To create a successful affiliate marketing program, you’ll need an arsenal of proven digital marketing strategies to generate some initial quick wins and keep the momentum going! You always want super-motivated and engaged affiliates, so your program continues to thrive and delivers on the critical goal – sustainable profits.

In this article, we’ll be listing some of the best affiliate marketing ideas you can use to get your program off to a great start and build strong win-win relationships with your affiliates.

Top 21 affiliate marketing ideas:

1. Know how to find best-fit affiliates

Finding the right affiliate partners can be critical to the success of your online business. Best-fit affiliates don’t need to be similar to you in every respect, but you do need to match up in the most important ways.

Audience match: Look for affiliates performing well in the same niche as you or an allied niche. So if you’re selling a content marketing solution, you can quickly and effortlessly align with affiliates who are into content creation products, small business marketing solutions, business coaching, and so on. 

Content match: The next criteria to look for is the quality, frequency, and method of content transmission. Ideally, you want to connect with affiliates who are posting high-quality content with a consistent frequency. Also, look for activity on the same social media channels that your followers frequent. 

Frequent posting of quality content serves several different purposes. This increase an affiliate’s audience size over time and also keeps the audience primed and engaged for consistent affiliate sales. 

Value match: Another important criterion is the alignment of values. Look at the tone and style your affiliate uses when posting content, and make sure that aligns closely with your brand voice. Also, ensure that nothing an affiliate has posted is in contradiction with your mission and values. 

Marketing potential: Last but not least, evaluate the potential for revenue generation. Look for affiliates with a wide reach and high engagement rates. You can always probe further for conversion rates when you meet one-on-one with the potential affiliate.  

Bear in mind that your chosen affiliates don’t need to be well-versed with your brand or your products. You can quickly bring them up to speed on the selling points and how you want to position your product to their audience. 

2. Decide where you’ll search for affiliates

At this point, you may wonder how you can find affiliates to partner with. Here are some methods you can adopt:

  • Search through your preferred social media channels, using hashtags for the relevant brand, industry, or niche.
    • Or, comb for content creators who have tagged you directly in their posts.
  • Make use of brand mention tools to search the wider Web for creators.
    • Using these tools, you can find bloggers and social media creators who have discussed your brand or talked about your niche.
  • Recruit your existing customers who are already successful content creators.
    • When they’re already sold on the value of your product, it’s easier to convince them to promote you in favorable terms, ideally in exchange for some form of reward.
  • Set up an online affiliate application form to invite potential affiliates to join you.
    •  Once you’ve created the form, promote it on your brand’s website and social media channels and also encourage shares!

where to find affiliates

3. Leverage influencers as affiliates

Influencers usually have large, loyal, and engaged audiences. But measuring influencers’ impact can be challenging unless you have a system that can record the sales influencers motivate – like trackable affiliate links. So, if you’re thinking about recruiting influencers, it’s wise to use the influencer-affiliate model.

If you decide to recruit influencers, use affiliate marketing software so they can add trackable links to their channels. With these links, aside from sales, you can also measure equally essential metrics like reach and engagement. 

influencer affiliate fitness code

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4. Consider smaller creators for higher engagement

You don’t need to recruit creators who have the largest followings. Smaller content creators are a fantastic option for businesses, especially those on shoestring budgets. It’s easy to dismiss smaller-sized content creators, but you do so at your peril. Size doesn’t always accurately represent engagement. 

Smaller content creators, called nano-influencers or micro-influencers, usually have very active and engaged fan bases. Often, the level of engagement on smaller creators’ posts can exceed those of more prominent influencers because of how much more close-knit the community is. Followers trust them implicitly and feel close to them because of the relatively small size of the community.

Smaller content creators also tend to niche down, which means you can aim for a much narrower stretch of your target audience. At the end of the day, when you partner with several small content creators, the costs are less exorbitant compared to partnering with a single large influencer.

tattoo zoo affiliate

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5. Reach out to customers with a reasonable follower base

Your most devoted and loyal customers can become some of your brightest star affiliates, provided they have a reasonable follower base on their social media platforms. The average customer has about 150 followers on Instagram. Each placement of your product link has the potential to reach these followers and beyond. 

