How to Start an Affiliate Program in 2024

How to Start an Affiliate Program in 2024

Farzad Rashidi

Farzad Rashidi

Lead Innovator at Respona

How to Start an Affiliate Program in 2024

Starting an affiliate program is a big investment.

So if you want to do it, you should do it right.

That’s why we have created this guide.

Today, we’ll cover:

  • The benefits of an affiliate program and how to prepare your business for it
  • The step-by-step process for starting your own affiliate program
  • Helpful tools for tracking affiliates and managing your affiliate program

Let’s get started.

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The Benefits of Starting an Affiliate Program

Starting an affiliate program offers several benefits for businesses.

Firstly, it allows you to tap into a wider audience and reach potential customers you may not have been able to reach on your own.

Affiliates promote your products or services through their channels, expanding your brand’s visibility and potentially driving more traffic to your affiliate website.

ryan robinson bluehost reviews
Image source: Ryan Robinson

Next, affiliate programs can greatly increase sales and revenue. It’s their whole point, after all.

Affiliates are motivated to promote your offerings because they earn a commission for each referred sale or lead.

This incentivizes them to actively market your products or services, leading to a boost in conversions.

Last but not least, affiliate programs can also help improve your online reputation and credibility.

Affiliates often have a loyal following or niche audience who trust their recommendations.

By partnering with reputable affiliates, you can enhance your brand’s credibility and gain the trust of potential customers.

Overall, starting an affiliate program can provide a cost-effective marketing strategy with a high ROI potential.

Ensure Your Business is Ready for an Affiliate Program

Before you dive into affiliate marketing, it’s important to ask yourself: am I ready?

Or, rather: is this the right time for the business?

Here is a list of the most important boxes you need to check before starting your successful affiliate marketing journey:

  • Ensure you have a well-designed and user-friendly website

Before starting an affiliate program, it’s important to have a professional website that effectively showcases your products or services.

A visually appealing and easy-to-navigate website will create a positive impression on potential customers referred by affiliates.

  • Optimize your sales funnel

A well-defined sales funnel helps guide visitors through the purchasing process, increasing the chances of conversion.

Make sure you have optimized landing pages, compelling product descriptions, and clear call-to-action buttons to maximize the effectiveness of your affiliate program.

  • Have a solid product or service

It is crucial to offer high-quality products or services that provide value to your customers.

Affiliates will be more motivated to promote your offerings if they believe in their quality and find them beneficial to their audience.

  • Prepare marketing materials and resources

Provide your affiliates with the necessary marketing materials, such as banners, product images, and promotional affiliate content.

This will make it easier for them to promote your offerings and maintain brand consistency.

  • Establish clear affiliate program guidelines

Set clear guidelines and expectations for your affiliates, including rules on how they can promote your products or services and any restrictions they should adhere to.

This ensures a harmonious and compliant partnership.

  • Be ready to support your affiliates

Be prepared to provide support to your affiliates by promptly addressing their queries and providing them with the resources they need to promote your offerings effectively.

Building a positive relationship with your affiliates can lead to a successful and long-lasting partnership.

Choose Your Affiliate Products

Then, of course, there is the matter of choosing which products you want to sell through your affiliates.

If you only offer a singular product or service (for example, if you’re a SaaS business, that choice will be obvious.

But, if you have multiple, there are a few factors that come into play when choosing which ones should be your affiliate products.

First, I recommend zeroing in on your flagship products. These are the key items that best represent your brand.

ispring affilaite prgoram
Image source: iSpring

If they have proven sales records, even better.

Affiliates are more likely to promote a product that resonates with their audience and sells well.

However, don’t just stick to your top sellers. Unique, niche products that may appeal to specific demographics can also be a good choice.

These items can attract the right affiliates who target particular market sections.

Another key factor to consider is profitability.

Weigh the costs of manufacturing, marketing, shipping, returns, and anything else that goes into your products.

Remember, you’ll be sharing a percentage of each sale with your affiliates.

Therefore, ensure that the product pricing will allow both you and your affiliates to profit.

Finally, take a look at your competition. Find out what products they are promoting in their affiliate programs. affiliate program
Image source:

If there’s a lot of competition, it might make your product a hard sell. It’s best to choose products that have less competition but are still in demand.

At the end of the day, your affiliates are your partners.

Their success equals your success.

That’s why it’s important to provide them with products that are easy to promote, align with their target audience, and give them a decent return on their time and effort.

Since you’ll be working closely with your affiliates, don’t hesitate to ask for their input as well.

They would give you an outside perspective and can help identify potential products that had been overlooked.

