Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular marketing methods. It’s right there with email marketing, SEO, social media marketing, and others. It has been especially popular among small businesses and SaaS business models, and one can easily see why: affiliate marketing isn’t expensive, isn’t risky, and presents one of those win-win models ― both the company and the affiliates are usually happy if it works. As Bo Bennett famously said, “affiliate marketing has made businesses millions and ordinary people millionaires.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, here is how affiliate marketing works: the company creates affiliate marketing links to their products and offers them to third parties ― often, freelance bloggers or social media influencers. For example, Matthew Woodward, the now-famous blogger and SEO, has started his career by writing game reviews before YouTube even existed, and gained followers long before affiliate marketing became a thing.
Affiliate marketers take it upon themselves to promote the products. They write a blog post about the product, write a review, make a YouTube video, post on their social networks, or email their contacts. For every customer that bought a product through the affiliate link, the participant gets a commission. Basically, affiliates are freelance salespeople who work on a commission. The company in this case benefits not only from direct affiliate sales, but also from growing their brand awareness, improving their search engine rankings through link building, and increasing traffic to their products.
Affiliate marketing is almost always a good idea. However, just like any other marketing tactic, it can be challenging. There are a number of things affiliate marketing managers tend to struggle with. In this article, we’ll go through the six most common challenges that one might face when creating an affiliate program.
1. Finding Affiliates
Probably the most challenging part of creating an affiliate program is to find affiliates. The solution, however, is straightforward: spread the word about your affiliate program to as many people as possible. This will require various marketing channels: email, social media, affiliate networks. Reach out to industry influencers and bloggers, promote your program on industry-related forums and even look at relevant conferences. And don’t forget to contact your existing customers ― they already love your product and could be interested in promoting it.
2. Rewarding Affiliates
Deciding on an appropriate reward might seem like a challenge. Solve it using the following rule of thumb: affiliate marketers for whom this is s source of income should be rewarded financially. This can be:
- a sales commission
- a fee for every sale
Your existing customers, on the other hand, might be more interested in getting your services or some features for free instead of getting the commission.
2. Motivating Affiliates
Just like in-house employees, your affiliates will sometimes need a motivation boost to keep promoting your brand. It can be as easy as increasing the commission rate. To know if this is the case, evaluate the market regularly to see if your commission structure is up-to-date. If you don’t have the budget to increase commission, consider a time-specific bump. For example, you can pay more during the holidays or other time periods during which your sales generally increase. You can also introduce random sales bonuses: random rewards can do wonders. However, you can also go another way: start providing affiliates with brand content that they got tired of creating themselves or introduce gamification into your affiliate program.
3. Maintaining the Brand Voice
Maintaining brand voice and brand messaging is one of the hardest challenges companies face when they start an affiliate program. The best way to ensure an unchanging brand voice is to choose the right affiliates in the first place. Look through their social media profiles and assess the content they produce: blog posts, YouTube videos, etc. Pick the ones who already have a style that fits. Also, outline some ground rules before the business relationship begins. You won’t be able to control everything your affiliate posts, but you can still agree on basic messaging, language, and platforms.
4. Managing Affiliates
Managing affiliates can get complicated. Especially, if the company has many different partners. An affiliate manager has to keep track of which affiliates are responsible for which sales, ensure the commission is paid on time, ensure the right amount of payment, and so on.
The best way to prevent accounting confusions is to use affiliate management tools. Such tools automate most of the tasks that an affiliate manager has to complete, including onboarding, engaging, tracking, and paying the affiliates.
5. Dealing with Fraud
Affiliate marketing is a popular way to make money. And so is fraud. Sometimes, these two intersect. Affiliate fraud consists of various techniques, some of them being quite sophisticated. For example, one can hijack URL domains that are near those of the company’s name or the company’s products so that a frauder can pick up a referral from the redirect. Sometimes, frauds get people to download spyware that inserts affiliate codes automatically. One can also clone other affiliate site’s content to get their traffic. The examples go on and on.
You can prevent most scams by using affiliate management tools that have built-in technology that protects you from fraud attempts. They detect suspicious activity on your website and take action automatically.
In the best case, you want to work with affiliates who are interested in promoting your product, fit your brand image (or at least not disturb it too much), and stay with you for a long time. And, you want many of them. You also want to avoid any damage that may come from such a program. So creating an affiliate program can indeed be challenging, but with 81% of brands employing affiliate programs, you definitely don’t want to be left behind.