Rethink Commerce Blog

Keep Your Affiliate Relationships Fresh with Retention Campaigns

Posted on April 19th, 2013 by

Many vendors have encountered this problem: affiliates start out strong, with high motivation and great sales, but their enthusiasm for your products fades over time, and your revenue stream shrinks. This article answers common questions about affiliate fatigue and teaches you how to run retention campaigns that help affiliates spark sales, benefiting your bottom line and their affiliate business.

Why do some affiliates stop promoting my products or services?

There are many reasons affiliates might stop promoting your products or services. The affiliate may have left the affiliate business, found a similar product with a better commission, or simply run out of good ways to promote your product. In order to combat affiliate fatigue, every successful affiliate program must conduct a series of retention campaigns to maintain a close relationship with power affiliates and give them ways to sell actively.

How should I relate to my affiliates?

The most successful affiliate programs rely on intimacy. Being in close contact with top affiliates is crucial to retaining them, helping the relationship move forward, and mending any issues that might arise. Don’t put yourself in the situation of “reacting” to a problem, but be proactive: keep your affiliates happy with your product and let them know if something is about to change.

What matters most to my affiliates?

Start by finding out what factors affiliates consider when choosing a product to promote, since these will be the main drivers of their behavior on an ongoing basis. According to the AffStat 2012 affiliate survey, the key drivers for affiliate retention are commission (cited by 19% of respondents), merchant reputation (13%), brand awareness (10%), and affiliate program reputation (9%). Other elements can also make a difference when comparing similar affiliate brands and products, such as ad unit availability and optimized landing pages (2%) or payment terms and methods (5%). Knowing  what your top affiliates need from you will help prioritize ways to improve your program and retention campaigns.

affiliates retention


How do I craft retention campaigns?

Let’s use each of the key affiliate drivers listed above, plus a few others, to create some effective retention campaigns:

Driver Retention campaign examples
(affiliates look for higher commission rates)
Run a tiered affiliate program and offer performance incentives to affiliates.At minimum, try to match your main competitor’s affiliate offer; you can go even higher than that in the case of top affiliates. If you can’t find how much your competitors are offering from your affiliates themselves, just go to the competitor’s website and check the affiliate info page.Also check the affiliate networks your competitors are working with for more details on commissions.Offer your affiliates a steady commission flow by crediting them for subscription/license renewals as well as initial sales. Your subscription offers should be valid for software, services and digital goods.
Merchant reputation
(affiliates seek merchants with better reputations)
Compensate for a less prominent reputation by offering higher commission, special promotions (exclusive products, discounts, etc.), and better tools to boost conversion, such as landing pages, promotional materials, and other content.
Brand awareness
(higher brand awareness converts better)
Offer affiliates a list of keywords to bid on in pay-per-click advertising. Work to help them understand your product and segment, including relevant competitive brands that can drive traffic.For top affiliates in digital goods, services, and software, send part of the download traffic through their websites to build brand awareness within their communities and online.Since the affiliates should be better positioned in the search engines than your website, you will get more traffic (and sales) through their website. In return, they can get additional members to join their community.
IObit, for example, uses CNet as one of the download mirrors for their Advanced SystemCare title.
Affiliate program reputation Run contests for affiliates to keep them excited about your products and services and differentiate your program from others. Here’s a nice example of an affiliate contest from Paretologic , who offered appealing prizes for their top affiliates.
Communication / relationship Communicate with your affiliates at least on a monthly basis, sending them relevant updates about your program, products, and services. Call top affiliates from time to time and meet them in person at industry events.Or, if you’re “in the neighborhood”, see if your affiliates are available for a quick meeting. Face-to-face contact builds up business relationships much faster than anything else.

The above ideas are just a few examples of retention campaigns. The important thing to remember, above all, is to understand what drives your top affiliates, communicate with them constantly, and keep them actively engaged.

How do you make sure your affiliates don’t leave your program?

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Cristi Miculi

Senior Manager, Affiliate Services

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