Navigating the Affiliate Marketing Channel with Craig McGlynn Episode 4: How & When to Launch a New Affiliate Program

This article is the fourth in an ongoing informative series written by Craig McGlynn, the VP of Agency Sales at leading Affiliate Management Agency Perform[cb]. The series covers topics of interest to people in the Affiliate Industry, considering launching an affiliate program, or scaling an existing affiliate program. Links to the previous articles are below!

So you’ve decided to start an affiliate program for your brand – of course you want to time the launch of your new program perfectly and ensure all the details run seamlessly. You may have questions like: how do you know when it’s the right time to announce your affiliate program? Or, once you’ve got a timeline established, how do you know what needs to get done pre-launch? Don’t be overwhelmed – I’ve got you!

How do I launch a new affiliate program?

I’ll keep it ridiculously simple – first, find a tracking platform. This is an important decision and I would recommend you exhaust every resource (including talking to me) for advice on this. Another resource I find valuable is Martech Record’s buying guide on affiliate services. There is a ton of nuance to platform choice, and frankly, it can be a good marriage or a bad one depending on the choice, so I can’t stress enough that you do your due diligence. Once you have secured a tracking platform, you should consider whether you have someone – or the time and expertise yourself – to manage your program effectively. If not, hire an affiliate agency to help. Check out Episode 3 of Navigating the Affiliate Marketing Channel, where we covered the major players in the affiliate ecosystem, including the different types of affiliate tracking platforms.

How long does it take to start making sales in the channel?

I generally tell clients who are newly launching a program on a tracking platform that this is all dependent on how fast you can onboard partners and get compelling offers up and running.  Given the variability in this, that means that the first sales can come within hours or weeks. The most imperative step in setting up your tracking platform is getting the pixel placed so the platform can track and do the associated testing to make sure everything is working correctly. It can take up to an hour for entry level tracking platforms like Shareasale to be up and running, and it can take days to weeks for the more sophisticated platforms to be fully operational. So getting that pixel placed and tested is KEY to an expeditious and successful launch!

When should I launch an affiliate program?

One question that is nearly always asked as a brand is looking to launch a new program is “at what point, in the marketing mix lifecycle is it best to activate an affiliate program?” A sales-y person might say “ASAP,” but I want my brand partners to be successful so I generally recommend that you get other, more foundational marketing efforts built out first. Hopefully this buys me a bit of credibility, as I want your overall marketing program to be successful and part of that is having a good experience in affiliate. I’m not self-serving in that I just want you to choose me as your agency partner! To be honest, if a brand comes to me and they don’t have any of the following boxes checked, I tell them to come back later:

  • A functional e-commerce site
  • Google Ads (and a functional Google Analytics dashboard)
  • Some PR and thought leadership on their site as well as sprinkled around leading sites for their industry readership (this could be blog posts focused on the product or service, how it stacks up, how its used, any awards, news stores, or notable mentions)
  • Some regularity in advertising in the following channels:
    • Facebook/Instagram ads
    • Other social advertising
  • At least some work with individual Influencers

Want to learn more about how the affiliate channel can work for you? Connect with an affiliate management expert today!

Stay tuned for our next episode and if you missed them, check out the other articles in this series: 

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