How to Start an Affiliate Program That Actually Drives New Revenue

When it comes to lead generation, there’s no silver bullet; what works for one business might not work for another.

That said, there are some lead-gen strategies which — when deployed in the right way — don’t just get results, but actively drive new revenue, too. 

We’re referring to affiliate marketing: a sales tactic used by 81% of brands in one way or another. In this guide, we’ll explain, step-by-step, exactly how your business can create an affiliate program that brings home the bacon.

What is affiliate marketing (and how does it work)?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about affiliate marketing, so let’s start by setting a few things straight.

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is a way of outsourcing your marketing efforts. 

Rather than being solely responsible for generating new customers yourself, you instead hire ‘affiliates’ who do it for you. The best part? They work entirely on commission, so if they don’t get results, you don’t pay them a penny.

Affiliate marketing as a new marketing strategy - Digital ...

Here’s how the process works end-to-end:

1. You give your affiliate a unique URL or parameter to include in a URL. This is their identifier, so you can track which leads came from them.

2. The affiliate sets to work marketing your products or services, driving traffic to your website via their URL.

3. With any luck, the prospects convert into paying customers or clients.

4. You pay the affiliate a previously agreed percentage of the final sale.

5. Rinse and repeat!

How to set up an affiliate marketing program

Now that you’re familiar with the nuts and bolts of a legitimate affiliate marketing program, why not create one of your own? It’s easier than it sounds.

In six steps, you can turn your affiliate program idea into a sustainable, revenue producing machine…

Step 1: Set your objectives

Before you reach out to anyone, you should begin by setting key objectives for your affiliate marketing campaign.

These objectives will be unique to your business, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • X number of new sign-ups or sales.
  • % growth in sales over a period of time.
  • X number of new affiliates onboarded.
  • % increase in revenue over a period of time.

It’s incredibly important to pause and consider your affiliate marketing objectives. Not only will a clear set of goals help you recognize success, but they’ll act as a stress-test for any future efforts. If something in your pipeline doesn’t help you move toward your goal, it’s likely not worth doing. Save the time, energy and budget, and use it elsewhere.

Step 2: Understand your positioning

When it comes to affiliate marketing, it’s all about positioning.

With so many affiliate programs out there, setting yourself apart from the pack can make a real difference when attracting new affiliates and actually making sales.

But there’s another reason why positioning is so crucial: your reputation. Remember that affiliate marketing has quite a low barrier to entry. You’ll find no shortage of affiliates eager to partner with you, but that doesn’t mean you should work with all of them. Be selective about who you choose, and be prescriptive about how affiliates should portray your brand. The more you know about your positioning, the easier it will be to explain and control that image through other people.

Step 3: Analyze the competition

There’s no doubt that affiliate marketing is bigger than ever. But rather than seeing this as competition — look at it as an opportunity to learn.

Affiliate marketing is a process of adjustment and refinement; you rarely get it right the first time. So if somebody else is a little further along the journey than you are, why not follow their lead? This is particularly true when it comes to defining your commission structure, which we’ll look at in the next section.

Look at your closest competitors and see whether or not they’re running an affiliate program of their own. If so, you’ll want to grab your notebook, because it’s time to take some notes.

You’ll want to look out for:

  • Their commission structure (preferably a specific percentage rate).
  • How they’re communicating their affiliate program.
  • How often they pay their affiliates.
  • Whether they offer any form of performance tracking.

Step 4: Define your commission structure

Now that you’ve seen what your competition is doing with their commission structure, it’s time to pay attention to your own.

It’s here that things get really interesting, because it’s all about balance. Offer too low of a commission and you won’t attract high quality affiliates; but offer too high a rate and you’ll be damaging your own revenue stream.

So how are you supposed to get it right? 

A good place to start is industry best practice. Take the Amazon Associates program, for example — perhaps one of the best-known affiliate programs in the world. They use a sliding scale for their commission rates, ranging from 1% on video games all the way up to 10% on luxury beauty products.

It’s a good idea to set your commission structure in line with your peers, but don’t forget to carry out detailed forecasting before setting things in stone. Another great way to keep the focus on your revenue is to implement a tiered system: the more money your affiliates bring in, the more they’ll earn in commission.

Now that’s a formula we can all understand.

But don’t worry if you don’t get your percentages right from the start. Like we said, it’s all learning as you go. Simply revisit your approach if something isn’t working.

Step 5: Build your website

As we’ve seen, it’s entirely up to each individual affiliate to decide how they market your products or services. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t give them a little bit of advice and guidance.

At the heart of most affiliate marketing operations is a website used to showcase the products and services. Likewise, you as the program host will need a website (or at least an area on your existing website) to sell the program to new affiliates.

If that sounds complicated, don’t worry. There are now several “no code” web design platforms which are ideal for this purpose. You’ll find handy features like drag-and-drop design and one-click publishing from any of these platforms:

  • Webflow
  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • WordPress

Next, it’s time to talk about performance.

Step 6: Deploy affiliate management software

Now that your program is all set up and ready to go, just one hurdle remains: management.

It’s all well and good to give affiliates unique URLs, but what use are they without tracking? Monitoring performance is key — it’s the foundation of any successful affiliate program. With easy-to-view affiliate management, you can quickly see who’s bringing in sales, and who isn’t. You’ll also want to give affiliates a place to track their own performance, discover actionable insights, and see how much they’re earning.

It’s here that the LinkTrust platform really comes into its own. Fully white-labelled so you can make it your own, our platform allows you to not only fully manage, report and even pay your affiliates on activity, it give each affiliate access to a dedicated portal packed with valuable insights. They’ll be able to track performance based on products, ads, offers, and more across multiple channels and devices.

With the powerful reporting features of LinkTrust, your affiliates will have all the data and encouragement they need at their fingertips.

Ready to amplify your business with affiliate marketing?

If you’re ready to dip your toe into the world of affiliate marketing with a program of your own, there’s no better time than now.

Not only will affiliates help amplify your sales, their hard work will translate into a direct boost for your revenue, too.

Schedule a free demo with the LinkTrust team today and discover how a well-managed affiliate marketing program could transform your business.