There isn’t a single merchant on this world selling through affiliate programs that hasn’t got idle affiliates. These are affiliates that are not active, meaning that they don’t generate any sales or, worst case, they don’t even refer traffic for the merchant (no exposure for the merchant’s products). When labeling an affiliate as “inactive” from the time’s point of view, you should take into consideration his sales history (if any) – the frequency / amount of sales he was generating at one point – and also the type of product / services you sell through them. In the software vertical, for example, an affiliate promoting consumer software get inactive quicker than an affiliate promoting enterprise products.
Why do some affiliates become inactive?
In order to activate an inactive software affiliate it’s best to address the issues they’re having. From what we’ve seen so far, the most frequent reasons why some affiliates have periods of time in which they don’t perform are:
- missing the tools to promote your products – e.g. for coupon affiliates you must provide them with a coupon;
- affiliate joins the merchant’s program but it takes a while until he actually starts promoting the products online;
- search engine algorithm updates impact their traffic / SEO efforts – Google Panda is most popular;
- affiliate finds another product to promote with better conditions – higher commission, special promotions, easier to sell product;
- lack of targeted traffic on the affiliate’s website.
How can I activate affiliates?
Here are 6 ideas to activate idle affiliates:
- Proactive approach: keep your affiliates close to you from the beginning – even if it could mean a lot of time spent for speaking with them, it’s worth it. You will be able to know what happened directly from them and help them better engage their traffic with your products. Send them a personal welcome message once they join your affiliate program and keep the communication open with them periodically. The newsletters are a good option for the mass of affiliates, but for your top affiliate a constant personal email approach is recommended.
- Incentivize affiliates for each little step taken into promoting your products – you may offer a flat commission percentage to begin with to which you can add increments of 5% to the commission for: sending an email back to you with an URL where they promote your product on your website, giving you feedback about your products after they test them, featuring your products on the page that gets the most relevant traffic, recommending your products on the homepage, etc. A good example for this is how VSO Software does it.
- Run sales contests within your affiliate programs but set realistic goals – the idea is to get those latent affiliates to start selling, so you might just want to address them. You have a flying pig’s chance to get things moving for inactive affiliates by setting a goal of “10,000 sales to reach within a week”. The way we’ve seen it work is to take a look at your sales numbers distribution among affiliates and set the goal to reach somewhere in the middle for inactive affiliates. Don’t forget to send at least a reminder for the contest to your latent affiliates.
- Cash bonuses and special affiliate conditions work best – a recent survey we’ve been running inside our affiliate network shows that 45% of affiliates think that the most appealing prizes in a contest is money. And we can extend that even further if we’re talking about inactive affiliates – they need the cash to keep things rolling, further invest in PPC for example, etc. The second most appealing prize would be getting special conditions from the merchant: increased commissions, exclusive products, etc. This applies to the more experienced affiliates.
- Generate exclusive discount coupons for them to use – coupons are a great way to accelerate sales, especially in the software vertical, where there’s no physical or delivery cost involved. Some latent affiliates can be motivated by sending them time limited discount coupons. Try to also include the affiliate’s website / name in the coupon / coupon description – vanity coupons; affiliates really like those.
- Offer affiliates the chance to test your products themselves – there are lots of content affiliate websites nowadays which use reviews as their primary way of promoting products to their audiences. Sending them a fully functional version of your product can help accelerate the reviewing process, thus the listing on their websites. This is especially useful when you notice that potentially good affiliates are still inactive.
I’ve also seen some merchants using negative motivation to try and activate affiliates – sending “ultimatum-type” emails, getting the affiliate commission lower than the default one and so on. I don’t recommend that mainly because in 99% of the cases it didn’t work – I think mostly because there are always alternatives to your products / services on the market which they can pick up and get better conditions. Here are more mistakes you should avoid when dealing with affiliates.
Did you try activating your latent affiliates? What else did you do?