Your customers have used and know your products inside out, so you won’t need to spend much time on product training and familiarization. They’ve chosen to buy from you instead of similar brands in the market, so it’s easier for them to sell you in an authentic and organic way. 

Authenticity contributes to trust, which is one of the most important reasons customers buy. Your customers’ followers trust them and their recommendations. People are more likely to buy a company’s products based on the advice of the people they trust, as opposed to any form of direct brand marketing. 

Also, if they’ve been naturally raving about you to their friends, family, and associates, they’ll be more likely to come on board for a paid engagement that promises some passive income on the side.

6. Steer clear of existing affiliate networks

We don’t recommend affiliate networks even though they may seem like an easy way to find potentially outstanding affiliates. Here’s why: 

  • Loss of control: You’re connecting with your affiliates via the network, which often brings unique challenges.
    • You won’t have as much control over managing your affiliates, because the network serves as a middleman. 
    • You also don’t have the ability to build relationships which can be extremely valuable for a profitable long-term engagement. 
  • Data deprivation: Data is essential for performance marketing.
    • With networks, unfortunately, your data is owned by the affiliate network. This leaves you with poor data visibility, limited access, and an inability to understand how well you’re doing and where you can do better.
  • Competition:  In a network, you’re forced to compete with other similar brands for the same affiliates, especially if they’re top-tier affiliates.
    • If you’re competing with larger or more well-established brands, you may not necessarily be able to offer the same level of rewards or commissions, putting you at a disadvantage. 
    • Similarly, your affiliates are not entirely dedicated to your cause on networks. It’s in the network’s interest to have many affiliates, and to get them working with many brands at once.
  • Expenses: When you’re dealing with a middleman, you also have to factor in additional costs.
    •  Affiliate networks will charge you their own fees, on top of the commissions you’re paying your affiliates. This extra fee can be as much as 30% of your earnings through affiliates.

A better idea, in more ways than one, would be to build your own affiliate program from the ground up by using affiliate software. You can create a more equitable win-win partnership with this valuable marketing tool.

compare affiliate software vs affiliate networks

7. Use affiliate software

Affiliate marketing software, or affiliate management software, is a much better way to work with your affiliates. You get all the benefits of managing your affiliate program wholly in-house, and avoid the drawbacks of dealing with affiliate networks. Over and above managing affiliate relationships, affiliate software helps with the all-important aspects of tracking affiliate sales and ensuring affiliates are paid out on time and accurately.

With affiliate software, you’ll have complete control over all your marketing data. You’ll be able to make sound decisions to optimize your performance, due to the availability of comprehensive real-time data. 

You’ll also have free rein to customize your affiliate program, as you won’t have to relinquish any aspect of management to a third party, ever. This includes even the more cosmetic elements of your program, like customizing your logo and colors inside the platform.

One of the biggest benefits of deploying affiliate marketing software is that you’re also in control of your relationships with the affiliates. You get to decide who you will work with and the terms of engagement. You can build long-term relationships that encourage trust, which in turn encourages engagement and repeat sales.

Last but not least, making use of affiliate software for creating a program will cost you less in the long run compared to working with affiliate networks. 

What makes Referral Rock affiliate software different

8. Set up and promote an affiliate application

An affiliate application is like an online application form that helps you screen and shortlist potential affiliate partners. When you use an affiliate application process, you’re essentially calling the shots in terms of deciding who you want to work with. 

When using an affiliate application for screening, ensure you ask for links to the affiliate’s blog, website, and/or social media channels. Also, include appropriate questions to gauge their potential for successfully generating sales for you. For example, you can ask who they’ve worked with so far and what kinds of results they’ve been able to generate for them.

booking.com affiliate application

Once you create your application form, promote it online so people know that you’re hiring affiliates. Promote your application form on all your social media channels. Also, share it to your email list in dedicated emails, or as part of newsletters, transactional emails, and thank you emails. You can also promote it on the top and bottom menu bars of your website and in niche affiliate groups online. You can even do paid ads if you have the budget to accommodate them. 