Because they interact directly with customers, their input can be invaluable in making the best choices.

Decide on Your Affiliate Commission Structure

Before you can move on to the actual creation, there is one final step of planning required – your commission structure.

It shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it can have a massive impact on your affiliate program’s success.

First, you need to consider the profitability of your product.

Start by looking at your gross profit margin. After all costs have been deducted, how much do you stand to make from a single sale?

gross profit margin formula
Image source: Investopedia

Your earnings per product will dictate how much you’re able to offer as a commission and still maintain a solid profit.

A popular model you may want to consider is offering a percentage of the sale.

This is the most common structure and it’s widely accepted among affiliates.  The exact percentage can vary broadly, from as low as 5% to up to 50% or more.

Where you fall on that scale depends on your product’s price and profitability, as well as what’s standard in your industry.

Then, consider the type of payment structure that will encourage long-term relationships with your affiliates.

For subscription-based products, consider a recurring commission model. The affiliates will earn not just for the initial sale but also for renewals.

convertkit affiliate program
Image source: ConvertKit

This can be a strong incentive for them to promote your product consistently.

Remember, it’s important to make sure your program remains competitive.

Analyze what your competitors are offering in terms of commission to their affiliates. If your rates are too low, potential affiliates might opt for other programs in your niche.

It needs to be an equilibrium – attractive for affiliates but sustainable for your business.

Consider also offering performance-based bonuses to reward your high-performing affiliates.

This could be an additional commission or other non-financial incentives. This not only motivates your current affiliates but can also attract new ones due to increased earning potential.

Lastly, factor in your business objectives.

Is your focus purely on sales, or are you also interested in brand exposure?

For instance, if you are after brand exposure, you might consider a pay-per-click (PPC) model that pays out on unique visitors.

Remember, you’re developing a partnership with your affiliates, and a fair incentivizing system is key to nurturing this relationship.

Consistently review and adjust your structure as necessary, taking into account feedback from your affiliates, changes in your market, and results against your business objectives.

It’s a delicate balancing act, but with careful consideration, it’s one you can get right.

Select an Affiliate Software

Running an affiliate program involves handling numerous tasks, from tracking sales, clicks, and commission payments, to managing and communicating with your affiliates.

Trying to do all this manually can be immensely time-consuming and prone to errors. That’s where affiliate management software comes in.

This software streamlines all aspects of affiliate program management, automating many tasks and providing a centralized affiliate platform for tracking and analysis.

You can easily monitor key performance indicators such as clicks, conversions, and affiliate revenue generated.

impact homepage
Image source: Impact

Additionally, affiliate management tools can help protect your program against fraud, communicate more effectively with affiliates, and even assist in recruiting new ones.

Some popular choices you may want to consider are:

  • Impact
  • Partnerstack
  • Post Affiliate Pro
  • Tapfiliate
  • Referral Candy

Find Potential Affiliates

There are several sources where you may look for potential affiliates, including:

  • Bloggers
  • Social media Influencers
  • Content creators
  • Your own customers
  • Your competitors’ affiliates

Finding affiliate marketers is such a comprehensive topic that we think it deserves a step-by-step guide of its own.

To learn more, feel free to refer to our recent guide on the Top 5 Ways to Find Affiliate Marketers.

Vet & Recruit Affiliates

So, you’ve compiled a list of potential affiliates.

The next step is vetting and recruiting them.

This stage is critical, as your affiliate partner circle with can significantly impact your brand reputation and program success.

Кemember the golden rule: quality trumps quantity. Start by evaluating their online presence.

What kind of audience do they attract? Is their audience relevant to your affiliate product?

Visit their website or platform and assess their content. Check for professionalism, consistency, and if it aligns with your brand’s values and messaging.

You also need to assess their reach.

Check their traffic, followers, subscribers, or any other relevant engagement metric. But remember, a massive audience doesn’t always equate to success.

Smaller, niche influencers with engaged followers might drive more relevant traffic and higher conversion rates for you.

You can either manually check your potential affiliates’ accounts, or, in the case of affiliate marketing, use a tool like SparkToro to speed up the process a little bit.

sparktoro homepage
Image source: SparkToro

Reviews and testimonials can also be incredibly helpful. Look for any feedback from other brands that they have partnered with.

This can give you a hint about their reliability, work ethics, and successful history in affiliate marketing.

After vetting, it’s time to start recruiting.

Reach out and share a clear, compelling proposition. Outline what your affiliate marketing program offers and why it might be beneficial to them.

In your affiliate offer, be upfront about your expectations, commission structure, and any other significant details. And remember, it’s not a given that everyone you approach is going to jump onboard immediately.

