Affiliate marketing has become so ubiquitous in eCommerce that few online businesses can do without affiliate programs in 2023. According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2023 report, affiliate marketing drives 16% of eCommerce sales in Canada and the US. As affiliate marketing programs became more common, however, so do affiliates who aren’t right for a specific program. Perhaps their audience isn’t a good fit for the product, or maybe they’re just looking to join the program for the commission without investing in the work needed. So the question becomes, how do you attract the best quality affiliates for your program? We asked Andy Kim, Director of Network Growth at PartnerStack about finding high-quality affiliates for your B2B affiliate program.
What is an affiliate program?
When you have an eCommerce website, you want to attract as many visitors as possible, just like a brick-and-mortar store wants to attract foot traffic. After all, when people are browsing to see what you have to offer, they just might decide to buy – and that’s the end goal, isn’t it?
An affiliate program is a way to get that traffic to your site. You work with creators, influencers, publications and media outlets to expand your reach. Usually, this is done by paying them a commission for the visitors they send to your site or for the clicks converted into sales.
Affiliates in action
For example, an influencer may add a link to your business on their website, so that when a visitor to their site clicks on it, it will steer them to your site which they may not have sought out on their own. Because they got to your site through an already trusted source, it has a similar effect as word of mouth does. It is more likely that they are already partially convinced to buy from you. As Andy puts it, “For B2B brands, they are renting the trust that you’ve built with your audience to build a genuine connection with them through you.”
How can you become an affiliate partner?
Andy’s advice to aspiring affiliate partners is to start by building an audience. This can be on social media, through blogging, or by paid acquisition. The key to becoming a great affiliate is to capture an audience that engages with your content and trusts you.
It’s not all about quantity, either. Industry reports, like this one from Forbes, show that brands are shifting their focus to nano- and micro-influencers for affiliates rather than simply focusing on those who have thousands or millions of followers. These smaller affiliates often drive higher engagement, conversions and ROI.
How do affiliates earn commissions?
Andy explains that as an affiliate, the commission is a function of two core elements:
- Commission rate: This is the reward or payment that an affiliate earns when the traffic, leads, or deals they drive become paying customers for the vendor. The vendor sets the rate (which may be negotiable) and determines the potential upside when working with a particular partner program.
- Conversion rate: This measures the rate at which the traffic, leads or deals that the affiliate is driving are becoming paying customers. This rate determines the probability of earning a commission.
When evaluating an affiliate program, the potential affiliate should look at both commission rate and conversion rate. It’s essential to evaluate the potential payout that the program is offering, as well as the probability of being able to drive conversion for the program. For example, a program might be offering a high commission rate, but if the product does not align with the interests of the affiliate’s audience ,or if that product typically has a low conversion rate, there may not be strong potential for ROI. Conversely, if conversion rates are high but commission rates are low, the affiliate might not be earning as much as they potentially could for the customers that they are driving.
The highest-paying affiliate program may differ for each affiliate. Most important for an affiliate is to first know and understand their audience and what they’re looking for. Then they find the products that align with their audience’s needs since these will naturally have a higher conversion rate. Finally, the affiliate looks for the affiliate programs with the highest commission rate: in other words, the highest payout. Andy highlights some of the highest-paying affiliate programs in PartnerStack’s network, including Monday.com, Jungle Scout and Notion.
Expert tip: If you’re just getting started with affiliate marketing, Andy encourages starting by selling products that you are already familiar with since these will be much easier for you to sell.
How do you know if an affiliate partner is right for your program?
Once you have launched your affiliate program, you’ll have the task of sorting through applicants. This is where you need to start separating the wheat from the chaff or you’ll end up with affiliate partners who are not driving traffic or sales. Andy suggests that you start by looking at the applicant’s audience:
- How big is their reach?
- Who is their audience?
This will tell you what the affiliate’s potential conversion rate will be. You also need to look at their own understanding of their audience:
- Do they understand their audience and analytics?
- How engaged is their audience?
By probing their understanding of their own audience through the application form, you can get a better sense of the maturity of the affiliate and the potential for a successful partnership.
Next, you need to look at their reputation and authenticity:
- What does their domain authority look like?
They might have the right audience and traffic but if their site isn’t secure, you may not want to move forward with a partnership with them.
Finally, you need to do your due diligence. Make sure that all of the information they provide is true. For example, make sure that their email address matches the domain of the website, newsletter or social media platform that they are putting forward as their promotional assets.
How can you attract quality affiliate partners from the start?
It will save you a lot of time if, right from the start, you attract applications from quality affiliates. You don’t want to spend time sifting through applicants who aren’t a good fit, are in it for the wrong reasons, or are bots. Andy suggests that you focus on three main areas:
- Competitive commission rates: Most affiliates are looking to generate income. But you are competing against thousands of other affiliate marketing programs to acquire quality partners. Evaluate your own unit economics and compare that with what other vendors are offering their affiliate partners. Andy says that in PartnerStack’s network, programs typically offer a 25 per cent revenue share as the commission rate. A competitive offer will help you stand out from the competition and attract quality affiliates to your program.
- Creativity and flexibility: Some affiliates might be looking for a different commission structure than what you are offering. You can attract quality affiliates by being creative and flexible enough to come to an agreement on a commission structure that works for both parties.
- Support and enablement: Affiliates are essentially part of your sales team. For them to successfully sell your product, you need to provide the support and training. So, make sure that you establish clear lines of communication. Communicate frequently and use tools like the learning management software (LMS) in PartnerStack to share valuable assets and collateral for affiliates to leverage.
Tips to turn inactive affiliate into high performers for your program?
Of course, you need to evaluate whether an affiliate will be worth your time before you enter into a partnership with them. Andy says that you can do this evaluation directly in PartnerStack by using tags and the Segments feature.
Sometimes an affiliate looks good on paper but is struggling to get started with your program. For these affiliates, Andy suggests you build a progressive engagement plan which breaks the process down into smaller goals. You can incentivize affiliate partners to write about you by offering them a reward for submitting a completed blog or social media post, or a digital ad, for example.
From here, you could offer the affiliate an extra reward for driving their first lead or customer.
By breaking down the seemingly difficult journey into its individual components and rewarding partners for hitting each milestone, you may see increased performance from them. And it doesn’t have to mean a lot of extra work for you. You can do it directly on PartnerStack through the PartnerStack Challenges feature.