy a little friendly competition?

In the affiliate marketing world, your competitors can be your best teachers. Don't believe me? Let's break it down.

Step into their shoes, or in this case, their website.

See who they're partnering with, how they structure their affiliate program, and what kind of promotions they're running.

This isn't about copying their homework, but rather, gaining insights. It's like going to a soccer match, not to cheer or boo, but to watch, learn and adapt.

Here are a few things to look for:

  • Their affiliates: Who are they partnering with? Are there any affiliates that you should be reaching out to? Remember, there's no harm in sharing – we're all in this together.
  • Commission structure: How does their commission structure compare to yours? Are they offering more attractive rates that you need to compete with?
  • Promotions and incentives: What kind of special promotions or incentives do they offer their affiliates? These can provide ideas for what might motivate your own affiliates.
  • Communication: How do they communicate with their affiliates? Do they use newsletters, webinars, or one-on-one sessions?
  • Policies and guidelines: Review their program policies and guidelines. You might find areas where you can improve your own.

But here's the catch - don't get stuck in the comparison game.

Your program is unique, and what works for your competitors might not work for you. Use these insights as a starting point, and then tweak and adapt to suit your own needs.

Remember, continuously analyzing your competitors isn't about playing catch-up. It's about staying informed, adapting, and always striving for improvement. So, get out there, do your research, and let's turn that competition into inspiration.

7. Reward partners for their continued growth.

If I told you that your success relied on your partners' growth, would you invest more in their development? Of course, you would! In the world of affiliate marketing, your partners' growth directly translates to your own. So, how do you fuel this growth? Well, it's all about rewards and recognition.

Now, let's unpack this:

  • Set tiered commission rates: Just like in any job, your partners want to know there's room for growth. By setting tiered commission rates, you're telling them, "Hey, the more you succeed, the more you'll earn." That's a pretty enticing prospect, right?
  • Offer bonuses for milestones: Hit a sales target? Bring in a certain number of new customers? These are achievements worth celebrating. Offer bonuses for hitting these milestones, and watch your partners' motivation skyrocket.
  • Recognize their success: Money isn't the only form of reward. Recognition can be just as impactful. Share their success stories in your newsletters, social media, or webinars. Not only does this give them a well-deserved pat on the back, but it also shows other partners what's possible.
  • Provide growth opportunities: This could be in the form of additional training, access to exclusive resources, or even the chance to become a premium partner. Show your partners that you're invested in their growth, and they'll return the favor.

Remember, rewarding your partners for their continued growth isn't just about maintaining a happy relationship. It's about encouraging their growth, which in turn, fuels your own.

Want to learn more? Check out our video on 'Rewarding Affiliate Partners: 5 Creative Strategies'. Reward your partners, fuel their growth, and let's watch your affiliate program flourish. Cheers to growth!

Concluding Thoughts on Managing an Affiliate Program

There you have it! Managing an affiliate program might seem like a Herculean task, but trust me, with the right approach, it's a mountain you can conquer.

From picking the right tracking software, to building an irresistible onboarding experience, to continuously analyzing your competitors, every step is a vital part of your journey. Remember to nurture your relationships, reward your partners' growth, and always, always let data be your guide.

But remember, this isn't a 'set it and forget it' kind of deal. Your affiliate program will need your constant attention, and that's okay. After all, anything worth having requires a bit of effort, right?

Managing an affiliate program isn't just about driving sales. It's about building partnerships, fostering growth, and creating a community around your brand. So, gear up, get out there, and start building an affiliate program that you and your partners can be proud of.

As we wrap up, remember that we're in this together. So, whether it's understanding affiliate metrics or rewarding your partners, we've got you covered with our comprehensive video guides.

Take that leap, embrace the journey, and here's to your affiliate marketing success. Cheers to growth, to partnerships, and to success!

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Nick Cotter

Nick Cotter

Founder & CEO
Growann

With over 7 years navigating the intricate realms of marketing, and specifically B2B partner marketing, Nick has forged collaborations with top-tier tech brands, prominent agencies, and some of the industry's foremost B2B publishers and content creators. His deep immersion in both marketing landscapes showcases a trajectory of expertise and innovation. Identifying a significant void in specialized resources, he founded Growann.The aspiration? Deliver unparalleled insights and guidance, carving out a dedicated space where the broader marketing and B2B partner marketing communities can flourish.