What makes a successful affiliate programme?

As Affiliate Strategy Director for affilinet UK there is one question or variations of it that I get asked by advertisers a lot, which if answered correctly or incorrectly can completely swing a conversation. It’s a simple question, it’s an obvious question but one that needs a clear and concise answer that doesn’t give too much away and gets your opposite number engaged. So, what is the question?

Advertiser: “How can you (affilinet) make our affiliate programme more successful?”

The next few paragraphs are just a few of the things I have spoken about when asked that question.

It all starts with the people:

It’s often said that the affiliate marketing industry is like a family, and often the word incestuous is thrown around, but, as someone who now has a modest amount of years in the industry I find that label (while meant as a joke) casts the industries primary strength, it’s people, in a negative light.

I mean yes, it’s true people don’t really seem to leave this industry and if they do, like I did, they often find their way back, drawn to the continuing innovation and opportunity of a growing channel. But, if those of us who have left and come back were asked why they returned to the fold, I bet most would say the number one reason for their return was the people. Because at the end of the day affiliate marketing is built on relationships, yes technology is important no doubt about that but, if we look at other marketing channels where machines are responsible for a lot of the work, the human touch of affiliate (in my opinion) just feels better.

So, from my perspective when speaking to advertisers then the first think I talk about when it comes to making a programme more successful is people, they are our biggest asset. affilinet is blessed with a lot of fantastic talent and a team that it is dedicated to delivering the best for their advertisers, taking the time to develop relationships with them and continually challenge the status quo.


This is something that we’ve talked about a lot at affilinet, the need for advertisers to run diverse programmes and spread their spend and risk in a sensible manner. You’ll get no argument from me about the value of working with large volume driving partners, they work, they have the scale and they generate sales. But, there are other options out there as well, affilinet has been championing the cause of content affiliates for quite some time now and we will continue to do so because we have first-hand experience of the value they can bring. When used correctly and when planned by experienced knowledgeable account managers content strategies can not only drive sales but also increase brand trust and awareness; three for the price of one then.

An example of the increased brand trust can be backed up by the affilinet consumer index survey that was run in 2016 were bloggers came in just behind friends and family as the most trusted source to make purchase off the internet, incidentally politicians came last.

Play the long game:

This ties in perfectly with diversity, I’ve been an account manager, I’ve done my time recruiting affiliates, it’s a test of patience and dedication but it’s worth it. The thing that advertisers must be made aware of though is that recruitment strategies take time to get going, pipelines must be updated, people coordinated and messages tailored. This takes time, pure and simple but if done right and done well you should start to reap the benefits as time goes on, momentum builds, pipelines churn and affiliates you messaged 6 months ago, finally respond.

Work with us:

Pretty obvious this one but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included. From my experience the most successful programmes are the ones where both advertiser and network teams work in close collaboration with each other, where communication is open and candid. It’s true that internal pressures or setups can hinder this and that sometimes a more distant relationship is proffered. But, I think it is a no brainer to say that programmes where teams do work closely, where office visits are regular and there is a strong sense of camaraderie programmes flourish. It’s all down to people again!

Use of data:

When it comes to data at affilinet our primary focus is how we use the data we have intelligently, to provide interesting actionable insights for advertisers. We have the internal data about programmes which we can use to ensure we are optimising in the right way, that we understand the value of incentives such as vouchers and we are aware of successes and potential problems. Then there is the external data we have at our disposal from platforms such as Hitwise and eMarketer. These are invaluable sources of information that provide key insights into the wider digital marketing world and specific industry insights that can be used to inform the continuing affiliate strategy for an advertiser.

Final Thoughts;

So, there you have it, just a few of my thoughts on what makes a successful affiliate programme. What great about all these points is that they are already part of our culture and strategy for the business. affilinet is 20 years old this year, the UK office opened in 2005, and we continue to grow year after year. We were nominated for 9 Performance Marketing Awards this year with various clients and not only did we win for best Content Marketing Campaign but we also came highly commended in Best Managed Affiliate Programme, Best Influencer Campaign and Best in Finance. That’s a good story, that’s the proof that we do what we say and we know how to deliver successful affiliate programmes.

Richard Leake

Rick is responsible for helping to co-ordinate strategy across the whole UK business.

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