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How to Structure a Brand Affiliate Program

How to Structure a Brand Affiliate Program

Having an affiliate program for your business is an excellent way to attract new customers, make connections, and increase your traffic and sales -- if you set it up right. Figuring out how to run a successful program that provides the best value to your business can be difficult. In this blog, we provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to get started and structure your brand affiliate program.

What is an Affiliate Program?

You’re probably already familiar with affiliate marketing so we’ll keep this brief. In summary, an affiliate program is when you partner with an individual to promote your product or service and offer them a commission in exchange. Typically these individuals carry some kind of online or social influence and are therefore in the best position to drive traffic and sales to your website. Affiliates are often popular bloggers, website owners, social media influencers, or anyone with an engaged follower base. 

 Some common benefits that affiliate programs have for brands include:

  • They are a cost-effective form of marketing
  • They can rapidly increase your sales and traffic
  • They can boost your brand awareness and reputation

Learn more about their benefits here

Now that you have a refresher on what an affiliate program entails, let’s go over program structure!

Step 1: Determine Your Goals

Before you begin, be sure to narrow down the key benefits your brand wants to achieve with its affiliate program. Establishing your goals can help you decide who you want to work with, how many affiliates you need, what platform to use, etc. A couple of examples could be:

  • Make $500 in affiliate sales per month
  • Increase SEO rankings
  • Work with 30 more affiliates per quarter
  • Add 30 high-quality, user generated content pieces per month

Step 2: Choose The Product For Your Affiliate to Promote 

Launching a new product? Build awareness for it and generate social proof by having your affiliates promote it. Be sure to choose a product that has a high enough profit margin that you’re still able to make profit from it, while also being able to give the affiliate a generous commission that will reward them for their promotion. 

Choosing the right products for your affiliate program can determine its success -- so pick something your affiliates can get excited about and make sure it aligns with their niche. 

Step 3: Narrow Down Your Budget 

It is important to calculate your budget when establishing an affiliate program so you don’t overspend in any area and deflate your profits. 

To create your budget, determine: 

  • What it costs your business to acquire new customers
  • Product gifting costs and fulfillment for affiliates (if you plan on giving them the product)
  • How much you are able and willing to pay toward affiliate commissions (while still incentivizing them)
  • How many affiliates you can afford
  • Are you planning on paying your affiliates per lead, per click, or per sale? 
  • Are you able to afford the affiliate tech platforms required to succeed? Or will you manage this in-house? And what are those costs?

Step 4: Create a Timeline

Setting up a timeline will help you figure out when you should start reaching out to affiliates and when the best time to launch your program is. 

Think about:

  • When your product launches
  • Holidays
  • Upcoming sales or promotions 
  • Any other collaborations and affiliate launches
  • How long it will take you to find your affiliates
  • How long it will take to contact and onboard the affiliates you’ve set out to

Essentially you want to highlight what the best time is for your brand to launch the program and give yourself enough time to onboard your affiliates and answer any questions they may have. 

Step 5: Narrow Down your Target Audience

You probably have a good idea about who your target audience is already but this is a crucial step to launch your program. Making sure you understand who your audience is following for product recommendations and what platform they’re spending most of their time on can help you with your affiliate search. 

Before you search for the influencers/affiliates you want to work with, learn the following about your target audience:

  • Are they spending most of their time on Instagram? YouTube? Pinterest? TikTok?
  • Are they more likely to engage with video or image content?
  • Who does your audience look to for product recommendations?

Once you know the answer to these 3 questions, you’re ready to start reaching out to affiliates! 

Step 6: Find and Reach Out to Influencers

Now that you’ve narrowed down your audience, you can start your influencer outreach! Because you’ve already figured out what platforms your consumers spend the most time on, you’ll be able to narrow down your search to find influencers on the platforms you’ve identified. Remember to:

  • Research 3-4 niche hashtags your ideal influencers are posting about
  • Be selective and targeted -- you don’t want to work with just anyone!
  • Pick influencers who share common interests that complement your brand
  • Look for influencers with engaged followers -- a high follower count is not always better
  • Determine how casual or detailed you want your pitch to be -- email or DM?

Have influencers in mind but no idea how to approach them? We’ve created six email and DM influencer templates that you can use to reach out to influencers with confidence! 

Step 7: Set Up Tracking Links

This is one of the most important parts of all -- building your affiliate program tracking links. Tracking links are mainly used to track each affiliate’s traffic and sales so that you can accurately manage commissions. This can be done in-house, but requires some technical resources that your team may or may not have -- especially if you’re working with a lot of affiliates. The easiest way to start is using a platform designed specifically for affiliate programs. 

Some popular affiliate tracking platforms include:

  • ThriveCart
  • TapFiliate
  • SamCart

You can learn more about these platforms here

Challenges to Be Aware Of

Now that we’ve gone through the steps on creating an affiliate program, let’s discuss the challenges your brand should be prepared to face.

  1. Measurement and Tracking - It could be hard to accurately track through coupon or trackable links as it sometimes takes many touch points before a consumer is ready to make a purchase. This means some consumers may see an affiliate promoting a product in August and not buy until months later so the sale wouldn’t be attributed to that original product introduction. 
  2. Management - The more affiliates you have, the more time it takes to properly compensate and manage them.
  3. It’s a learning curve - Learning how to use the affiliate program software you decide is right for your business takes time and effort. Making sure you’re learning how to properly use the software to your business’ advantage is crucial for your program’s success. 
  4. Finding and managing affiliates - Making sure you’re finding and reaching out to the right influencers can be challenging. From finding influencers in your niche, to crafting the perfect message, to sparking their interest in your brand, and managing them along the way it can take a lot of resources and practice to make the affiliate side of your program run smoothly. 

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Brand affiliate programs can help to build brand awareness, increase your sales and get more people posting about your brand and its products, but they can also be a huge undertaking. If you need help finding the quality influencers that can help you achieve your goals, Statusphere can help connect you with them and manage the collaboration from start to finish. Contact an influencer marketing specialist to learn more.