Affiliate Program Strategy – How to Build a Successful Program

Affiliate marketing may seem like an easy way to pump up sales and revenue numbers, but let’s face it – the affiliate marketing landscape is extremely complex. At the heart of it, many companies fail at affiliate marketing because they lack a solid strategy and don’t have experienced internal resources to leverage for help once they realize they’re in over their heads. 

The key to success lies in understanding your offerings inside and out. Whether it’s a product, service, or digital asset, marketers must have a comprehensive grasp of what differentiates their brand from the rest – only then, can you effectively empower publishers and affiliates to market on your behalf.

To get started, discuss these essential questions with your marketing team:

  • Can you clearly define the product or service you want to sell?
  • What is its value proposition?
  • Do you have a competitive advantage that can appeal to consumers?
  • Can you identify your competition?
  • Can you differentiate it from what others are offering?
  • Is your offering price competitive?

By having clear and confident answers to these questions, you’ll be well-prepared to build a successful affiliate strategy and create a thriving partnership. Understanding your offerings is the first step toward unleashing the true potential of an affiliate program for your business.

Choosing the Right Affiliate Management Agency

Even if this isn’t your first time running an affiliate marketing program, chances are you’re going to need help. Whether it’s manpower, publisher relationships, partner recruitment, tactical industry advice, or ongoing campaign optimizations, there are a multitude of moving parts to keep up with. 

To ensure your program’s success, it’s essential to invest in the right resources – choosing to work with an expert affiliate agency can be the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve this.

Top agencies across the affiliate marketing industry bring valuable advantages to the table, including:

  • Speed to Market: With their existing network of affiliates, agencies can quickly launch and scale your program, reaching a wider audience in less time.
  • Industry Expertise: Experienced agencies have worked extensively in your vertical market, giving them a deep understanding of its nuances and effective strategies.
  • Low-Risk Investment: Compared to other digital marketing channels, working with an agency offers a relatively low-risk financial investment, providing more value for your marketing budget.

By teaming up with the right affiliate management agency, marketers gain a strong competitive edge and access to a wealth of resources that can supercharge their affiliate program efforts. This mutually beneficial partnership allows brands to focus on reaching their core growth goals, while the agency experts handle the complexities of managing and optimizing a successful affiliate program.

Choosing the Right Affiliate Tracking Platform

Selecting the right tracking platform is a crucial step in ensuring the success of your affiliate program. This platform will serve as the central hub for all affiliate program reporting, campaign performance data, publisher insights, and more. 

Here are the most common scenarios to consider: 

  • Existing Affiliate Program: Brands with an established affiliate program may already have a designated tracking platform in place, unless they manage it completely in-house.
  • Agency Migration: If brands are joining a new agency, they might want to migrate their affiliate program from one tracking platform to another.
  • New Affiliate Program Launch: Some brands may be starting a brand-new affiliate program and require assistance in setting up a new tracking platform.

Choosing the right tracking platform is crucial for efficient and accurate tracking of affiliate performance, which directly impacts your program’s success. At Perform[cb], we have expertise with top platforms like Impact, ShareASale, PepperJam, CJ, Rakuten, and more. When making your decision, take the time to evaluate your brand’s specific needs and consider factors like ease of use, robust reporting capabilities, scalability, and integration with other marketing tools. 

Crafting Your Affiliate Program Strategy

While your brand’s main growth goals may be to generate transactions, installs, or subscriptions, there are numerous approaches to do so strategically – this will become the foundation of your affiliate program strategy. Aim to have a good idea going into a conversation with your affiliate agency as to the approach that you want to take, the channels you may want to test, what area of the purchase funnel you want to expand into, etc.

Consider the following points when formulating your strategy:

  • Pricing Approach:
    • Are you planning to be a discounter, using competitive pricing as your advantage? 
    • Alternatively, are you leveraging a guarantee to differentiate your offering without resorting to discounts?
  • Positioning:
    • Are you a premium brand, focusing on accessibility as your key selling point? 
    • Or are you adopting a scarcity model, creating urgency by offering limited-time deals?
  • Promotions:
    • Are you considering offers like “buy one get one free” or deeply discounted deals?

Knowing your approach will help you define what types of affiliate marketing campaigns you will need to test. Often, having multiple approaches allows you to recruit from different affiliate pools, expanding your reach throughout the funnel and allowing you to work with more partnerships. 

Once your campaign approach is set, you will need to determine what a successful campaign will actually look like. Understanding your campaign goals will allow you to create an appealing commission structure for your partners. If you can’t get to a desirable commission structure, reassess and iterate until you have an offer that can attract qualified traffic. Remember, the ability to bring attractive offers to affiliates is essential for long-term success and reputation building in the affiliate marketing space.

Affiliate Recruitment, Onboarding, Testing

Now comes the hard part – actually getting affiliates to engage with and test your offer. Without the support of an agency’s established relationships, this is where most programs hit a massive plateau. Simply publishing an appealing offer doesn’t always guarantee that it will reach the right affiliate partners, and it won’t ensure their openness to test your offer if they’re unfamiliar with your brand. This is where your agency, its relationships, and its reputation deliver the largest value. Your agency will know who to contact, how to get feedback on your offer, and will expedite the entire process. 

If you plan on going the discounting route, coupon and discount sites, as well as shopping toolbar extensions, offer significant value and should always be considered. However, keep in mind that diversification is essential. Relying solely on discount-focused affiliates can limit your reach to different audience segments.

Influencers can be extremely powerful in getting your brand introduced to a broader audience. While some marketers may prioritize direct sales, don’t overlook the value of awareness that influencers can bring. Even if they don’t generate the highest sales immediately, their engagement with their niche audiences can lead to long-term brand recognition. Building brand awareness can be more valuable than immediate sales, and influencers can play a key role in achieving this. Nearly half of all consumers rely on at least one influencer for purchasing decisions, and a staggering 90% of marketers believe that influencer marketing delivers higher ROI compared to other marketing channels.

Lastly, consider exploring cashback and card-linked offers, as they can be attractive to potential affiliates and customers alike. These types of offers can provide additional incentives and drive more conversions for your brand.


Once your campaign is up and running, keeping tabs on its performance is critical. While your preferred tracking platform is going to provide you with the bulk of your data, there are essential insights it can’t capture – feedback from publishers regarding your offers, marketing assets, and consumer value. A valuable affiliate agency should aid in the reporting process, capturing high-level insights and opportunities for optimization. 

Just because your program is making money today doesn’t mean it’s going to keep making money. It can be tough to continue driving scale to your brand’s affiliate program unless working with a data-driven, strategic affiliate management agency. Managing the relationships between brands, affiliates, and customers is the most important thing your agency will be doing for you long term. 

Cheers to a Winning Affiliate Program Strategy

Affiliate marketing presents immense opportunities for brands to drive sales, revenue, and brand awareness. By partnering with a premium affiliate management agency like Perform[cb], brands can tap into a vast network of publishers and navigate the complex world of affiliate and outcome-based marketing with ease.

If you’re ready to take your marketing to new heights, let an expert agency guide you toward a successful and rewarding affiliate program.

Reach out to our team of affiliate management experts today to get started with a free audit!

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