A more direct method is to reach out to potential affiliates and invite them to fill out the affiliate application form. 

thorgate affiliate facebook post

9. Create an affiliate program landing page

An affiliate program landing page is an entire page on your website dedicated to the cause of selling your affiliate marketing program. 

  • Start your page with an enticing hook that entices potential affiliates to read more. 
  • Cover all the benefits affiliates can earn from your program and how they can earn the benefits.
  • List the terms and conditions so potential affiliates know what to expect.
  • Showcase glowing testimonials from your current affiliates. 

Optimize your page for SEO by using relevant keywords related to your product type, niche or industry, and business name [plus the words “affiliate program”] to increase the chances of it being seen by potential affiliates. 

ActiveCampaign SaaS affiliate program 1

10. Share social proof of affiliates’ success

An exciting method to generate new affiliates is to showcase the success stories of your existing affiliates. Invite your best performers to share testimonials and what they love about being with your program. Ask them to share how much they’ve been able to generate since signing up, and for added effect, ask them to talk about how the earnings have helped them change their life for the better.

Remember to highlight these testimonials on your program landing page. They serve as social proof to validate that you’re legit and that affiliates can generate genuine results by signing up with your program. 

kajabi partner testimonials

11. Diversify your affiliate mix

One affiliate marketing idea worth testing is varying the type of affiliates you work with. It’s an opportunity to test and find out the most effective marketing methods for your business.

Try as far as possible to recruit across all the social media channels your target audience loves to frequent. Aim for a diversified mix of Instagram influencers, YouTube marketers, and bloggers if your audience lives in these channels, for example. Also, look at newsletter publishers with similar audience demographics. If you’re a B2B business, a great strategy to use is recruiting expert webinar hosts as successful affiliates. Mix and match using a combination of well-known influencers and smaller content creators.

While you’re varying your sourcing channels, remember to optimize your content according to the channel. Each social media channel has its own unique type of content that works well on its platform. 

12. Give affiliates discount codes

Offering discounts to affiliates’ followers can be a very effective affiliate marketing strategy when used judiciously – customers love a good deal. When you pair discounts with your affiliate links, it can make it that much easier for your affiliates to drive robust sales.  

There are a few different ways you can work with discount codes:

  • Provide your affiliates a tiered discount coupon depending on the average order value, say 10% off $50 and 20% off $100.
  • Offer a customized coupon code for each affiliate depending on how much value they provide to your business. Customers are more likely to click links that read “RODNEY20” for an influencer called Rodney than a random string of letters and numbers – it just looks more trustworthy.

Make sure your discount is valid throughout the length of your affiliate engagement. But, you can also vary strategies to keep interest levels high by offering freebies or higher-value discounts on special occasions during the year. 

influencer affiliate program giveaway

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13. Give affiliates free products to try

Nobody loves freebies more than affiliates. When affiliates have access to free samples of your products, they can try the products themselves and provide informed honest and genuine reviews. This will also help them easily answer any questions that followers have about the product. 

Providing free samples is also a great pre-launch marketing strategy for a brand new product. Several reviews from affiliate partners across networks can generate buzz, enough for you to generate healthy sales at launch time. 

influencer affiliate candy box gift

14. Make affiliates’ job easier with assets and posting guides

Affiliates will be more enthusiastic about partnering with brands long-term when there’s a support team available. Provide an affiliate support team member to field questions and help with troubleshooting. 

Also, provide free marketing resources in the form of banners, images, and videos that the affiliates can freely use in every type of content, such as social media posts, blog posts, product reviews on the affiliate website, or YouTube channel promotions. Make it easy for your affiliates to promote you, and they’ll love you for it. 

Also, think about offering guides or video tutorials that showcase how to use affiliate-created images in their content. You can also discuss do’s and don’ts in terms of what they can talk about and what they can’t. Some businesses even go so far as to provide sales support through affiliate marketing strategies, tips, and guidelines. 

activecampaign affiliate resources

15. Optimize the pages that affiliates direct their audience to

Make sure affiliates have a high-converting landing page or product page to drive their audience to when you’re running your affiliate marketing campaigns. Once the affiliates are done with sending you traffic, the ball is now firmly in your court. You’re going to convert those hot leads to actual sales.

