Running an affiliate program for a business is a full-time effort. And if you’re planning to grow your affiliate program’s impact on your total revenue, you need to implement a scaling plan.
While affiliate recruitment is the key to driving more affiliate sales, another worthwhile strategy is to activate your affiliates. It’s one of the 5 main steps to grow your affiliate base, which are: search, recruitment, activation, measuring and optimization.
Activation doesn’t mean just following up with your top affiliates every now and then. You can go a step further and create an entire list of techniques that you may apply on a daily basis. These techniques help you convert inactive affiliates into active ones who bring actual sales. And they also encourage your active affiliates to dedicate more time to your program and sell more.
When you evaluate the performance of your affiliate program, one of the key metrics is the percentage of active affiliates. The sheer number of affiliates is meaningless. What matters is how many of them bring you referred customers.
An active affiliate is one who generates sales in a given period of time. You would rather have 20 of those who consistently bring in money than have a database of 1,000 stagnant affiliates.
But keep in mind that some of your inactive affiliates can have the potential to become active. They just need a little push – an incentive to focus their resources on your affiliate program.
Because affiliates, too, have limited resources, your program is in a constant competition with other affiliate programs in the same niche. If you have a hard time convincing people to join your affiliate program and be active promoters of your products, you may want to re-evaluate whether you’re targeting the right segments and if you’re offering a satisfying commission rate.
Here are 15 techniques that you may use to activate your affiliates and eventually scale your affiliate program:
1. Send regular follow-up emails
Follow up with your affiliates on a regular basis. This especially concerns those affiliates who haven’t been active since their sign-up. These non-active affiliates can turn out to be promising and generate actual revenue if you just remind them of your program.
You may also ask if they need any assistance or have questions about your affiliate program. Since your resources are limited, you might not want to do this with everyone. Instead, you can choose to restrict these follow-ups to promising affiliates, only.
2. Schedule video calls with your top affiliates
Video calls are time-consuming to have and organize, which is why you should limit the use of this technique to your top affiliates. Some affiliates appreciate these scheduled calls as they can feel free to ask questions and get answers in real time.
Video calls also add a more personal touch to your affiliate relationships and make your affiliates appear more like business partners. This may boost their promotional efforts.
3. Suggest a content-related collaboration
Another way to activate an affiliate is to suggest a content-related collaboration. This is a good idea if you have affiliates who run a website or blog with a decent amount of traffic.
Pay attention to their domain authority, too. You don’t want the collaboration to damage your SEO. But if you organize collaborations with the right affiliates, you will manage to not only activate those affiliates but also earn backlinks that drive more traffic and sales.
4. Set up auto-approval for new registrations
By choosing to approve new registrations automatically, you will save everyone’s time. You don’t have to approve each affiliate one by one and affiliates don’t have to wait for your approval.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you wouldn’t have to check new registrations every now and then. Regular check-ups are important in order to avoid possible violations. For example, you may have excluded some controversial niches from your affiliate program.
5. Send a welcome email to new affiliates
You can set up an automated welcome email to all new affiliates. The function of this email is to establish a connection with your affiliates. Even if the email is automated, you may use merge tags to personalize the recipient’s name and include your signature. You can also allow your affiliates to reply to the email in case they have any questions.
If you want your welcome email to drive action, try to create actionable content. You can mention some useful tips that will help your affiliates get started with their promotion.
6. Update all affiliates regularly
Activation can also be about keeping your affiliates up to date on the most recent news. When you’re launching a new product or feature or have any other important news to share, you could send an update email to your entire affiliate base.
Email is the most common way of being contacted by affiliate managers and it’s also preferred by 84% of affiliate marketers. These email updates also function as a reminder of your affiliate program for those who have remained dormant since registration.
7. Create special campaigns
If you have the resources, launching special campaigns for affiliates can help you create a buzz around your business. These special campaigns can be about a temporary increase in affiliate commissions, a higher commission for certain products that haven’t sold well so far, discount codes, or bonuses for generating a certain amount of sales.
You may also establish campaigns targeted toward specific segments of your affiliate base. For example, affiliates who are focused on content marketing and write reviews of your products might appreciate giveaways that they could promote to their audience.
8. Attend conferences and industry events
Affiliate conferences and other industry events are ideal for establishing more personal connections. Affiliate Summit, for example, organizes conferences in the U.S., Europe and the Asia-Pacific region every year with thousands of attendees.