So make sure to follow-up and open a line of communication to answer any pending questions or concerns they may have.

Here’s a simple affiliate recruitment template you can use for inspiration:

Hey {First Name} 

My name is [Name] and I am a [Job Title] at [Company Name]—[Something about the company].

Since you’re into [Topic], you’ll already have heard about [Company Name].

I’m reaching out to let you know that we’re actively looking for more affiliates that could help us further expand our reach and raise brand awareness among new audiences.

We’re already working with people like [Affiliate Name], who made {Commision} in {Month/Quarter/Year} with us.

What do you think? Could we get you onboard as well?

Let’s set up a call to discuss it further — here’s a link to my calendar:

[Link to Calendar]



Hire an Affiliate Manager (if needed)

If you’re a solopreneur or run an extremely tight ship, you yourself or some of your team members will have to take on the responsibility of managing your affiliates.

But, once things start scaling up, this job will require a dedicated team member.

Feel free to refer to our guide on affiliate manager responsibilities and average salary to learn more about what it takes to become (or outsource) an affiliate manager.

Track and Manage

Like with every other marketing strategy, launch is just the first step.

To achieve real success, you need to constantly track and manage your performance.

Here are the most important things to look out for:

  • Sales and Conversion Rate

Regularly track the total number of sales and the conversion rate.

It gives an insight into how effectively the affiliate links are leading to purchases.

If you notice a high click-through rate but a low conversion rate, it may indicate a discrepancy between what’s promised in the affiliate’s promotion and the actual product or buying experience.

  • Traffic

Keep an eye on the amount of traffic generated by the affiliate links. This will help you understand which affiliates are driving the most visitors to your site and their potential reach.

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR)

This is the percentage of people who click on an affiliate link compared to the total who see it.

A low CTR may signal that the method or content used by your affiliate isn’t engaging or appealing to the audience.

  • Return on Investment (ROI)

Calculate the ROI for each affiliate. This will tell you how much you’re earning compared to the commission you’re paying out.

  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

This is the total revenue you can expect from a single customer throughout their relationship with your business.

If your affiliates are attracting high-CLV customers, it’s a sign of high performance.

  • Repeat Buyers

Monitor the number of repeat purchases from customers who were initially led to you by affiliates.

This can reveal if the demand for your product is consistent and potentially indicate the overall satisfaction of the customers brought by your affiliates.

  • Fraudulent Activity

Keep an eye out for potential fraudulent activities such as unusually high return rates, a sudden surge in traffic from a particular affiliate, or apparent ‘cookie stuffing’.

  • Affiliate Performance

Regularly review the performance of your affiliates. Recognize and reward top performers, offer support and guidance to low performers, and consider whether to continue relationships with consistently weak performers.

Link building cheat sheet

Link building cheat sheet

Gain access to the 3-step strategy we use to earn over 86 high-quality backlinks each month.

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Now Over to You

So, hopefully, by now you have a much better understanding of what it takes to get started with an affiliate program of your very own.

Need help finding and recruiting affiliates?

Don’t hesitate to start your 14-day free trial with Respona to see how we can help, first-hand.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is an affiliate program?

An affiliate program is a marketing strategy where businesses pay commissions to affiliates for referring customers to their products or services.

Affiliates earn a commission for every affiliate sale or lead generated through their unique tracking link.

Why should I start an affiliate program?

Starting an affiliate program can help expand your brand’s reach, increase sales, and boost your online presence.

With affiliates promoting your products or services, you can tap into their existing audience and benefit from their affiliate marketing efforts.

How do I choose the right affiliates for my program?

When selecting affiliates, consider their relevance to your niche or industry, their level of influence, and the quality of their audience.

 Look for affiliates with a genuine interest in your products or services, as they are more likely to promote them effectively.

How do I track and manage affiliate sales?

Tracking affiliate sales can be done through affiliate tracking software or platforms, which provide unique affiliate links and track the sales or leads generated.

You can also use analytics tools to monitor performance and manage payouts to affiliates.

How do I set commission rates for affiliates?

Determining the right commission rates depends on various factors, such as your profit margins, industry standards, and the perceived value of your products or services.

Researching your competition can give you an idea of common commission rates.

Consider offering a tiered structure, where affiliates earn higher commissions as they generate more sales or reach specific milestones.

Farzad Rashidi

Article by

Farzad Rashidi

Farzad Rashidi is the lead innovator at Respona, the all-in-one digital PR and link-building software that combines personalization with productivity. He also runs the marketing efforts at Visme, where he helped the company gain over 12 million active users and pass 2M monthly organic traffic.

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