If you’re directing affiliate traffic directly to a store/product page on your website or other ecommerce marketing platform (Shopify, Amazon, etc.), ensure the following:

  • High-quality, appealing, and attractive product images
  • Compelling product descriptions with emphasis on benefits to the customers
  • Genuine (and preferably glowing!) customer reviews, as new customers would want to know the experience of other customers like them 
  • Fast page load speeds, as slow speeds can cause customers to leave the page. Small businesses on WordPress websites can make use of any number of the plugins that are available to improve page load speeds.
  • Search engine optimization(SEO) for all the content on your page

If your business requires a longer sales cycle, you may prefer to do landing pages instead, in which case, ensure the following: 

  • A compelling headline that hooks and persuades leads to read more
  • Strategic placement of sales copy, video, and images to maximize the conversion rate
  • Focus on the buyer’s journey stage (intent of lead) and on your unique selling point
  • Clear, concise, and captivating benefits proposition
  • In-depth customer reviews and testimonials that showcase how your product benefited them
  • A precise call-to-action placement with a seamless purchase experience

16. Set starting commission rates wisely

Commission rates can be a potential deal breaker – both for affiliates and the business. Offering affiliate commission rates that are too high is simply not sustainable for the business. If your payouts are too low, you may not be able to attract high affiliate marketing performers. 

Research average commission rates and survey affiliate partners to understand their preferences. At the end of the day, you should shoulder your commission rates comfortably, so you’re still running a profitable business. 

Another option is to start at the lower end of the scale and increase to higher commissions based on performance. The last thing you want to do is lower your commission rates once you’ve set a bar. You can end up with some very unhappy affiliates otherwise. 

17. Change up commissions at strategic times

You also want to switch things up strategically to keep affiliates engaged and motivated. You could look at offering increased commission rates or top-up bonuses during off-peak times. You can also offer these during seasons when you expect the most sales, like the winter holidays. 

18. Offer bonuses when affiliates meet milestones

Consider offering extra affiliate incentives when your affiliates reach specific milestones, such as reaching a predetermined amount in lifetime referrals. You can even do a tiered milestone reward system where your affiliate earns higher-value rewards upon reaching higher milestones. Here are a few reward options that affiliates find universally attractive:

  • A permanent commission increase
  • Tangible rewards like tech gadgets, swag, or gift baskets
  • Flat cash bonuses
  • Experiences like sports tickets, concert tickets, or spa vouchers
  • A menu of different rewards that affiliates can pick one option from.

oyster affiliate bonus

19. Set up a leaderboard, and give extra rewards to top-performing affiliates

Successful affiliate marketers and partners are generally self-driven and enjoy competition. Add to the fun by gamifying the experience using leaderboards. Use your affiliate management software to track the sales your affiliates make monthly, quarterly, or annually, and provide extra bonuses or rewards for the highest performers within each set period. 

affiliate leaderboard

20. Spotlight “affiliates of the month” on your blog or social media

Go the extra mile for your affiliates with a monthly spotlight. The recognition can be super-motivating for affiliates to drive even more sales. Showcase the achievement of the affiliate with the most sales for the month. Alternatively, you can look at variables such as the highest sales growth or the biggest increase in conversion rates. In that sense, you’re also rewarding positive upward mobility.

Ask your affiliate to share what they love about your brand and your affiliate program. Make sure to incorporate the commentary in your spotlight, too. It’s a great way to promote both your products and your affiliate marketing program. 

21. Keep affiliates updated

Make sure you’re constantly updating your affiliates and keeping in touch with them. Start by sharing a monthly affiliate newsletter (using email marketing) to showcase new products, new updates to the affiliate marketing program, and special offers, discounts, or sales. Alternatively, you can create a social media or Slack group for the same purpose.

One notable advantage of groups is that you can bring together affiliates to create social communities. In communities like this, affiliates can thrive by sharing best practices. Beginners in your program can also benefit from having their questions answered by more experienced members.   

Apply these affiliate marketing tips 

The affiliate marketing ideas we’ve listed in this article can be a game-changer for your affiliate program, when done right. Use these affiliate marketing strategies to get your program off to a roaring start and build a strong foundation for long-term profitability!