But networking is also possible in any event in your industry where you’re able to meet affiliates. In addition to fostering your existing affiliate relationships, these events offer the opportunity to recruit new affiliates. Direct contact with other industry people also gives you updates on the latest trends and insights from the top influencers.
9. Build a communication schedule
While welcome emails and special campaigns are effective techniques to activate affiliates, driving maximum traffic and transactions through your affiliates requires continuous engagement. This is why you need a consistent communication schedule.
When you engage affiliates consistently, you encourage them to place more banners or write more posts that link to your site. You may schedule a monthly or even weekly newsletter where you share the latest affiliate industry news. Stick to your schedule.
10. Provide affiliate support
Providing support means having a channel where affiliates can reach out to you whenever they need help. It can be as simple as having an available email address.
Try to answer all relevant support questions related to your affiliate program. Affiliates appreciate it when they can rely on you. And this also helps you build that rapport.
But what to do with affiliates who ask for step-by-step guidelines and need constant support? To save your time, you can simply send them a link to your affiliate marketing blog or recommend them to download your e-book or other useful marketing materials.
Your resources are limited, too. And your affiliate program is not a free training course for novice marketers. Feel free to keep your answers brief and to the point. Some questions also tend to reappear frequently, so templates may come in handy.
11. Offer performance-based incentives
The idea behind performance-based incentives is to urge affiliates to put a maximum effort into promoting your products. Closely related to special campaigns, these incentives refer to higher commissions and bonuses that are granted for affiliates who exceed a specific threshold in their sales revenue in a given period of time.
Providing strong incentives for your affiliates is one of the main conditions for running a successful affiliate program. Your program competes for the same marketers as other affiliate programs in the same niche. Performance-based incentives can help you stand out from these competitors and attract the most promising affiliate partners.
12. Involve affiliates in giveaways
Giveaways are an ideal incentive for content and social media marketers. You can organize a giveaway for your audience and ask your affiliates to help spread the word. Affiliates who write product reviews, for example, can include a link to your giveaway campaign. This way, both you and your affiliate can boost traffic and drive engagement.
You may reward the winners of your giveaway with a free product in return for following your business on social media, liking and sharing the post and tagging their friends. The increased exposure and new leads that giveaways generate are usually worth giving away a few products for free.
13. Ask affiliates for feedback
Affiliates are a great resource for getting useful feedback. And you can ask for feedback on both your products and your affiliate marketing campaigns. Most affiliate marketers only endorse products that they actually like and would use themselves. From these affiliates, you can get valuable feedback on how to improve your products.
You may also ask what kind of affiliate campaigns and marketing materials they would appreciate in the future. This feedback helps you adjust your affiliate marketing strategy so that it serves your affiliates better. And you get a chance to engage your affiliates.
14. Organize an affiliate webinar
Actual physical meetups could be difficult and expensive to organize, not least because affiliates are typically scattered around the globe. Webinars can, therefore, offer a good alternative. These virtual meetups allow you to interact with your affiliate partners face-to-face in real time, albeit not in the same room.
You can use Google Hangouts or Zoom to organize your affiliate webinar. In Google Hangouts, you can have up to 25 participants for video calls, while the basic version of Zoom allows up to 100 people to participate. You can set up a schedule for your webinars, for example once per month. And you may include a Q&A session, share updates and allow general conversation with affiliates.
15. Let affiliates test new features or products
By giving your affiliates a limited free access to test your new features or products, you give them a sense of special service. And you get feedback on your new launches.
This technique builds loyalty and allows your affiliates to gain more knowledge about your new products and features, which helps them be more authentic in their promotion.
These 15 techniques, taken from the practical experience of managing a SaaS affiliate program on a daily basis, will help you make the most of your affiliate relationships. Running a successful affiliate program is about managing multiple partnerships at the same time and extracting the maximum value from these collaborations. Affiliate activation is a crucial step in this process and it serves the ultimate goal of scaling your business through affiliate marketing.
Activating your affiliates is a good strategy for building loyalty and long-term growth for your affiliate program. Loyal affiliates are the ones who create long-term effectiveness, and activation lets you convert inactive affiliates and those who make one-time sales into active affiliates who generate recurring sales.