In the United States alone, affiliate marketing is an $8.2 billion dollar industry. Affiliate programs are the partnership program type we recommend most businesses launch first, and in that launch process, we know how important your choice of affiliate program software is. After all, it’s the backbone of your program.
To know whether your affiliate program is performing and whether you’ve chosen the right affiliates, you need to keep track of all those clicks and sales and leads. The right affiliate program software automates these tasks, saving you time and allowing you to focus your time and energy somewhere else.
The problem is that a simple search of affiliate program software yields hundreds of options. So how do you choose? Start your search by understanding the features and functionality your first affiliate program software should have. Starting off with the most important capabilities — like automated payments, versatile tracking, good UX, and accessible support — means your program can grow uninhibited by your platform.
Features and functionality your first affiliate program software should have
As much as your affiliate partners may love your product, for them the point of joining your affiliate marketing program is to earn money. If they’re not going to get anything out of it, why would they let people exit their website by clicking on a link to yours?
Affiliate program software that offers automated payouts helps you stay on top of the commission you’re paying your affiliate partners. Automation of this task means there’s less room for the kind of human error that would lead to affiliates being paid late, not at all, or an incorrect amount. Avoiding payment errors will help protect your reputation and keep your affiliates happy.
Automated rewards tracking
A good way to know whether a particular affiliate partner is a good match for your affiliate marketing program is to look at how much and how often you’ve paid them their rewards. This information paints a picture of the volume of traffic that partner has generated for you and whether it picked up around certain events or campaigns. Affiliate management software that tracks these payments automatically will save you time and reduce the risk of errors. It’s even better when, with one click, the software can present the data in a simplified form, like a graph, so that you can get the necessary information at a glance.
Integrated lead management software
Lead management is all about analyzing the leads generated during the sales process, separating the good ones from the bad ones, finding ways to turn the bad ones into good ones, and matching the good ones with the most suitable partner to nurture them and turn them into sales. Lead management software speeds up this process so that you can focus on the more human side of customer relationship management and close those deals faster. When your affiliate marketing program software comes with integrated lead management software, you don’t need to buy separate software to convert leads into sales.
While tracking the rewards you’ve paid out gives you a good overview of the success of your affiliate marketing program, you may want more detailed data to give you an idea of how the more specific facets of your strategy are working. A useful feature for affiliate software to have is the ability to track all your marketing efforts, including social media, email marketing and mailing lists, paid advertisements, referral links and coupons, all in one place.
The ability to customize and automate communications
For your affiliate marketing campaigns to be successful, you need regular, clear communication with everyone involved. This is another aspect you can automate to save you time. Trigger emails are emails sent to your customers when they perform a certain task. For example, when someone signs up with your affiliate program, you send them a welcome email that thanks them for signing up, explains what they can expect, and shares links they will find helpful at this stage. Or when someone’s account hasn’t been active for a while, you send them an email to nudge them and find out how you can engage them again — without the need for manual intervention.
This is another feature that is useful to have integrated in your affiliate management software so that you don’t need separate software. However, you’ll most likely want to personalize these communications to suit your brand rather than send out something that’s obviously generic. You want software that allows you to customize your communications and include your branding, too. BombBomb is a great example of the revenue-driving potential of customized communication.
The capability to scale up to referral and reseller programs in the future without having to switch software
With affiliate marketing programs, the affiliate partners are involved only at the start of the sales process. A referral partner is a step up from an affiliate partner. Instead of just sending you leads, they filter out the weaker leads and only refer qualified leads that they think are perfect for you. A reseller partner takes it even further — instead of simply handing over the lead to you, they remain involved throughout the sales process. If you want to switch from a simple affiliate marketing program to referral and reseller programs at some point in the future, you can fork out the money for new software or you can check that the affiliate program software you invest in now can easily be converted for referral and reseller programs later on. We suggest the latter.
A resources hub
Especially when you’re new to affiliate marketing, you may find the process daunting. But how will you learn what you need to know if you don’t even know what you don’t know? A resources hub where you can access guides, articles, and online events and discussions all in one place will make it infinitely easier for you to find out what you need to know and stay abreast of all the latest insights.
A user-friendly interface
There’s no point in investing in fantastic affiliate software that nobody can figure out how to use. You need to look for software that has a user-friendly interface that everyone involved can learn to leverage quickly. Before you buy, check whether the software offers a free demo so that you can get an idea of how it works.
Availability in your country
Not all affiliate program softwares are available in all countries. Many, for instance, are only available in the United States. Check that the software you plan to invest in is available in your country. It’s a bonus if it’s also available in multiple languages, which will help you support affiliates around the world.
A dedicated customer support team
Even the best affiliate marketing software means nothing without the human touch. When you shop for software for affiliates, check that you’ll also have access to a stellar team of real people to offer you support. This includes a dedicated integrations team to help you set up the software and a customer services management team that will answer any questions and resolve any issues you may have down the line.
Want to tick off everything on this wishlist with one software? Check out PartnerStack, a partner ecosystem platform that can build and scale your affiliate program and beyond.