How to Create Affiliate Programs That Work

I, first, got my feet wet in affiliate marketing in 2003. That was when I created my very first affiliate program – one an online store I owned at the time. It grew and succeeded as I won a prize after a prize for doing “affiliate management” well.

Affiliate program's ups and downsWith time I turned into an OPM, or an outsourced (affiliate) program manager, and in this capacity I got to create hundreds of affiliate programs for brands across different verticals. Some grew into the world’s best programs, others did not. It wouldn’t be honest to say that all 15 years of my affiliate marketing hustle have been an ongoing success. There have been failures too. But, as we all know, only those who never try anything never fail. It is important to learn from our mistakes and I’ve been doing my best.

In the summer of 2017, speaking at the infamous Affiliate Summit I condensed my years of building affiliate programs into twenty minutes and presented them in a speech entitled “7 Building Blocks of Affiliate Program’s Success.” Below you may find both the video, and the slides for that presentation.

All seven of these are important. The set-it-and-forget-it approach does not work in marketing. If you adopt it in paid media marketing, you may sink money. If, however, you take this route in affiliate marketing, you may sink your most valuable asset – your brand.

If you want to create a healthy affiliate program that generated new business, devote your time to (i) identification and onboarding of quality affiliates, (ii) activation of the onboarded ones, (iii) policing and enforcing compliance of the activated ones, (iv) communicating with all – on all relationship phases, (v) monitoring competition and learning from their successes, as well as from your own, (vi) networking with affiliates, technology developers/providers, fellow-managers, and other marketers, and (vii) self-educating on an ongoing basis.

Sounds like a lot of work? It is. Too many brands treat their affiliate programs as marketing campaigns of secondary importance, and that is the surest path to failure.

2 thoughts on “How to Create Affiliate Programs That Work”

  1. Geno, nice article! Among the listed 7 blocks, I believe majority of the Affiliate Managers spend more time on the first block, “identification and onboarding of quality affiliates” compared to other listed ones.

    I use a handful of tools to discover quality publishers and I am wondering what are the tools that you use to identify and discover?

    Great to have your thoughts on this.

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